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What is the American Dream?

Alan Smolinisky – a ser­i­al entre­pre­neur and co-own­er of the Los Ange­les Dodgers – shares the sto­ry of his Amer­i­can Dream. The son of Argen­tin­ian immi­grants who came here with noth­ing, he’s risen faster and fur­ther than he ever dreamed pos­si­ble. And along with Doug DeVos, he believes Amer­i­ca should always be a place where every­one can thrive, with­out exception.

Key Moments

  • 1:23 What was it like growing up in a first generation family of immigrants?
  • 8:05 How did those lessons shape your success?
  • 11:49 You were sued for pursuing your entrepreneurial passions?
  • 14:01 How can others learn from your story?
  • 16:06 What's more American than baseball? And what's a bigger name than the LA Dodgers?
  • 21:31 What was in your heart when you walked into the stadium for the first time?
  • 23:18 What did you see in your parents that inspired your goals and achievements?
  • 27:01 How can we help people believe in themselves and their dreams?
  • 30:26 Sharing a real world barrier that exists in LA
  • 35:50 How can wealth of character keep us moving forward?
  • 39:47 What's on your list?
Show Full Transcript

Full Episode Transcript

We believe, and have always believed in this coun­try, that man was cre­at­ed in the image of God. That he was giv­en tal­ents and respon­si­bil­i­ty and was instruct­ed to use them, to make this world a bet­ter place in which to live. And you see, this is the real­ly great thing of Amer­i­ca. It’s time to dis­cov­er what binds us togeth­er, and find­ing it has the pow­er to trans­form our world. That’s what I believe. How about you? 

Doug: Well, hel­lo every­one, and wel­come to Believe!” I’m Doug DeVos, and we’re thrilled to have you join us here. I’m excit­ed today, as we talk about the Amer­i­can dream. It’s cer­tain­ly some­thing that I’ve been able to see a lot in my life, and expe­ri­ence to a cer­tain extent, and to real­ly cel­e­brate the sto­ries of oth­ers, when you see it. Because there’s a lot of ques­tions about it, there’s a lot of con­cern of if the Amer­i­can dream is still rel­e­vant for peo­ple today. What does it mean to them, how does the next gen­er­a­tion feel about it? And what does that, how does that impact our coun­try as we go for­ward? And so we believe that the Amer­i­can dream can be some­thing that unites us. These ideas around our coun­try, the pos­i­tive ideas around our coun­try, are some­thing that can unite us. And so when we have a chance to have a won­der­ful guest, like we have today with Alan Smolinisky, he is here with us. He has lived the Amer­i­can dream him­self. He’s had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to share it and tell his sto­ry. He’s the son of first-gen­er­a­tion immi­grants. He’s part of the own­er­ship group of the Los Ange­les Dodgers, just a fab­u­lous suc­cess sto­ry and won­der­ful per­son. And so Alan, it’s great to have you here with us and great to have a chance to have this conversation.

Alan: Awe­some, thank you so much Doug, and that was very com­pli­men­ta­ry, and I hope I don’t dis­ap­point after set­ting such a high bar.

Doug: I’m sure you won’t, I’m sure you won’t. Alan, now just tell us your sto­ry, the sto­ry of your par­ents and grow­ing up in a first-gen­er­a­tion fam­i­ly of immi­grants to the Unit­ed States. Tell us a lit­tle bit about both your dad and your mom, and how they found their way here and what it was like when you were younger.

Alan: Sure, so both my par­ents were born in Argenti­na in the ear­ly 1940s. I’ll start with my father. My father was born deformed, he had large heman­giomas across his face and neck, sort of dis­col­orations and bub­bles. He was born very poor. He was Jew­ish in a pret­ty anti­se­mit­ic coun­try that treat­ed Jews as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens, some­times worse. And he sort of could see the writ­ing on the wall for Argenti­na, that there was just so much cor­rup­tion, so much lack of oppor­tu­ni­ty. When his father got sick, he dropped out of ele­men­tary school and start­ed work­ing, but he always kind of had this dream. He always had heard that there was this mag­i­cal place called Amer­i­ca, where if you’re will­ing to work hard, you can make all your dreams come true. So he final­ly saw an open­ing when his father’s broth­er Sam moved to Los Ange­les. And so he start­ed writ­ing let­ters to Uncle Sam. I mean, you could­n’t make it up. And so Uncle Sam-

Doug: Oh that’s per­fect, that’s per­fect, isn’t it?

