Runnin’ Down a Dream: How to Succeed and Thrive in a Career You Love (Bill Gurley)

Investor Bill Gurley gave a speech to the University of Texas McCombs School (MBA program) in September of 2018.

In it, he looks at the lives of 3 people (Coach Bobby Knight, Bob Dylan and Chef/entrepreneur Danny Meyer).

Watch “Runnin’ Down a Dream” (by Bill Gurley)

You can watch for free on YouTube at:

Here’s a link of Bill’s slides to the talk.

I recommend you watch it directly on YouTube because the Chapters of the talk are clearly organized.

You can fast forward to 2:43 (that’s when Bill Gurley comes on stage).


  • Genre: Life/Career Advice
  • Release Date: March 9, 2023
  • Director: The name of the director
  • Narrator: The name of the narrator (if they’re famous)
  • Runtime: 1:05:15

Here are Bill’s main tips to succeed and thrive in a career you’ll love:

1) Find your passion

“This is the most important you can make in a career…to have immense passion in what you do.”

Warning: If you run at things for the reason of compensation or status, you’re going to “burn out”.

“You can’t fake it…” — Somebody else…is going to “smoke you” [at what you try to do] if you don’t have it yourself.

He quotes Bobby Knight as saying

“The key is not the will to win…everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”

– Coach Bobby Knight

Bill recommends that you stick to something where you “enjoy the preparation.”

2) Hone Your Craft

Be “obsessive about everything you possibly can about your craft.”

“Study the history….know the pioneers. It’s the bedrock foundation for what you’re going to build upon. And it will help you in networking that you’re able to talk the language of the people who came before you.”

Strive to know more than anyone else in the field, potentially measured within your sub-group.

“It isn’t always easy to be the smartest or the brightest, but it’s very doable to be the most knowledgeable.”

For career advice for someone currently in school, Bill uses the example of how you’d approach a profession in E-Sports. He said it’s doable for you to be:

  • The most knowledgable at your school in 6 months
  • Top 5 of all students within a year
  • #1 of all students in the world after 2 years

“You might want to go to where the epicenter is…the reason is there’s more networking there (if that’s where the great people are). “

— Bill Gurley


Bill says Bobby Knight, Dylan and Meyer all were maniacal about studying their craft.

For example, Bobby Knight sat down with Pete Newell and filled out 74 cards with different plays on them.

“There was no one who knew more about folk music than [Bob Dylan] did when he broke out”

– Bill Gurley

Before Shake Shack, Danny Meyer took a road trip visiting dozens of the best burger shacks across the U.S.

3) Develop Mentors

Some key takeaways about mentors:

  • Mentor Importance: Actively seek mentors in fields you want to excel in.
  • Persistence: Don’t hesitate to be aggressive in pursuing mentors, like Dylan who hitchhiked 1,200 miles to see Arlo Guthrie.
  • Start Small: You don’t need a top-tier mentor immediately. Work up the hierarchy.
  • Engage and Respect: Debate, learn, document interactions, and share knowledge.
  • Build Relationship: Send your mentors notes, share success stories, give gifts for accomplishments. Make mentors feel involved in your success, similar to fans on American Idol.
  • Lifelong Pursuit: Always seek mentors. The speaker recently met admired investors Stan Druckenmiller and Howard Marks (after 20 years in the field).
  • Anecdote: Many successful individuals had pivotal mentors. Danny Meyer, for example, built relationships with four icons he listed at age 25.

4) Embrace Peers


  • Discussion and Debate: Engage in discussions and arguments to refine ideas.
  • Share Knowledge: Prioritize sharing best practices over protecting proprietary knowledge. “It’s a good trade. It’s just smart.”
  • Celebrate Success: Cheer on peers, and recognize their accomplishments.
  • Reciprocal Benefits: The act of sharing and celebrating brings mutual advantages.

5) Don’t Need to be in Your Exact Field

  • Broad Networking:
    • Interactions don’t have to be limited to one’s specific field.
    • Bobby Knight gained insights from a swimming coach. Entrepreneurs and CEOs can benefit from attending diverse conferences.
  • Twitter’s Power:
    • Twitter is highlighted as an essential networking and learning tool.
    • In many fields, between 52% to 80% of top experts actively use Twitter.
    • Experts share ideas, and it’s a platform where one can engage with them.
    • Gaining a follow from an expert can unlock direct messaging, allowing for more intimate communication.

6) Pay it Back

  • Give Credit — Always to give the majority of the credit to the other people that helped you up along the way.
  • Be humble and Grateful — “one it’s the right thing to do and to keep you from being an when you’re successful.”
  • Becoming a Mentor — eventually you got to pay it back so you become the mentor. In the case of Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski: Bobby’s point guard at Army was none other than Mike Krzyzewski… Mike asked Bobby Knight to induct him into the Hall of Fame.

Thank you for reading!

-Rob Kelly

Chief Maniac, Daily Doc