Fostering Young Leaders For A Successful Future with Jason Ma

In this day and age, it is very important to be insatiably curious and have that intelligence not only intellectually but also socially, emotionally, and pragmatically. These three things are at the core of Jason Ma’s framework and process called ThreeEQ, which is a foremost global business, next-generation leadership career, and elite university admissions success consultancy. At ThreeEQ, Jason and his team help Gen Z and Millennials achieve great outcomes (get admitted to elite universities and hired for or grow in lucrative jobs they really like)–with happiness and passion. ThreeEQ also helps corporate clients add to their ROI, strengthen leadership and human capital quality, and bolster revenue and profitability growth. Jason talks about character shaping that is vital for growth and success as next-generation leaders, as well as the importance of practical emotional, social, and leadership intelligence, including soft skill sets.

TTL 253 | Young LeadersWe have quite an episode. It’s all dedicated to Jason Ma, the founder, CEO and Chief Mentor at ThreeEQ. He is an expert in many different things, including both global business and next-generation leadership. For parents and families, he helps young leaders get accepted to top schools, including the Ivy League, and pave lucrative career paths with “sustainable happiness.” He’s a sought-after speaker and masterclass leader who engages corporate, association, and family audiences on all types of issues that are important for (global) business, innovation and entrepreneurship, corporate culture, human capital, career, family, education, and elite college admissions successes.

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Fostering Young Leaders For A Successful Future with Jason Ma

I am here with Jason Ma, who is the Founder, CEO and Chief Mentor at ThreeEQ. He’s the author of the critically acclaimed book, Young Leaders 3.0. He’s served as a Forbes Global CEO Conference delegate for eight years. His articles have received more than a million views. He’s a top sought-after speaker. It’s nice to have you here, Jason.

Thank you, Diane, for inviting. It’s a privilege. It’s an honor.

We know some of the same people, including Steve Forbes and Rich Karlgaard. We have done quite a few meetings and events together and when I worked at the Forbes School of Business I worked with them. I was looking at your Twitter profile and you’ve got a few of the people following you, Marty Zwilling follows you. Do you know Marty as well? He’s a Forbes contributor.

I know a couple of Martys.

You might know. He doesn’t follow that many different people, so I thought it was really impressive that he’s following you. You have quite a site of diverse information that you have when I was looking at some of the talks you give. You inspire and guide select Gen Z and Millennial high achievers with high net worth parents to get them into elite universities and get them into the next generation of leaders. Am I on track with what you do?

That’s core to me. I’m extremely outcomes focused when it comes to doing what I do. I feel obligated and I feel inspired. I feel I’m doing God’s work. My previous company was more for the mass affluent. We helped kids in their college prep and getting into Ivy League, Stanford, Berkeley, MIT and all that. I’ve taken my craft a little bit further each year. I find that personal success, life coaching, in addition to proactive leadership career positioning even in high school and certainly in college is crucial. You’re super highly-educated, Diane. You’ve done quite well. Your dissertation was in EQ and PhD. Mine’s ThreeEQ. I don’t have a PhD, I’m a lowly undergrad.

Your education’s very impressive.

How do I create and produce fantastic solid, compassionate, next-generation leaders out there? In addition to getting them into the highest level of school that’s the best fit for them. Start from high school, but if you come in during college then your key goals in front of you are not college admissions anymore. It’s career, positioning, maybe grad school. Those are Gen Z kids. If you’re a Millennial in your mid-twenties and your 30s, your next-level goals are the most important to you. It’s your next level of success in your business, in your career as an entrepreneur. I call those vertical goals.

Great students are also great leaders. Click To Tweet

You achieve a goal, that’s important. Nothing beats getting results. You’re accomplishing, achieving and all that, but what about horizontally? I have a framework and a process called the 4S in ThreeEQ. What ThreeEQ stands for is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, EQ, is not enough for me. I like to lift out the words social and leadership as well. I call it pragmatic. I like the word pragmatic better than practical because it stands for your practical and results-oriented in one word. It’s like the word pithy. I learned it from a kid who used to work for me, he was a Harvard grad. Pithy stands for clear, concise and memorable. Pithy essays, we went through all sorts of essays and application forms to Ivy League and all that.

