Googling Big George


Manage episode 231428912 series 2421902
By Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio streamed directly from their servers.

I visit beautiful Lake Tahoe to hang with the mysterious and magnificent Big George, aka Dr. Ray Sidney. Ray was the fifth employee hired at a Silicon Valley startup named Google, which later gained prominence for taking over the world. Today he is Lake Tahoe’s most prominent philanthropist, enthusiast of the epic sport of curling, and master of trickery and gravity-defying stunts on the wake surfboard.

Ray has had a wild ride, emanating from a lifelong fascination with mathematics and peak performance in general. He hails from the highest levels of academia, having graduated from Harvard and then grabbing a Ph.D. from MIT in math), then headed west to land on the ground floor at Google. His first workplace was sharing a bedroom in a Palo Alto duplex; later he was the guy in charge of ordering fitness equipment for an early corporate campus! He was in charge of database security, and once (unknowingly) blocked the CIA from doing Google searches because they were flaunting the rules! Feeling burnt out from the crazy pace of Silicon Valley startup life, he took a sabbatical of a few months, which is stretching into a few hundred months, most of which have been spent on the water or frozen water with his tremendous passion for athletics. An important takeaway from Ray’s story, especially in today’s era of celebrity worship, wealth obsession, and social media posturing, is that he never intended to strike it rich in the romanticized fable of the dotcom world. Rather, he enjoyed math, and academics, and solving software engineering problems for the pure challenge. In fact, Ray reveals that his plans during sabbatical were to work on some personal math projects!

Alas, transitioning to sudden wealth and expanded opportunities have Ray diverted from the singular focus of software engineering to become involved in a dizzying number of causes, programs, and athletic interests. He is a competitive curler who funded Lake Tahoe’s fledgling curling club and travels around North America for camps and competitions. He is widely recognized (or barely recognized, depending on his attire) as Lake Tahoe’s leading philanthropist. He has donated millions to create fabulous athletic facilities around Tahoe and down in Carson Valley, including a new football/track stadium at Douglas High School and a championship running track at the middle school. His seven-figure donation supported free bus service to transport Tahoe casino workers to and from Carson Valley. He was the founding sponsor of Brad Kearns’s kids fitness charity called Running School. He supports a variety of academic causes like giving back to the Hertz Fellowship program that supported his academic journey and the X Prize Foundation. He recently earned an MBA degree from UC Berkeley just for fun!

This show will get your reflecting on the beauty of a pure motivation for life goals, the value of a focused, precise mathematical approach to peak performance, and the importance of getting over yourself even if you are a heavy hitter. Indeed, George takes none of this stuff too seriously, as evidenced by the nickname he bestowed on his eco-friendly architecturally wondrous home on the lake: Tahizzle—of course a nod to Snoop Dogg, who has yet to visit but has a standing invitation. Cruise on his boat named Jorge Mucho (como “Big George” in Español) and you are more likely to get Borat impersonations than Warren Buffet stock tips.

One can agree that Ray is living the good life and doing a great job giving back to all whom he encounters, but he also reveals that for all his freedom and folly opportunity, he struggles with overstimulation and a tendency to distraction like the rest of us. Brad and Ray agree to a future show addressing these matters of importance.

106 episodes available. A new episode about every 3 days averaging 44 mins duration .