Alan: That’s right. So Uncle Sam writes him back and says you can come join us. And so at 17-years-old, my father saved up every peso and fam­i­ly sold the car, and paid for his trip. And it was his first time on a plane, first time out­side of Argenti­na. So he land­ed on Octo­ber 28th, 1963 at LAX at night. He had $4. He did­n’t speak a word of Eng­lish. He had no skills, no trade, no con­nec­tions, did­n’t know any­thing about the coun­try, but he just knew that this was this mag­i­cal place. And he’s just sort of held that belief. So he went to bed and his first morn­ing he woke up, he got his social secu­ri­ty card on 4th and Spring Street, in Down­town Los Ange­les, at nine in the morn­ing, his first morn­ing. And he was told that Jews could find work in schmat­ta, which was cloth­ing or jew­el­ry busi­ness. He had fam­i­ly in the jew­el­ry busi­ness in Argenti­na, he did­n’t like it, so he chose cloth­ing. So he went down to the gar­ment dis­trict, start­ed knock­ing on doors. By the fourth door he got a job, and he was a jan­i­tor sweep­ing the floors for a $1.25 an hour. And he spent his entire 40-year career down there in the gar­ment dis­trict, with immi­grants from all over the world. And he just loved it down there. And so my dad fell in love with the coun­try. He want­ed to assim­i­late, he want­ed to be Amer­i­can. He want­ed to feel Amer­i­can. So the first thing he need­ed to do was learn Eng­lish. And here he is a cou­ple miles from Dodger Sta­di­um, and every­body in the fac­to­ry is a Dodger fan. So he gets a lit­tle radio and he starts lis­ten­ing to leg­endary broad­cast­er Vin Scul­ly, all day long, all night long, all the time. Any time Vin’s on, my dad’s lis­ten­ing. And Vin became my dad’s Eng­lish teacher, right, and I’m sure there’s count­less immi­grants around the coun­try, because at the time, you know, Vin was doing play­offs, he was doing World Series, he was­n’t just doing Dodgers. And he has this slow, unhur­ried sto­ry­telling style, exact­ly the way you’d wan­na learn a lan­guage. And so, you know, he did­n’t live to see it, but in one gen­er­a­tion to go from the guy that’s liv­ing and work­ing, every­day lis­ten­ing to Vin to learn Eng­lish, to have his son be an own­er of that team, it’s just an incred­i­ble, incred­i­ble sto­ry. My moth­er’s sto­ry’s inter­est­ing as well. She came on a boat. She was very young, same thing. Not a lot of mon­ey, did­n’t speak any Eng­lish. The inter­est­ing part about her sto­ry is her father also had this dream that Amer­i­ca was this mag­i­cal place, and he thought the best way to assim­i­late, the best way to sort of feel Amer­i­can, is we got­ta see this coun­try. So they take the boat to New York. They buy a car with all their sav­ings, and they say okay, we’re gonna dri­ve the whole coun­try. Now I don’t think he had a clue how big the coun­try was, you know. I think he’s think­ing he’s dri­ving for a few hours. So they drove all the way to Cal­i­for­nia, you know, there was some crazy tales along the way.

Doug: I can imagine.

Alan: And then they set­tled here and, you know, my mom was bul­lied and made fun of a lot. Nobody in the ear­ly 60s, there weren’t a lot of kids that spoke Span­ish. And so my mom sort of had this tiger mom char­ac­ter­is­tic that she still has, this fight­er. So she start­ed read­ing the dic­tio­nary all day long, says I’m gonna learn every word in this lan­guage, and you’re not gonna make fun of me any­more. So, you know, she met my dad in an Argen­tine club, to go watch soc­cer. Soc­cer is every­thing to Argen­tines. And back then you could­n’t watch it at home, you had to find a place that had this satel­lite, and it was a whole thing. It was $5 to go watch it, which must’ve been a for­tune back then. But no Argen­tine was gonna miss a game. So they met there, and they real­ly believed in the coun­try. And my dad always want­ed to be an entre­pre­neur. He thought that was part of being Amer­i­can. So they used all their sav­ings, the major­i­ty of it was my moth­er’s, and he start­ed a small busi­ness doing but­tons and zip­pers. And he end­ed up being an entre­pre­neur in that gar­ment dis­trict for his whole career. And dur­ing that time he was able to give me and my sis­ter all the oppor­tu­ni­ties that my mom and dad nev­er had. Nobody had ever gone to col­lege. We were able to go to col­lege, they paid for it all. They gave us an incred­i­ble amount of love and sup­port and con­fi­dence. So my sis­ter and I were extreme­ly lucky to grow up with all of that. And so we sort of had one foot in each door grow­ing up. I cer­tain­ly felt much more Amer­i­can. My moth­er took it to an insane extreme, I’ll just fin­ish with this. She want­ed us to be Amer­i­can so bad that she did­n’t teach us Span­ish, okay. Now there’s no mem­ber of my fam­i­ly who does­n’t speak Span­ish. So every wed­ding is in Span­ish, every bar mitz­vah’s in Span­ish, my cousins speak Span­ish. We go to Argenti­na and I’m sit­ting there with the dunce cap on, I don’t know what any­body’s talk­ing about.

Doug: Oh my gosh!

Alan: And she just was so deter­mined that no, we’re in Amer­i­ca, you’re gonna be Amer­i­can, you’re gonna learn Eng­lish, and I still don’t even think she regrets it. She should regret it, because it’s, you know, how great would it be to speak two lan­guages. But I don’t. I can under­stand, but I don’t speak it.

Doug: Wow, wow. Thank you so much for shar­ing that sto­ry, and the fact that both your mom and your dad found their way here. You know, we haven’t, you know, in the past, and our fam­i­ly came from the Nether­lands, a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. I’m, you know, a few gen­er­a­tions down there. Maybe the clos­est thing is to have, you know, my par­ents kind of grow­ing up and the depres­sion, com­ing through things, but it’s amaz­ing, the char­ac­ter­is­tics that you talk about of fam­i­ly, of com­ing togeth­er, of love, and of a mom and dad just want­i­ng to give their kids oppor­tu­ni­ty. That just shines through so won­der­ful­ly. So talk a lit­tle bit now about, you know, they could­n’t, they gave you those char­ac­ter­is­tics and they gave you an exam­ple, but you had to go do it. So tell us a lit­tle bit about your sto­ry now, how you took it from there.

