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How do you influence your students’ ideas of success? I always tell my creative-writing students to be careful not to weight publication as more important than craft. Success to me, in terms of writing, has always been about craft.

Do your American Book Award and O. Henry Prize mean success?

The awards have been validating: I think of myself as a writer now, and claim the word as a true vocation. They’ve garnered me more readers and opportunities, and I’m very grateful. But I don’t think of them in relation to personal success, only as vehicles that help to “indicate success” in the wider world.

JOE TACOPINA ’88 Business-government major JD, University of Bridgeport School of Law Trial lawyer; CEO, Madison Avenue Sports and Entertainment; VP, AS Roma soccer team New York City

MORE AT SCOPEDISH BLOG How do you define success?

First and foremost, loving what you do. If you love what you do and you’re passionate about it and you apply hard work, you’ll be successful. Of course, financial success isn’t unimportant—I have five kids! And yes, I enjoy creature comforts, never having grown up with them. But they’re lower on the totem pole of pri- orities for me.

family, healthy and successful kids, making a difference for my clients, and enjoying what I do.

JOHN UBALDO ’88 Government major Owner, John Boy’s Farm (Berkshire pigs, black Angus cattle, chickens, ducks) Cambridge, N.Y.

MORE AT SCOPEDISH BLOG How do you define success?

What you get from farming in terms of success is not mone- tary. I’m successful in breeding and raising animals and treating them impeccably—keeping them healthy, not using any chemicals or antibiotics, giving non-GMO feed three times a day with zero automation. It might as well be 100 years ago. But it’s amazing to be around animals all the time—and that might be my success.


Did Skidmore hockey contribute to your success? Playing a sport helps build discipline, instills in you that what you put in is generally what you get out, develops character and the ability to work within a team, and devel- ops respect for others. It also sparks a competitive fire.

Are there any downsides to your success? Yes. Everything you do gets analyzed. If you’re a high-profile individual, people love to critique and criticize, and there are some crazy people out there. But I don’t let it get to me.

Has your definition of success changed over time? I’ve gained an enormous amount of perspective over the last several years. It used to be that reading about myself in the New York Times or GQ was just so gratifying. It’s not that im- portant to me anymore. And 10 years ago, I would have said that the greatest thing was making money, because I didn’t grow up with it. But that lasts for a year or two. I got rid of my fancy cars and all that stuff, and now success is a good

What about your first career as an investment banker? Truthfully, I was there to make enough money to buy a farm. I drove an old Ford Bronco down to Wall Street every day. My biggest thrill was teaching 22-year-old kids that if they worked hard and played by the rules, they could make life-changing money. That was my success.

What does it mean to live a successful life?

That I impact people positively. And that I will never have to say “I should have” or “I wish I did.” You have to be kind of insane to do it,

but at least I’ll never say, “I wish I tried farming.”

Are you comfortable with your success? I’m not necessarily comfortable with the publicity spot- light—I wanted to have a farm to kind of be off the grid. But when I see how many families have been affected by what I do, it’s really humbling. When the first meat that someone’s baby eats is one of my chickens or pork chops, I feel that as a lot of responsibility. I think success is getting people away from McDonald’s.


MEd in educational leadership, Northern Arizona University Founding principal, Mission Preparatory School San Francisco, Calif.

How do you define success?


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