Brandeis International Business School

022: Don’t Sweat the Big Picture & Take it One Step at a Time

A story of serendipity, social impact and success

Benjamin D. Stone is a lawyer at the national law firm Mintz, where he helps entrepreneurs, investors and companies generate both profits and positive social impact around the world.

But before Ben worked at Mintz, he held a wide variety of roles in very different organizations: he was a managing director and general counsel of an international impact investment firm; led a team at American Express fueling high-growth entrepreneurship in the United States; helped start Indego Africa, which is a lifestyle brand and social enterprise partnering with thousands of female entrepreneurs in Rwanda and Ghana; and founded Dollar a Day, a web platform for people to discover small nonprofits, with the founder of Kickstarter.

From the Dorm Room

He has a law degree from NYU, and he went to college at WashU in St. Louis, where he majored in English and minored in Photography. And looking back, although he already knew he wanted to go to law school, he’d make the same choice again. What you study in undergrad is largely unrelated to what you will eventually do as a career, but college is a good opportunity to really explore some things that you may not have the opportunity to do later in life and learn more about yourself.

Ben spent one year working as a manuscript editor for the University of Chicago Press before going to law school, which may sound random, but helped him practice looking at significant details, which was a helpful experience.

Ben didn’t go to law school because he knew he wanted to be a lawyer, but because he thought that the idea of law school in and of itself would be incredibly valuable in terms of the analytical thinking, writing and communication. Even if he hadn't gone to practice law at all, the experience still would have been worth it.

“I think college is all about, in many ways... coming to an understanding of who you are and who you want to be. And that's a little bit different than gaining those hard skills, which I think are better addressed post-college. To me, it's about exploring what you want to do, and starting to chip away at some things that are going to position you well in the future.”

To the Boardroom

After all of Ben’s various endeavors, he reached a point in his career where he was burned out and looking for something a little more long-term. He thought, “I'm turning 40. I've got 30 more years of my career left. What can I do now that's going to provide a nice foundation, and something that I could perhaps do for quite a while?"

After a lot of soul searching and conversations, Ben realized that he wanted to get back into practicing law. And because of the experience that he had, it made a lot of sense to go back into the corporate space, in a role that allowed him to work with startups who were having a positive impact on the world. So his job at Mintz is the perfect intersection of his experience and passion.

“My favorite part about this job and why I came back to the law firm world is the opportunity to meet, and engage, and support these incredible entrepreneurs who are putting it all on the line. I'd say the vast majority of them are putting it all in the line, not just to make profits, which is incredibly important, but also to have a positive impact on the world. And that's really inspiring, and it's an honor to be able to help them in any way that I can.”

And the story makes sense retrospectively, but there’s no way that Ben could have predicted or planned his path back in law school – and Ben thinks that’s a misconception that a lot of people have early in their career.

No one step in your career is going to be the end all be all, and even if you stumble for a step or you’re not perfect, it’s likely not going to cause significant challenges down the road. “Make the best decision you can based on the opportunities in front of you, and always be looking to gain skills. I think that's the most important thing. No matter what you do, make sure that you're learning new skills along the way because that's really going to help propel you to other things,” Ben says. “But don't worry so much about how it kind of unfolds in the big picture because it's really impossible to predict. Jobs are all about timing, who you know and what's happening at that particular time. And there's never going to be a perfect job.”

It’s okay if you have your future mapped out for the next 40 years, but if you don’t, don’t sweat it – you’re doing fine!

Ben also shared one final thought at the end of our interview, and it’s an important piece of advice for any young professional to hear: “There are five principles that anyone can really focus in on that are controllable by any person, and I think it's related to careers, but also perhaps life. Be bold, be kind, be curious, be diligent and be grateful. I try to follow those principles as much as possible, and I find that things worked out pretty well when I do.”

The Entrepreneurial Edge

Every week, we highlight one piece of advice for aspiring, struggling, and successful-but-want-to-be-even-more-successful entrepreneurs:

Networks are critical, and college is a great opportunity to start not just building but organizing your network.

And your network doesn’t necessarily the people you met at that conference last week – the best networks are the ones that are built with strong friends, acquaintances, and people who you've developed real personal relationships with, not just transactional relationships.

You never know what people are going to do, and you never know how your life is going to intersect with those people perhaps 20 years down the line.

But young professionals should also take this opportunity to organize themselves, which is an often overlooked aspect of networking. Ben has an invaluable spreadsheet of basically everyone he’s ever met, with a little information about each person. “And that really allows me to tap into my network in a way that I don't think I would have been able to do if I was just not keeping track. So, I'd say the earlier you can start, the better you'll be and you'll be happy that you did.”


Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Listen on Stitcher


Follow @FromTheDormRoom
on Twitter  

Share Your Thoughts

Connect With Us