Alan: Sure, so I always wor­shiped my dad. My dad was Super­man. I just want­ed to be like my dad, as far back as I can remem­ber. And my dad was an entre­pre­neur, and he worked super hard and he had his own busi­ness and he had peo­ple depend­ing on him. And so I, from a very young age, said that, you know, that’s what I wan­na do. There was nev­er a doubt in my mind I was gonna be an entre­pre­neur, and that I was gonna be in busi­ness. And so I had every type of busi­ness as a kid, you know. I did lemon­ade stands, I sold these blow pop lol­lipops at school. I mean the mar­gins on those, don’t even get me start­ed. I mean they would make Google blush. We’re talk­ing about 70% mar­gins on a quar­ter of lol­lipop, you know. And I’d have my coupons, I’d find the best deals at Smart & Final, or who was sell­ing them on spe­cial, and I’d load up on them and it was a cash busi­ness, you know. Very lit­tle inven­to­ry, no receiv­ables, was ter­rif­ic. So I was always, you know, think­ing that way. My first big busi­ness was my fresh­man year, I was liv­ing in the dorms at USC, and my best friend at the time was a senior, and he told me, you know, you bet­ter find your hous­ing for next school year or you’re gonna be home­less. USC only hous­es the fresh­men and that’s it. So I said where do you live, and he says oh there’s some build­ings behind the Shrine Audi­to­ri­um and you should go have a look over there. So I go, and there’s a Chi­nese immi­grant in the office whose Eng­lish is not great, a lot like my fam­i­ly’s. And I just start talk­ing to him, and he’s pre­tend­ing to be the man­ag­er, but I very clear­ly can tell he’s the own­er of the build­ing. You know, you just have that sense, right? And he says, well we start leas­ing March 6th, peo­ple usu­al­ly get their sleep­ing bag and they start sleep­ing out­side around March 4th, you know, a cou­ple of nights out there, and maybe you get an apart­ment. And I said oh boy, this is a hell of a busi­ness, I like this one. You know, peo­ple are sleep­ing out­side. And I very quick­ly real­ized, you know, I start­ed hang­ing out with him all the time and I start­ed real­iz­ing the oth­er land­lords don’t have any­body sleep­ing out­side and he’s charg­ing 50% more. And that was a real eye-open­er for me. that if you pro­vide a great ser­vice, the mar­ket is will­ing to pay for that ser­vice, if you’re real­ly pro­vid­ing that val­ue. And that was sort of the win-win he was cre­at­ing, and I just loved it. So I just said, we’re gonna be part­ners, I wan­na get into this. Now I’d nev­er met any­body in real estate. I don’t know any­body in real estate. I don’t know any­body that’s ever owned any real estate. I’ve nev­er built anything.

Doug: Nev­er stopped you though.

Alan: No, of course not.

Doug: Nev­er stopped you. Know­ing any­thing nev­er stopped you.

Alan: No, because I was arro­gant and fool­ish and over­con­fi­dent, and an Argen­tine alpha male.

Doug: And thank­ful­ly you were young too, that helps.

Alan: That’s exact­ly right, you don’t know any bet­ter. And I saw him doing it, I’m think­ing this guy bare­ly speaks Eng­lish and he’s sit­ting in this garage inhal­ing fumes, in this crap­py lit­tle office, and look how great he’s doing. And, you know, we just had iden­ti­cal world­views. We grew up very sim­i­lar. You know kids, we were both expelled from schools com­ing up. We both talked back. We were both trou­ble­mak­ers. You know, all the inse­cu­ri­ties you need to be a suc­cess­ful entre­pre­neur. And I said lis­ten, I found a piece of land, and I’m gonna learn how to devel­op it and build it. And he said no, I knew some peo­ple in Tai­wan and Chi­na that got in trou­ble, there’s mate­r­i­al short­ages, labor prob­lems. I don’t know. So I just had to con­vince him, and day after day I worked on him, and we agreed, hey, let’s part­ner on this thing, we’ll do it. We’ll build a build­ing. We built one, and then three, and then 10, and then 20. And we got so big at USC that the uni­ver­si­ty hired a for­mer fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor from DC to sue us under the Sher­man Antitrust Act, for monop­o­liz­ing the stu­dent hous­ing mar­ket, right?

Doug: Okay, stop there for a sec­ond. So you were sued for pur­su­ing your entre­pre­neur­ial pas­sions, and you were doing real­ly well. I’m assum­ing there were no com­plaints from your cus­tomers, they were still buy­ing your prod­ucts, were see­ing val­ue in what you’re offer­ing, but the gov­ern­ment, some­body felt that they should become involved in it and-

Alan: It was­n’t the gov­ern­ment, it was the university.

Doug: Ah, university.