Horizontally, practical or pragmatic, emotional, social, leadership intelligence, I call it ThreeEQ. That’s my company name. I had to spell out three because the number 3 was taken by someone else. That is essential because emotional comes from within. Your social is external. It’s like values. What are values? Values are your core beliefs and your belief system, your mindset, your blueprint. Principals are your core beliefs applied externally to other people. Emotional and social, you heard that 1,000 times like a growth mindset. I like to say growth and contribution mindset. I also like to inject the word leadership in there because great leaders are crazy important. It’s a key in the company. A school in the community, even at home.

Parents are leaders or good parents are leaders. Great students are leaders as well. You can lead as an introvert. You can lead as an extrovert. Stepping back, ThreeEQ, I call it a horizontal because part of what I do is I transform people whether you’re a teenager, Gen Z, Millennial or you’re a 57-year-old multimillionaire, even billionaire, C-suite leader. I advise billionaires myself. I’ve been asked, “Jason, you should go a little bit deeper than that in addition to helping younger people. Focus a bit more on enterprises,” which I do as well. My business background in the tech business and building and running the Asia Pacific for a couple of tech companies for a long time. We all went IPO, got acquired and Forbes. The B20 for the G20, I’ve been lucky to be a member and contributing indirectly, impacting billions through the B20, which represents a global private sector in pushing policies to the G20.

We represent the whole private sector. I spend sitting on the employment and education taskforce and I see how the world is evolving in the future of work and talent, which is here today already. The impact of technologies, especially AI like digital transformation, globalization, intergenerational shifts, multicultural, diversity and all this good stuff. There’s geopolitical turbulence. Steve Forbes, he’s eloquent and funny when he talks about things like that, and it’s so deep as well. We share quite a bit of values and principles at the same time. In summary, I help people, whether you are an individual or an enterprise, succeed, achieve the greatest goals possible within my power. I’m here to serve you to achieve your vertical goals and transform you horizontally.

TTL 253 | Young Leaders
Young Leaders: Your curiosity is a soft skill and it’s also a part of your story.


It ties in well to what I’m studying in my book on curiosity. I created an assessment to measure the things that impact curiosity. Young people and adults sometimes don’t have our natural sense of curiosity that we had as a kid. My research in emotional intelligence made me interested in assessing that. There’s a lot of work out there about some of the stuff you’re talking about, mindset, different things that you mentioned. Carol Dweck’s work is important in that respect. There are a lot of curiosity assessments that tell you whether you’re curious or not, but they don’t tell you what’s holding you back or how to get going past where you are. You’re helping people with that. How do you develop a curious mindset? Beyond what Carol Dweck wrote, in a fixed and growth mindset, if somebody is going through the motions at work and they’re not engaged, how do we get them to be more curious, to become more creative, more innovative, and more productive?

This is a subset of what I speak about quite a bit, whether I do a keynote or a masterclass. Curiosity is somewhat of a soft skill and it’s also part of your story. In fact, one of the things that are going to erode you, that’s going to decrease you, or that’s going to kill you in the future is what I call linear career conformity, political correctness. Without curiosity in a linear thinking fashion, it’s not going to work. Now, the world has changed and the world is not only constant, it is accelerating partially because of technology, social media, also the things going on. Not to mention the already intense competition which is getting even heavier. It’s good in that for those who are not intellectually, spiritually and emotionally curious. When I say spiritual, I don’t mean religious. It’s within your mind and soul. It all starts with your belief system. It all starts from the set of rules, Lobo, if, and, overt, covert baked in subconsciously into your brain. Where your amygdala, the gland in your brain, is honed that your fight or flight response is a bit net positive than negative. Without being curious, you cannot grow. You explore. For example, I put in a bit of hour per week on work. About 15%, 20% of that is what I call applied research per week out of my actual work time.

I call it applied research. It simply means deep learning on subjects that are within my strategy and within my deep interest. Audiobooks, reading books, podcasts, I love to read like a madman. When I’m making coffee, when I’m in a bathroom, when I take a walk or whatever, you’ll see earbuds in my ears. Podcasts or audiobooks is feeding the greatest world and that’s what’s between our ears all the time. A lot of stuff is new stuff that I’m learning or reinforcements to what I know. I remember the great Bruce Lee. The dude says, “I am more afraid of the guy who has practiced one kick 10,000 times than a guy who practiced 10,000 kicks one time.” The guy, the former, the master, he keeps being curious and also humble enough to keep reinforcing the strength and find new ways to do the same kick that he is so masterful subconsciously.

