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Michael Dell

Founder & Chairman, Dell Inc.

I kind of moved into a larger apartment that had really high ceilings so I could kind of stack things up and managed to conceal it from them for quite some time. And then I basically came to an arrangement with my parents. I said, "Look, I really want to go do this, and I know you don't want me to go do it, but I've checked with the University of Texas, and the way it works at UT is that you could take a semester off and you can come back." And so I said, "We'll, we'll agree to this. I'll take the semester off -- the fall of '84 semester -- and I'll go and do this. If it doesn't work out, I'll go back to school, and if it does I'll just keep doing it." And so they agreed. If they hadn't agreed, I probably would've done it anyway to be honest with you. So in May of '84, I incorporated the company and off we go.
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Michael Dell

Founder & Chairman, Dell Inc.

They would kind of hear from their friends, "Oh, Michael's doing so great. His business is going really well." And they were like, "What are you talking about? He's supposed to be in college." They had a couple of kind of surprise visits. They would just kind of show up, you know, like, "Where are your books?" "Oh, they're at the library." I'd sort of have good answers for things, and they couldn't quite figure it all out. But eventually they kind of figured out, "Wait a second. There's too many computer parts around here." It was a bit hard to disguise what was going on. So that's when we had this talk.
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Michael Dell

Founder & Chairman, Dell Inc.

Michael Dell: I think you have to be able to experiment and make mistakes. I find the question a bit perplexing, in a sense that if you really don't know what it means to be an entrepreneur, maybe you aren't one. So I think there's a bit of self-initiative and self-starter that is an incredibly important part of entrepreneurship. I mean, no one can tell you how to do it. You have to sort of have an instinctual feeling, or an idea about something. And you've got to be passionate about it. I think people that look for great ideas to make money aren't nearly as successful as those who say, "Okay, what do I really love to do? What am I excited about? What do I know something about? What's kind of interesting and compelling?"
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David Herbert Donald

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

I started teaching in Columbia in the influx of GIs from World War II, and they needed extra people. So they had hired me, and I liked it there, and it turned out that they liked me, and the students liked me. So again, I thought of this as a very temporary kind of thing. Mrs. Randall kept the letters I wrote during those years, and one of them says, "You know, I am enjoying New York a lot, and I like living here, but I can't imagine living here for any length of time." I assumed that when my two-year contract was over that I'd go back maybe to Jacksonville, Illinois, but they needed people, and apparently, I filled the bill. I still was so uncertain about the future though, that when Smith College was looking for a professor and they wrote down to Columbia and asked if I'd be interested, I said yes. So I resigned at Columbia and went off to Smith. The people at Columbia were baffled by this. They said, "Why would you leave Columbia to go to Smith?" I said, "Well, I don't belong in Columbia. You know that. I'm very different from the rest of you. I'm going to Smith," and they were angry that I had spurned them, so to speak. I went to Smith, and while I liked the students individually, it clearly was not for me, and in the second year there, I was fortunate enough to be asked would I go to Princeton, would I go to Yale, or would I come back to Columbia, and I didn't know Princeton or Yale. I thought I'll go back to Columbia where at least they know who I am, and so I went back to Columbia and at that point decided, okay, I guess I'm going to make a career as a historian and tried to do so.
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Sam Donaldson

ABC News Correspondent

To find out things, you do not sit in the back of the press room waiting to be called on. If you do, you'll sit there with cobwebs around you. You'll never get called on. You have to go forward. You don't have to do it in my style. Ted Koppel's style is completely different, but Ted is an aggressive person. He probes, he goes in. He doesn't let his guests get away with silly answers. And you have to be willing to do that. Not only fail, but make a fool of yourself. Now, you say, that's silly. Why would you go out and consciously try to make a fool of yourself? Well, you don't consciously try to do it, but if you ask a question in public, let's say, on television, every question can't be brilliant. Every question can't make you out to be one of the most articulate spokespersons in the western world. Some of the questions are going to be dumb. Because later you say, "Why did I ask that?" Or they may be technical, in the sense that, yeah, you're trying to get a little piece of information, but to an audience they don't seem to be profound at all. If you're not willing to say, "But that's my job and I don't care if I fall on my face once in a while, stub my toe, make a fool of myself in trying to do that job," then -- then you aggressively move forward.
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Sam Donaldson

ABC News Correspondent

I do believe you have to be self-assured. That doesn't mean cock-sure, in the sense that I think I'm always right. I don't. I know, frequently, when it comes to opinion matters, I'm often wrong. And once in a while I'm wrong in factual matters, although I try hard not to be. But I think you have to feel that you have some self-assurance. Why would you do something if you didn't believe in it? Why would you say something if you didn't think it was right? If you're arguing a public issue, why would you argue your side if you didn't believe in your side? And I think that too can come across as arrogance. "Who does he think he is? He thinks he's the smartest guy in the world." But the bottom line is, I don't feel that I'm better than my colleagues, or my audience. And I don't think of myself as arrogant, but I'm aware that other people do. And I regret that, but I'm me and I'm just going to have to go on being me.
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Sam Donaldson

ABC News Correspondent

I was sad, because like most people I didn't know a lot about cancer. The word melanoma, to me, meant instant death. I understood it was one of the most vicious types of cancer, because it's not susceptible to radiation or chemotherapy, thank you. So, when I learned it was a melanoma I sat my wife down and I said, "We have to prepare, it may be a short period of time: a few weeks, or a few months." And I was sad, because I love her and I'm enjoying life. But I wasn't frightened in the sense of, "Oh, I'm going to die." Maybe if I was 30 years old, I would have been. But I'm 62, as we speak, and while I'd like to be 72, and -- if I remained in good health and had the mind -- 82, it's not like a young person. I've lived a lot of life and I've done a lot of things, seen a lot of things, and I understand the actuarial tables. We are not going to live forever.
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