Alan: Who some­times thinks they’re a gov­ern­ment, you know. Yeah, so ah, no, you’re right, the cus­tomers did not com­plain we were sold out with a line out the door when our com­peti­tors had no line out the door. But we were very, very dom­i­nant. You know, at that point we con­trolled all the land, all the retail, we housed one out of three stu­dents. Now that does­n’t mean that they’re, first off, you can’t even have a monop­oly in real estate, right. It’s just not even pos­si­ble. But it’s pret­ty cool, you know, there was Rock­e­feller, then Gates and then Chan and Smolinisky. You know that was the thing. But no, it was real­ly just strate­gic and we set­tled it, no mon­ey chang­ing hands, and they got what they want, and we got what I want, or what we want­ed. I will say part of it was our fault. You know, we were two kids in our 20s, we had some suc­cess, we were arro­gant and brash and stu­pid. And some of my con­duct back then, I mean, it’s embar­rass­ing to even think about. And that’s why I have a lot of sym­pa­thy for some of these Sil­i­con Val­ley founders, you know. They cre­ate these big busi­ness­es and they’re in their 20s, and there’s nobody to sit them down and say hey, take it easy. There was a lot of luck, there was a lot of hard work, you did great, but, you know, you’re not cur­ing can­cer here, take it easy.

Doug: Right, right.

Alan: And so, you know, I said some things to them, they were try­ing to move the front entrance and I was well, I wan­na do this, I wan­na do that but, you know, they’re a 130-year-old uni­ver­si­ty at the time. So it all worked out, but it just shows how dom­i­nant we got. We went to oth­er cam­pus­es and we just kept build­ing the busi­ness, and then even­tu­al­ly we sold it just before the great finan­cial crisis.

Doug: Good tim­ing. So being young and being brash and being oppor­tunis­tic, a lit­tle bit of smarts to sell at the right time, prob­a­bly worked as well.

Alan: Luck, let’s be honest.

Doug: Luck

Alan: Com­plete luck. I did­n’t see any­thing coming.

Doug: But again, the hard­er you work, what’s the old phrase, the hard­er you work, the luck­i­er you tend to get.

Alan: No doubt, no doubt. You have to be in the posi­tion to get lucky.

Doug: Yeah, absolute­ly. What a great sto­ry though of just, of see­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty, but then tak­ing action on it. And it was­n’t like you had a busi­ness plan or you had this grand strat­e­gy. You saw some­thing, you saw some­body, and you built a rela­tion­ship and went for­ward. How can oth­ers learn from that, just from even just that aspect of your story?

Alan: I think there’s oppor­tu­ni­ties every­where. It’s just that every­body will poo-poo them and tell you, oh, it can’t be done, or, I hear this a lot. Well, some­body would’ve done it already. You know, that kind of thing. I think what it real­ly takes to be an entre­pre­neur is sort of see­ing things, see­ing some­thing that you think could be done bet­ter. See­ing where you can cre­ate val­ue. I mean, Charles talked about it a lot in the Good Prof­it”, I think, what was that, two or three books ago? You know, if you cre­ate that win-win for the cus­tomer, the sup­pli­er, the ven­dor, the own­er, and every­body’s win­ning, you’re in the right place. If you’re delight­ing your cus­tomer, as Bezos likes to say, you’re real­ly, you’re in a great place. And so if an entre­pre­neur looks around, there are a lot of oppor­tu­ni­ties like that all around. You just have to be will­ing to not give up, work hard, not lis­ten to the naysay­ers that are all around you, and fol­low what you believe in and cre­at­ing value.

Doug: Won­der­ful­ly said, I’ll just quick­ly, you know, I love your part­ner­ship sto­ry and I love your youth aspects, because my father met a friend in high school, Jay VanAn­del. The two of them, you know, they start a flight school, they teach peo­ple how to fly, but they don’t know how to fly. They start a restau­rant, but they’ve nev­er been in the restau­rant busi­ness. They tried to sail to South Amer­i­ca, and the boat sinks. They’d nev­er sailed before. But they just had a dream that they want­ed to keep doing some­thing, and they worked togeth­er, they both had that dream, like you and your part­ner the same way, you have a dream, you work togeth­er, you find a solu­tion to go for­ward. But con­tin­ue on with the next aspect of your dream, because it, you know, what’s more Amer­i­can than base­ball, and what’s a big­ger name than the L.A. Dodgers. So that won­der­ful con­nec­tion that you have with your father and learn­ing Eng­lish, Vin Scul­ly, lov­ing the Dodgers, I love Vin Scul­ly too by the way, what a great-

Alan: The greatest.

Doug: ‑that voice. As soon as you men­tioned that, I can hear his voice, I can see him just, amaz­ing, amaz­ing person.

Alan: It’s the only voice­mail I have saved on my phone.

Doug: Real­ly?

Alan: I keep one saved voice­mail on my phone, and he left a 90 sec­ond long voice­mail about life, about my father, about, just real­ly beau­ti­ful. And I lis­ten to it all the time, I just, it gives me goose­bumps still, what a legend.