People who are lonely at the top have the fear of failure and rejection. Click To Tweet

It’s like when you’re driving. We’re at the fourth level of competence. We’re self-consciously competent. There are all sorts of ways that we got to be curious, especially if you are a teenager, you’re applying to go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and Wharton. My younger daughter started as a Wharton freshman, we’re grateful. My daughter also got admitted to a couple and she started working at Google as an engineer. We’re blessed by that as well. They’re very curious people. They love to learn. They’ve got it from me. They’ve got it from them. They’ve got it from all sorts of learning to learn.

In fact, at the B20 for the G20, in terms of policy recommendations, we put on language and I’ve been pushing that for a couple of years. Lifelong learning, the necessity to be agile, to be adaptable, to be mobile individually, organizationally and structurally better private, public partnerships. It depends on the individual country because each country in the G20 starting with the US and China, EU, Germany, the UK has got his own nuances and all that. Literally, the work’s lifelong learning. It’s in there. I even mentioned that a lot of the corporate education these days, the United States spends about $250 billion US enterprises spent on education.

A lot of this stuff doesn’t work. How do you innovate education? It relates to innovation as well. You must know that the late, great Peter Drucker mentioned the two most important essential functions in a company are innovation and marketing, including sales. Innovation comes in with technology product, services, processes, business models. Mainland Chinese are innovative in business models. Even Silicon Valley has copied Mainland Chinese after they copied Silicon Valley for a long time. Curiosity is part of growth. Without growth, a sense of contribution, and a sense of significance and connection, we don’t feel fulfilled. It’s very central.

I thought at one point it was important. I still think that it’s good to train your organization on the importance of emotional intelligence, soft skills and the things you and I both talk about engagement and all the reasons behind that. How can we get leaders to see the importance of this for their staff? They’re looking into ways to become more innovative. They’re looking into ways to be more engaged. I don’t know that anybody’s doing anything to make their staff open as much as they could be to asking questions without fear, being able to come up with great ideas.

TTL 253 | Young Leaders
Young Leaders: Failure is a learning experience.


I’m seeing more failure accepted than in the past, as making it more of a learning experience. I’d like to see more learning experiences to make people feel safer. The four things I found that were holding people back from being curious were fear. Assumptions they’re not interested or it’s boring or whatever it is. Technology doing things for them or too complicated for them and the environment, which are family, teaching, and things you had in childhood possibly. Do you have any suggestions for leaders to improve their openness to helping people become more curious?

It’s a great example of learning from the power of Gen Z achievers. It gets around let’s say 23, 24, and younger. The oldest crop is already working or entering the workforce, the next crop is still in college, in high school and you’ve got middle school kids as well. It’s so relevant the timing of your question. It’s all in a master class on teaching C-suite leaders, middle managers, and managers on how to become a better, more effective, more inspiring mentor within the company. That’s a secret to success. How do you take care of these Millennials and Gen Z? Let me give you some stats. Gen Z today worldwide, out of seven plus billion people is close to one-third of the worldwide population. Other people don’t know that. You’ve got a lot of Africa, you’ve got a lot of India, so a lot of young kids. Think about that. They are going to be the biggest sector of the workforce that’s upcoming. Millennials are taking over in many ways. Your Gen Xers, and you and I are Boomers.

What are the outcomes of running a company? Let’s say that you’re the CEO on your division or GM, you’re a manager, the C-suite leader, senior executive or something like that. Your job is to help produce the greatest outcomes and results within your function and for the company. The smart ones also want to do it joyfully, not to get all stressed out. The world from what I could see based on tons of data points observed and analyzed, empirical evidence, and talking to people. I travel the world all the time. I’m speaking, learning, talking, listening and having cognac, beer and fine wine with people. I’ve been observing and reading books. There’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of stress out there, especially up there in the C-suite. The reason for that is the rate of problem-solving may not be exceeding the rate of problem accumulation. Part of that is what the strength of these leaders’ mindsets and skill sets entails because technologies are changing.