Doug: Oh my gosh, that is the coolest thing. I’m gonna have to ask you to share that some­day, cause I’d love to hear that voice again too. I think that’s just fab­u­lous. So talk about your jour­ney there though, of how to say, you know, to pick that because you’re doing busi­ness, you’re doing these oth­er things, and cer­tain­ly sports enter­tain­men­t’s a busi­ness. But there’s some­thing spe­cial about con­nect­ing with an orga­ni­za­tion that means so much to peo­ple, where peo­ple kind of define their life’s mem­o­ries by being at that game or see­ing that, you know, that play, or just expe­ri­enc­ing being at the sta­di­um. So tell us about your jour­ney there and what it’s been.

Alan: Yeah, so the Dodgers have always been some­what of a reli­gion in our fam­i­ly. I always bond­ed with my father and my cousins and every­one in the fam­i­ly, was always around sports. So always the Dodgers and the Lak­ers on. I spent every sum­mer there my entire life, start­ing in 1981 when my father took me for the first time, which was Fer­nan­do Valen­zue­la’s rook­ie sea­son, when he start­ed open­ing day and won every­thing. And so it’s a real­ly, real­ly spe­cial place. I mean it is like a church or a, you know, real­ly, real­ly great being at that sta­di­um. So I always had want­ed to do some­thing big­ger, and I always felt like I went big, like I would always go for my goals or make my list every year, big things, stretch goals, that I want­ed to try to accom­plish, in per­son­al or pro­fes­sion­al. And then what hap­pened was in May of 2016 my father called and said come to his house imme­di­ate­ly. And when we got there and he says I just came back from the doc­tor and this lump in my throat is stage four lung can­cer, it’s spread all over my body. And, you know,

Doug: Oh I’m sor­ry, Alan.

Alan: it’s gonna be a very dif­fi­cult road. Yeah. And my dad was my best friend and my hero and, you know, through adult­hood we still talked every day. And so, you know, we try to take treat­ment and do things, but by that point it was pret­ty futile. So about five months lat­er he was lay­ing in the bed at his house and he had his chil­dren, all his grand­chil­dren around, and he was going through this, you know, end of life speech of I came to the great­est coun­try in the his­to­ry of the world. I accom­plished every­thing I want­ed to accom­plish. I love my kids, my grand­kids. I have no buck­et list. So we did that for two days, just talk­ing like that and watch­ing sports. And then he passed right in my arms. And after that expe­ri­ence, you know, I kept won­der­ing, I was in a grief group at the tem­ple, I was, you know, I was hav­ing a lot of issues with it, it was very, very hard. And I kept won­der­ing would I be able to say that, 30, 40, 50 years from now. Will I be able to lay there and have every­one I love, will they all be there and love me back? Will I be able to say to all of them hey, I’m good. I’m smil­ing here, I did every­thing I want­ed to do, I have no buck­et list. And so then that’s sort of what spurred me. Well, you know, I wan­na do some­thing in sports. It’s how I bond­ed with my father, it’s how much, it’s my whole pas­sion. We don’t watch any­thing in this house. There’s no tele­vi­sion, no movies, I’m not up to date with any­thing, cause we’re watch­ing sports all day long. Every day. We just stayed up late last night to watch the, you know, the Rams Car­di­nals game. It just, it nev­er ends.

Doug: That’s right.

Alan: So I called a sports banker, anoth­er immi­grant, and I said I don’t know any­thing about sports, but I’d love to do some­thing. And then as mag­ic would hap­pen, he said I’ve got the Dodgers assign­ment, and I said that’s just not pos­si­ble. I mean, I had heard for years, you nev­er get your team, it’s the mil­i­tary, you get in, they pro­mote from with­in, you know, you show, but you’re nev­er gonna get your team. And so it was almost just like some­thing real­ly spe­cial was hap­pen­ing. Some­thing that I can’t real­ly explain. And I went down, we met. I still could­n’t believe it even when it closed. Even when I read about it in The Wall Street Jour­nal” I said, is this real, can this real­ly be hap­pen­ing? And still to this day, we’ll be sit­ting in the seats and I’m expect­ing some­one to tap me on the shoul­der and be like all right, let’s go, play­time’s over kid. The real own­er’s here, get the hell out of here.

Doug: Yeah, that’s right!

Alan: And so it’s been, it’s just been absolute­ly mag­i­cal. And there’s, you know, a cou­ple of times where I felt my father’s pres­ence at the sta­di­um dur­ing the ring cer­e­mo­ny, after we won the World Series in 2020 and could have fans back in the fol­low­ing April. You know, I swear I felt his pres­ence and weird things have hap­pened in the sta­di­um. But it’s been the most incred­i­ble thing I’ve ever been a part of.

Doug: Wow, wow. That’s beau­ti­ful. If you can even, I’ll ask you to go just one step fur­ther. The first time you’re walk­ing in there as an own­er, I’ve seen a pic­ture of you with your fam­i­ly there. What was, try to express what was in your heart, you know, what you were see­ing and expe­ri­enc­ing and how things may have come full circle.