The world’s changing so fast, all of them cannot catch up. They’re overwhelmed. Some of them are trying hard to adapt and leverage on technologies. There’s too much stuff going on, to them it’s overwhelming. There’s a good overwhelm, there’s a bad overwhelm. There’s a lot of bad overwhelm right now. Diane, you’re very astute. A lot of CEOs are lonely at the top. Have you noticed that? Today, they’re seen mostly in men but tomorrow it’s going to change. Do they tell the spouse everything? No. Do they tell the board everything? No. Do they ever confide to the chairman everything? No. Part of that is their own ego, part of that is a fear. Part of them is that fear of failure, fear of rejection or whatever.

Sometimes it is so drastic. It is so bad right now. That’s part of what I do. How can I help them liberate themselves so that they could realize their own potential and help themselves become more skillful in practical ThreeEQ? Their story, their state, their vision, they’re maybe shocked and take a slight shift in their own identity and story. Add to their strategy and help them execute a little bit better. Imagine that if each person improves their productivity by 5% in a company. That’s an outcome that I look for when I speak to these people. I do a lot of keynotes and I do workshops and master classes. I love the master classes, especially because a couple of hours, they’ll lock me in with you or four in a room, a couple of dozens of you and me, and don’t come out until we’re done. For half a day it is so much fun, immersion. There’s a lot of immersion so that I get inside your mind and soul, so that you are more mindful, becoming more skillful, sharper in your visionary direction. You have to start from within, start from yourself as a leader.

Happiness comes from quality relationships with the people around you. Click To Tweet

The outcomes of externally applying your principles are your team, your division. Your company is going to get a bit more productive and joyful as well. Relationships then get better. Relations are important. At the end of the day, we live for three things in general, health, I hope wealth as well and happiness. A lot of happiness comes from the quality of relationships with your kids, with your spouse, with your boss, with your colleagues, with your board, with your staff. The worst thing is that you consistently piss off lots of Gen Z and Millennials. They’re going to eat you. That’s going to be dangerous for a company. Your company is going to fall because you need them, especially Gen Z. You know how digitally, ultra-savvy they are? We talked about that in the chapter in the eBooks that I wrote for an enterprise.

It makes me interested in what led to your interest in writing Young Leaders 3.0? You talked to all kinds of groups. What made your focus go?

First of all, I’m not going to write a book for many more years. It’s so much work. It’s called Young Leaders 3.0: Stories, Insights, And Tips For Next-Generation Achievers. The whole motivation there is very simple. People keep telling me, “Jason, you’re freaking great in what you do, in success coaching, mentoring, college counseling and all that. Your results are incredible. Kids love you.” Every time they talk to my students, whether they’re fifteen years old, seventeen or 27, they said, “Mr. Ma, let’s book the next meeting.” They tell me secrets that I get to know them more than the parents know them. Sometimes their parents would whisper in my ear and say, “Jason,” I said, “Got it.” I’m like the agent in the middle.

I see so many patterns at work. I see patterns that don’t work. I see mindsets. I know mindsets. I know skills. I know what it takes. I cracked the code on Ivy League and elite college admissions process where I plan application admissions. I cracked the code on next generation leadership career grooming as well as a personal life coaching success and all the good stuff. People say, “Why don’t you share some of that stuff?” Why don’t I share part of that, not all of it? Some people who cannot afford my $3 trillion a year service, so that even the mass market could enjoy that. This whole premise put together, share some of my know-how and I did it in a super storytelling fashion. I brought together 23 kids that are Gen Z and Millennials, seventeen to 24-year-olds four years ago. They are now 21 to 28 years old. They are senior Gen Z to Millennial.

Although one-half were my mentees, less than one-half were friends and one of them is going to be on there for sure, maybe two and probably in his twenties, Tim Wong, a crazy government innovator. My daughter’s in there as well. She’s in chapter one because it’s from youngest to the oldest. Her chapter title is Kindest Kid From Silicon Valley. It talks about family, it talks about values. In fact, one essay’s called The MAfia. The mafia stands for the Ma family. It’s a joke from my older daughter. We talked about the importance of core values within the family. In my family is infinite love and humor, which gets crude. It’s like a stress relief for kids. This high-pressure cooker for these high achievers so you get me. I joke around all the time.

TTL 253 | Young Leaders
Young Leaders: Go beyond the superficial things and dive into deep conversations.


When you come to a Saturday night MAfia date with us, you’ll crack up. We have so many jokes. I go pretty deep too in conversation. I try to force my kids on deep conversations too. I hate the superficial stuff, I like deep conversations. You’ve got love, you’ve got the humor, number three is high standards on what matters. Family values and a lot of high school life, lots of tips and insights on college admissions, it’s much more complex than that. The trouble comes when parents and students can underestimate what it takes and they all end up getting lower results. I see it all the time. It’s very sad. You’ve got to start early in entering college. It is important because it’s a major transition.

Even with my younger daughter, they are high achievers. I believe my young daughters are going to be even above the fold because she got this guy to mentor her. I mentor her to be even a leader among leaders in Wharton. She’s only 4’11” and I say, “Do that, you’re the giant in a little package.” A lot of it is all in mindset, skill set, vision and all this stuff. I’m not going to go that deep into it and college life. It’s about a career position. Some kids are going to get a PhD, most kids going to get a career, and I’ve got kids that go to all sorts of crazy Google, NBC, and they’re all very successful and joyful. The relationship I have with them is so deep. It’s lifelong. That’s the book.

I wrapped it up with a concluding actionable advice. To me, the book is a book. It’s going to help you a little bit here but doesn’t rely on that. Nothing beats high powered, one-on-one success coaching and mentoring that is hyper-personalized. That’s what I do with my high-end clients of high net worth parents. You have to align with my principles and values. You’ve got to be coachable. You’ve got to be decisive. You’ve got to be resourceful. I have criteria that you’ve got to apply to be one of my clients. I don’t take clients if you pay me, I don’t do that. I want to bring in clients that I enjoy, that if I’m going to put them in the same room we’re going to enjoy each other, even be friends, socialize and all that. I socialize with all these kid’s parents as well.

In our chat right now, Diane, I see there are quite a bit of interconnected angles. Imagine your through line starting if you are a motivated middle schooler. I don’t take middle schoolers usually unless you are a very motivated, very high-achieving thirteen-year-old. You’re still in eighth grade. Sure, let me take a look. Let me talk to the parent, let me talk to you. The high school kids are about college admissions in most cases. Even though I was a Thiel Fellowship mentor in the past, they don’t care too much about. Once you are in college and university that is about career positioning or grad school. Once you’re working, then it’s about your next level of business, career success. That’s the vertical key goals in front of you. I help them get the greatest results and outcomes. That’s my job. You have to come in earlier so I have some time to horizontally transform you and hone your 4S and ThreeEQ.

Aggressively learn and grow. Click To Tweet

Likewise, going back to let’s say you are working for a company now. You’re making a couple of $100,000 a year or you’re making millions or you’re making five figures. You’re enjoying a job. You also hate your job or you’re a little bit stressed out. You’re a little bit stuck and all that. I could help get inside you and then help you gel within your culture and organizationally so that at the end of the day, you could come out more refreshed, more sustainable, more empowered. You hear the word empowering quite a bit from the Millennials. A lot of it is true. At the end of the day, we’re perfectly imperfect human beings. How do we gain significance and achieve, contribute and grow? We all want to do that individually and certainly organizationally. Through the line, entail the Baby Boomer and I aggressively learn and grow. I transfer some of that into my clients and students. I feel obligated to do that. I’m doing God’s work.

My daughter and her husband live in Sunnyvale because he works at Apple and they work there. When I’m up there, it’s very noticeable that there’s a certain Asian culture that does well in Silicon Valley. Are you finding that you’re having more Asian individuals in your programs because it comes naturally in their culture?

It started with mostly Asian-Americans. My previous company became one of the most kick-butt companies in mass affluent college counseling. You’ve got a mass market, you’ve got the mass affluent, you’ve got high net worth, you’ve got the whole tribe net worth and you’ve got billionaires. The air gets thin up there. It started out with mostly Chinese-American, mostly high achievers. I was with them for six years, pre, during, and post-merger. I merged the companies to form that company. I’ve seen that quite a bit. When you go to the South Bay, the three pockets are the most intense. Those are Palo Alto, Cupertino, and Fremont.

At Cupertino, there’s one major strip, a boulevard. You’ve got more tutoring centers and learning centers there per square inch than anywhere in the United States, except maybe for Manhattan. It’s like Manhattan and a part of Silicon Valley is super intense. We sit right in the middle as a leader in that, in my learning center. We did college counseling, we did SAT, ACT prep, summer programs, and economic enrichment and all that. The top leaders, we all pretty much jumped in. With smart entrepreneurs, you could hack anything. We were like operating, managing surgeons. We do surgery on a daily basis, college counseling, and college admissions. I learned the college admission process cold. Anything you want to apply to Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Penn, Dartmouth, Brown, Cornell, MIT, Georgetown, UC Berkeley, etc. I know that cold and I hone your story.