Alan: Yeah. I was spin­ning, first off. I did­n’t sleep for a cou­ple of weeks, I cried every day. It was, you know, it’s just nev­er any­thing I ever imag­ined being able to achieve. And, you know, our own­er­ship group, our senior exec­u­tives, our play­ers, it’s a fam­i­ly. I mean, they were telling me for years, it’s a fam­i­ly, it’s a fam­i­ly, and I just thought that was a line. But oh my God, it’s a fam­i­ly. You know, these are my favorite peo­ple in the world. These are the peo­ple I social­ize with today and talk to every day. And so, you know, I was on the field, I sat with Sandy Koufax and Earvin Mag­ic John­son, on each side of me, at that game. I had my fam­i­ly there. I mean, I bare­ly remem­ber any of it. The whole thing was just, you know, I could­n’t believe any of it was real. I was try­ing to keep it togeth­er the whole night and try­ing to be cool talk­ing to Sandy, like it was just what­ev­er, you know. He was obviously.

Doug: Mak­ing stuff up, you’re try­ing to be.

Alan: Yeah, just be cool, just be cool.

Doug: Oh that, what a won­der­ful expe­ri­ence, and we’re so hap­py for you and proud of you, for you and for your fam­i­ly, and to com­plete that, you know, that sto­ry, that dream with your father, and all the expe­ri­ences that hap­pened there. But as you said with it, with the team, it’s a fam­i­ly. You go from all these expe­ri­ences in your fam­i­ly, to this team that’s a fam­i­ly atmos­phere. So help me, maybe make a lit­tle bit of a bridge here, to oth­ers and their fam­i­ly, who are maybe at a dif­fer­ent stage. Maybe their back­ground isn’t exact­ly like, you know, that of your par­ents or that you expe­ri­enced. Maybe they’re still in the ear­ly stages, you know. Maybe they’re still, you know, just at the very ear­ly stages where they’re, like they just arrived, where they’re just at a point try­ing to have a dream for them­selves. What are some of the things maybe that you, you know, the char­ac­ter­is­tics and things that you saw in your par­ents and the things that you’re try­ing to live your­self, that maybe can con­nect with some­body at that stage of their lives now?

Alan: Sure, I think on a more macro sense, more glob­al­ly, you have to tune out all the media and all the neg­a­tiv­i­ty, the tox­ic, you know, com­ing from all, basi­cal­ly all media that, you know, Amer­i­ca’s best days are behind us, that it’s too hard to achieve, that every­thing’s bro­ken. We cer­tain­ly have our prob­lems, but the real­i­ty is that there’s no one on earth who would­n’t trade posi­tions to be in this coun­try. And I think I have a unique per­spec­tive grow­ing up in an immi­grant house­hold, you know, because I con­stant­ly think, we were doing Thanks­giv­ing with the kids going around the table and say­ing what we’re thank­ful for. And I thought, you know, what would hap­pen if my father nev­er came, if I’m sit­ting in Argenti­na and, you know, would I have enough food to feed the fam­i­ly, would I be a cab dri­ver, if I was lucky to have that income? Would my fam­i­ly be in trou­ble because we don’t know the right cor­rupt offi­cials to befriend? And you could say that for almost the major­i­ty of coun­tries on earth, right? And so this is still the great­est coun­try that has ever exist­ed, the freest, best place that’s ever been cre­at­ed. And so I think you have to be an opti­mist, I mean peo­ple have bet against Amer­i­ca for 250 years, and it’s been a hor­ri­ble bet for 250 years. It’s been like being a Jets fan or some­thing. It’s just bru­tal. Those that have tak­en the short side. And so, you know, you have to, you know, you have to be a ratio­nal opti­mist, but you have to be an opti­mist being in this place. And then the sec­ond part to that ques­tion I would say is, once you’ve achieved, then you have to give back, then you have to expand the oppor­tu­ni­ty to oth­ers. And so it’s some­thing we’re incred­i­bly pas­sion­ate about, not just phil­an­thropy and doing it with dol­lars, but open­ing doors for those that are out­side the cir­cle, right, those that are sit­ting out­side the mar­gins. Whether that’s for­mer­ly incar­cer­at­ed, whether that’s peo­ple suf­fer­ing from pover­ty, whether that’s some­one who’s not able bod­ied or is dif­fer­ent, or is any type of minor­i­ty or deal­ing with any strug­gle. And so how can we open those doors? How can we remove bar­ri­ers? And so that’s most­ly what I’m pas­sion­ate about, and where all our wealth is gonna go. You know, we’d like to die broke. That’s our goal, that’s the trust we’ve set up. We’re not big believ­ers in mul­ti dynas­tic wealth and, you know, hav­ing 20 homes and build­ing stat­ues of our­self on the front lawn. And so our phil­an­thropy is focused around bring­ing down bar­ri­ers, and how can we solve it, you know, half among the immi­grant pop­u­la­tion, because that’s the pop­u­la­tion I know very well and that I wan­na see bar­ri­ers removed from. And then the oth­er half just around, com­ing up with bet­ter solu­tions for pover­ty, so that more peo­ple have the oppor­tu­ni­ties that my fam­i­ly has had.

Doug: What a great mes­sage and great sto­ry there. Talk a lit­tle bit about that. Talk as you kind of dive into the com­mu­ni­ty, and you wan­na cre­ate that oppor­tu­ni­ty, you wan­na open those doors. Because there’s a lot of peo­ple that, you know, right around half the peo­ple think that they, that the Amer­i­can dream’s real any­more. Mil­len­ni­als just don’t see that it’s for them. They don’t believe that they’re gonna be able to do bet­ter than their par­ents, or some­thing like that. So it’s a cri­sis or a lack of con­fi­dence, and you so elo­quent­ly talk about hey, look around the world, this is the place of oppor­tu­ni­ty. But for some peo­ple it’s not real. And you have to, you’re try­ing to open the doors and remove those bar­ri­ers. But at some point what’s the mes­sage to them to help them to believe in them­selves? What are some of the things we can talk about that would help some­body in this audi­ence today believe in them­selves and their abil­i­ty to take a step forward?