It’s college admission season, college applications. I’ve got my clientele, helping them with that. Help them authentically communicate their story that stands out, their character, and justified by their academic and testing performance and all sorts of good stuff. Also demonstrated by third-party recommendations, but your personal essays are important. It’s very complex.

TTL 253 | Young Leaders
Young Leaders: Parents are no longer 100% heroes in high school. That is why third-party mentorship is so important.


I grew up in a very competitive family. We’re talking about being coachable in different things. I’ve had conversations with people about is smarter necessarily happier? Are we pushing people too much? Where do you fall in that discussion?

I could write a couple of books on that. I love it and I hate it. I pull parents aside. Today, my parents are high net worth or ultra-high net worth. They listen to me, they advise me, and the kids certainly don’t follow or listen to them no matter how great the relationships are. That’s how human beings are. You must know that. Why don’t you go to middle school then because of all sorts of internal and external reasons? Kids stop listening to parents as much anymore. Parents are no longer 100% heroes in high school. That’s why third-party mentorship is important. It is the parents who are themselves a bit humbler that even though you went to HBS, Caltech, Stanford, or Brooklyn and I find parents that are like that. In fact, the mass majority of my client parents, they went to top schools.

For example, I’ve got a student who’s a rising junior. She’s still fifteen or sixteen. She goes to a top private high school in Atherton, which is the most expensive city in Northern California and she’s top-ranked. They’re humble enough to come to me say, “Mr. Ma, help me maximize my authentic stories so I could learn and grow and take my success to the next level. I do like to get into a tough school.” Her dad and I become deep friends. He’s the president of a $30 billion market and tech company, public. He said, “Jason, I appreciate your talk at the Harvard Business School Association.” I gave a talk about preparing children for school college career and personal success. A packed room of high-achieving students, co-sponsored by the alumni clubs of Harvard, Stanford GSB, Wharton, and also Berkeley Haas. They’re organized by the HBS Association. He said, “Help my kid deal with her story.” They’re high-achieving but still unsure, etc. I realize the value of third-party mentoring, just like Mark Zuckerberg, the extreme example.

Imagine if he does not have the great mentors around him on his board. He’s not going to accelerate becoming a great CEO. Now he’s a great CEO, you may or may not agree with his company policies at Facebook. He is in his mid-30s. Did he know how to be a great CEO back in his early twenties? Not at all, but the guy started off with a strong, practical ThreeEQ. He was a world-class learner. He loves to learn, very curious, and he’s very coachable as well. He accelerated himself to be a great CEO right now. People love him. It’s like Facebook and Google has got the top-rated cultures in any companies in the United States, maybe around the world.

If you’re beating up your kids too hard, they’ll end up hating you and your relationship. Click To Tweet

Going back to the difference between being a more missionary, benevolent, tight parent or be a tiger mom or tiger dad. I coach parents to knock off the ultra-hardcore dumb but highly intellectual tiger parent mentality. I get them to smooth out their own mentality and mindset to relax a little more. Let me help you. You’re working hard, but you’re beating up. Your kid’s going to end up hating you or your relationships are not going to be as good as it could be in a family. You’ll carry that into your workplace, then it will subconsciously transfer to some of your staff. While you could become a better mentor and a caretaker for your team, for your company, for your board members, it starts with you. In Silicon Valley, I see through it and I see that. Silicon Valley, Seoul, Hong Kong, probably Singapore and Han. Let me give you a stat.

I talked to a former client of mine, she told me, “Jason, did you know that 27 high school kids in Singapore committed suicide? Two of them from Raffles Institution, which is a top-ranked private school.” I said, “How sad is that. It’s very sad, but I’m not surprised at all.” I know how lots of parents don’t get it. There’s a gap between expectations and drive. When you look back at why the late great movie star, Robin Williams, committed suicide, the inside story is that he lost significance for himself. He used to be a hero with his fans, with his family. Kids used to love him and all that. Something happened, I don’t know the details, but somehow he was not that connected anymore with the fans. He was not that productive. He was not able to manage the great relationship with his family, with kids and maybe with the wife and it was less painful for him to take his life than to live on. That’s a sad story.

I thought to myself practically, coming from our Chinese heritage. It’s a smart Chinese, it’s a top 1%. We’re pretty pragmatic. Nothing beats results, outcomes. Outcomes also include the power of your positive mind and soul, in addition to numbers. In addition to achieving great company results or college admission results, career results, great jobs and all that. Going back to Robin Williams, I thought, “If I were to have him as a coachable client of mine.” He’s old and he’s a middle-aged person. I don’t call a middle-aged person my student, I call them my client. If you’re a Millennial or Gen Z I say, “Whether you’re a boy or girl, your butt is my student. You’ve got to do everything I tell you to do, but you’ve got to grow in. It’s always your decisions.” I look them in the eyes and said, “It’s always your decision. You’re the decision-maker, but Mr. Ma’s advice always gets implemented.” Robin Williams, that case, there’s a lot of people like that. You see that all the time. They’re in denial. They are not coachable and clammed down. You’ve got to be more curious. You’ve got to be a bit more open to getting help.

TTL 253 | Young Leaders
Young Leaders: Getting a degree from ivy league schools would get you into places and have your door open a bit more wider.


You’re talking a lot of the things that make you curious, open and coachable. When I was doing my research, many people who were successful were dyslexic. How many of the students do you get that are dyslexic?

Unlike Richard Branson, unlike Ray Dalio, some of the greats, they were dyslexic in the past. I love these guys by the way. I learned from them. I consider them as some of my couple dozen teachers. I don’t know them personally, but I do know some of the other big shots personally. They were dyslexic, but in today’s environment, they are different. There are special right now for kids who like to go to private school and all that. For example, going back to one of my private clients, he was humble enough to say, “I went to HBS, I went to Caltech but if I were to apply today, I’m not going to get it right without help couple of years earlier.” It’s a hyper-competitive. It’s unhealthy in that hyper-competitiveness and a little bit unhealthy then I stepped in, Jason Ma steps in and I help you achieve great goals, but also help you hone and sustain your sanity and joy. That’s a difficult equation that I know what to do.

It’s interesting to me what your opinion is of how much better the education system is at these Ivy League type schools. I saw you give a talk about what they don’t teach you at Ivy League universities. I went to Arizona State University and you know that they had a business school and that type of thing. I’ve had to hire people who have had Harvard degrees for different things and they don’t seem particularly more educated sometimes than people who I’ve met other places. Some people have said to me, “It’s the same education, but the networking is what the biggest difference is.” You’re networking with these unbelievably high-potential, big money people. Do you agree with that? Is it that much better of an education? What don’t they teach you at Ivy League universities?

Let me slice it up for you. In most cases, except for still a fraction of the jobs and career paths out there where the good old, powerful all-boys and girls, probably mostly all-boys’ networks are still a little bit more prominent. Like certain asset management related, banking related type of jobs. Getting a degree from Wharton, from Georgetown, from Harvard, Princeton, those would get you into places if your door is open for you a bit wider, even though it’s still hypercompetitive. Certainly, when you talk about college and networks, that’s one of the features that you want to go to a college. For example, Princeton, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Wharton, Stanford, Harvard, they’re well-groomed, well-managed, well-organized alumni networks. It depends on the chapters as well. It depends on the leadership per chapter.

When you come to the one in the Bay Area Dartmouth, it’s great. These guys are so tight. It’s a great feature. They help your career as well. At the end of a day, most jobs out there, once you graduate from Wharton, from Harvard, once you step into the work world, you might have a bit of a looked up to. Certainly, you get more opportunities for job interviews and people go look at you and go, “Wow.” It depends on your performance and conduct.

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Did you learn any more though at Harvard than you would at ASU or did you learn the same things?

Each school has got its own different feature. For example, Wharton is more practical when it comes to certain business including technology, certain in finance and marketing than Harvard. Harvard doesn’t have a business school. If you want to do business, you don’t have to go to business school. There is liberal arts school, but it depends on what you make of and how would you handle your activities, how you grow. You build your employable mindset and skill sets. As employers, I want to hire kids that are employable with employable skills. There are certain skills I look for, hard skills certainly. I’m going to tuck you in into a certain role in certain functional areas, but also look for your effective soft skills. How has it been demonstrated?