Alan: You know, they’re not wrong, right? Those young peo­ple aren’t wrong. And they have many exam­ples. I mean, I live here in Cal­i­for­nia and they look and say, the aver­age home in L.A. is now a mil­lion bucks. How am I ever gonna get that? Well that sys­tem’s been rigged against them. We don’t allow peo­ple to build. Our devel­op­ment restric­tions are so down. And then we cre­ate com­mis­sions to talk about why homes are so unaf­ford­able, why ren­t’s so high. You don’t need a com­mis­sion, right? Like the old joke, I don’t need a com­mis­sion to tell me that, you know, the ground’s gonna be wet after it’s rained. You know, that’s the Dr. Soul joke, and it’s true. And so they’re look­ing at that and they’re say­ing, I’m nev­er gonna be able to afford that. They’re going through real­ly crap­py pub­lic schools that have com­plete­ly let them down. Once again, I’m talk­ing what I know, I’m talk­ing in my home­town, the LAUSD sys­tem that I went through, where no one’s read­ing at their grade lev­el, no one’s doing math. So you’re think­ing okay, so they’re not get­ting the skills. And then they see the col­lege sys­tem is rigged for how you get into these col­leges, and then how they sad­dle them with an incred­i­ble amount of debt, you know? And then they see that bar­ri­ers, you know, bar­ri­ers of entry into many fields have been raised. So they have a case to sort of be that frus­trat­ed. And I get that. And so that was the first part. That is our oblig­a­tion is we need to make sure that those bar­ri­ers are being low­ered and that the sys­tem isn’t rigged against them, and that we don’t have peo­ple think­ing the Amer­i­can dream is gone and that I won’t be able to out-earn my par­ents and have a bet­ter qual­i­ty of life. So that part is real, I don’t wan­na dis­miss young peo­ple at all. And then, but the flip side is we still have a sys­tem that works. We have an incred­i­bly dynam­ic mar­ket-based econ­o­my that absolute­ly rewards the most. And so we have to stay away from dan­ger­ous ideas, just because some things aren’t right. Going to nation­al­ism and social­ism, and all these fail poli­cies that we know don’t work. And so they can’t give up the belief because you can still open the, you know, you can read The Wall Street Jour­nal” every day about some new amaz­ing entre­pre­neur that got cap­i­tal and put some­thing togeth­er in his apart­ment and built some­thing great, and this is now pro­vid­ing some great ser­vice, you know. So it’s still real, it still exists, but def­i­nite­ly peo­ple that are in your posi­tion, Doug, and in our posi­tion, we need to con­tin­ue to work to bring the bar­ri­ers down. I have a real world exam­ple, if you want it, that’s very depress­ing here in L.A.

Doug: Please. Please, go ahead, yeah I’d love to. I think it’s impor­tant to hear-

Alan: Yeah. So we still own all these shop­ping cen­ters at USC, along Figueroa, that’s in between Sta­ple Cen­ter and the cam­pus. When we were try­ing to acquire the entire area in our monop­o­lis­tic ways, we bought all this retail and we still own it to this day, 20 years lat­er. And we get a notice that the city coun­cil unan­i­mous­ly passed some­thing regard­ing trash pick­up, which I’m always fright­ened when the city coun­cil does some­thing unan­i­mous­ly. Like not one per­son thought this was bad, like every­one was so unan­i­mous, it was so clear. So that’s always your first sign, not to men­tion, you know, our city coun­cil and the dis­as­ter it is. So it says okay, from now on you can’t bid out your trash com­pa­nies. You can’t go talk to 12 com­pa­nies and see who can come at the time you want them to come around the busi­ness hours, and do the pick­ups you want and get the best rate. You can only use one. And I don’t remem­ber the pre­text they came up with, maybe it was oh, this is this, this is, who knows what they came up with. But they decid­ed to kill the gold­en goose of Amer­i­ca. No com­pe­ti­tion, we wan­na award a monop­oly. Maybe they’re keep­ing the mon­ey, who knows? So we said uh-uh, here we go. So the bill comes, it’s nine times what we were pay­ing. Nine times what we were pay­ing on Figueroa, for our cen­ters there. Well, these are triple net shop­ping cen­ters, which means that the expens­es are born by the ten­ants. Well, I’ve got two cor­po­rates in there, and the oth­er 12 are small busi­ness­es. These are, you know, your Kore­an store for new immi­grants that, you know, are doing a small bak­ery. Or we have a hot dog store, you know, that’s also owned by an immi­grant fam­i­ly. And you see mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions work­ing. Well now you just took their trash bill up nine X. And then of course the ser­vice suf­fers. The man­ag­er at the prop­er­ty says Alan, there’s trash every­where, they don’t return calls, they don’t come. I need extra pick­up on Fri­days, they won’t do it. Well of course they won’t, they got a monop­oly. Why would they answer the phone? They’re not gonna answer the phone, you got­ta pay them any­ways. And so that is a bar­ri­er. That is a real bar­ri­er that is hurt­ing those immi­grant fam­i­lies that were just like mine, that have one small busi­ness at one small shop­ping cen­ter, and they’re try­ing to make it. And you know who those kids are that are behind the reg­is­ter? Those are the doc­tors and the lawyers and the Nobel Prize win­ners, and the engi­neers, and the mil­i­tary heroes of the next gen­er­a­tion. I mean that is the dream, right? The entre­pre­neur immi­grant is there, and they know that their kids are gonna have the bet­ter life and have the oppor­tu­ni­ties that they did­n’t have. I’ve seen it a mil­lion times over, it is not a unique sto­ry. And so, you know, what can I do? I mean there’s noth­ing we can do. Maybe there’s some lit­i­ga­tion going, but, you know, how could you have passed that, that is so corrupt.