Have you noticed that a lot of kids, they come out from Stanford, from Berkeley, from Harvard, Georgetown? Their boss is only a couple of years older or maybe ten years older. The boss went to a lesser school. It’s because the boss performed. The boss knew how to rise up the ranks. It depends on the actual performance, especially once you and I have a couple of decades of experience under our belt, it doesn’t matter that much anymore. Maybe some people are still like the ego of Berkeley engineering, I never get any questions asked. Certainly, the power of a brand name is very important. In my career, I had gotten my Berkeley engineering degree in ‘84. I never, ever once get challenged by anyone. It’s instant credibility like, “You get engineering from Berkeley, MIT and Stanford.” No one asks you questions. That does help. At the end of the day, it’s your performance, conduct and how you manage your life and work. It’s yes or no. I find that Gen Z now is even more practical than the millennials. They want on average. I’m talking about the achievers. I’m not talking about the lazy ones out there. That’s a big problem, by the way, a separate topic. The fraction of achievers want to solve problems.

They’re a bit humbler. At the same time, they’re fragile. They were born and raised and lived through post 9/11. They lived through the great recession. Some of them saw the pains that their parents went through. They popped out of mom, it’s completely digital. A lot of them don’t even know what analog stands for. You’ve got all these social media companies with the addictive algorithms built in. I coach and mentor kids and adults on not to get suckered, owned, and controlled by the addictive algorithms and technologies built into these things.

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You have to manage them. It’s the other way around. That’s why going back to the sadness of homicides, going down because of data and all that. Law enforcement, they’re able to catch crooks more effectively, proactively and reactively. The rate of suicides is going up in the world, especially with young people. It’s that they don’t have quality mentorship or whatever and they take their lives. It’s bullying, the extreme embarrassment socially and all that. It’s a concern of mine. When I coach a mentor, young and old people, that’s part of how I coach them as well. How to manage that psychologically? It starts with a mindset and then your skills as well. The world’s changing so fast. It’s turbulent but exciting at the same time. I’m excited and I’m also quite concerned. I feel obligated to do something about that.

You’re doing a lot of amazing work. You have such a worldwide audience. You talked to everybody from billionaires and tycoons, colleges and university, Gen Z, Gen X, Gen Y. You’ve covered the board. We both speak about engagement, education and all the stuff that we do. I was looking forward to having you on the show because this is right up my alley. My audience is I’m sure fascinated by your work. How can they reach you? Do you have a website? How can I get your book? Can you share that?

Go to my website, Everything’s on my website. Just go there.

This has been so great. It’s been so nice of you, Jason. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I could see why you’re so successful. Are you going to write any more books or is that the last one? You said it was pretty brutal.

I’m going to have a better impact and I would enjoy myself a bit more by not writing a book for years to come. No, thank you. I don’t tell my students and parents I write. I hate to write, but people love my writings. That’s my problem.

It’s a lot of work. You gave me a lot of insight for my book. Thank you so much for that and all your insight on curiosity. I enjoyed that. Thank you for being on the show.

Thank you for inviting. Let’s do it again.

We’ll have to do it. Thank you. I want to thank Jason so much for being my guest. He is so fascinating with the list of topics he talks about. If you go to his website, you can’t believe all the speeches and the information. He has the great topics that he delivers around the world. All the help he does for the younger generation is inspiring. I want to thank him again for such great content. We have many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past guests, you can go to We were talking a lot about the curiosity assessment that I created in the curiosity book that goes along with it. The book is called Cracking The Curiosity Code and the curiosity assessment is called the Curiosity Code Index or CCI. You can find out about both of them at It’s something important for leaders, for consultants, for HR professionals to find out more about. If you’re in that category, please check it out. It’s going to help everybody become more curious and that’s my goal. I want to thank you for joining us. I hope you join us for the next episode.

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About Jason Ma

TTL 253 | Young Leaders

Jason Ma is the Founder, CEO and Chief Mentor at ThreeEQ, the author of the critically acclaimed book Young Leaders 3.0, and a leading member of The B20 Employment and Education Task Force with The G20. He has served as a Forbes Global CEO Conference delegate for eight years, and as a Forbes contributor, his Forbes articles have received more than a million views. Ma is a sought-after next-generation leaders’ mentor, elite college consultant, C-suite strategic advisor, and speaker and masterclass leader.

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