Doug: And I’m so glad you use that illus­tra­tion in the sto­ry, because it’s, just to talk about things in the abstract of, you know, of crony­ism or things of that nature, but to have a real sto­ry right there, you’re right. When some­thing’s hap­pen­ing unan­i­mous­ly, that’s a lit­tle scary. And then it goes in a direc­tion like this, you know, it’s too often peo­ple kin­da look at things in a small piece and they don’t under­stand or appre­ci­ate the knock-on effect or the mes­sage that it sends to more and more peo­ple, to take away their hopes and their aspi­ra­tions, or to make it hard­er, or just, they’ve just cre­at­ed anoth­er bar­ri­er to over­come. So take it from-

Alan: You can play it out, I mean you’ve been in busi­ness, you know exact­ly what I’m talk­ing about, so you can play it out fur­ther. So now there’s less mon­ey com­ing into the busi­ness. So maybe they hire one less per­son. And maybe that per­son, that was an entry lev­el job, maybe that was a for­mer­ly incar­cer­at­ed indi­vid­ual. Maybe that was an 18-year-old who has no chance of going to col­lege, and this would’ve been their first entrance to the work­force. When I worked at Domi­no’s Piz­za, the day my work per­mit came through at 15, I learned more than I learned in my entire school­ing, through col­lege. I learned I need­ed to be on time, I was part of a team, I was being count­ed on, I had to have my uni­form clean. We had things to do, it was gonna be a busy night. We need­ed to get those piz­zas out. And that was incred­i­ble. I mean, Char­lie Munger likes to joke that the McDon­ald’s cor­po­ra­tion has taught more youth in this coun­try than the entire Ivy League com­bined have con­tributed. And I real­ly believe that. So now they did­n’t hire that one per­son, and that’s one less job in the com­mu­ni­ty. And so you can con­tin­ue to play out how crony cap­i­tal­ism and cor­rup­tion do. And now that fam­i­ly now believes you can’t get a fair shake in Amer­i­ca, cause the sys­tem’s rigged, because our land­lord, who’s try­ing to help us, can’t go out and get us the best price the way he does with every oth­er ven­dor at the prop­er­ty. He’s stuck with this and we have to pay for it. So it just, you’re killing that gold­en goose. That’s the last thing you wan­na do. You wan­na feed that goose, you wan­na strength­en that goose, so more peo­ple can par­tic­i­pate in this incred­i­ble miracle.

Doug: Yeah, yeah, make it more inclu­sive, more oppor­tu­ni­ty for more peo­ple to be able to do more things that they wan­na do, that they can pur­sue, and learn more along the way, you know? And so, again, take that to say, you know, that exam­ple, and I don’t mean the exam­ple of the com­mis­sion action, the exam­ple of all those peo­ple, all those stores, all those shop own­ers, all those fam­i­lies, all those employ­ees, and that idea that train­ing in your first entry-lev­el job, and it may not pay a lot, but this wealth of char­ac­ter that you can build and how that can be tak­en for­ward, that’s what your par­ents taught you. That’s what you are teach­ing your kids. And I think you had, you know, tell us about how you keep that going, and how we all, all our audi­ence here, can use some of those things in their lives to express those val­ues, those char­ac­ter­is­tics, to oth­ers around them.

Alan: Sure. With­out show­ing myself as too much of a pol­i­cy nerd, I mean, I think you’ve already fig­ured out and your lis­ten­ers have by now, you’re talk­ing to a grade A dork, right? This is as nerdy as it gets. But it’s actu­al­ly why I always get wor­ried when we talk about rais­ing the min­i­mum wage too much. I think a lit­tle bit is fine, but I’d much rather see it with an earned income tax cred­it, a much larg­er earned income tax cred­it, than a min­i­mum wage. And the rea­son is, when I was at Domi­no’s Piz­za mak­ing four and a quar­ter an hour, 17 a shift, 1353 after tax, I was being paid a lot more than that. Not in dol­lars, but in knowl­edge, in dig­ni­ty, in self-worth, and my love of work. I mean I felt great at the end of the night, going home tired. I felt even bet­ter on Fri­day, when I got that pay­check and, you know, it was a hun­dred dol­lars, what­ev­er it was, that was my mon­ey. I earned that. That is damn addic­tive, you know. That is a fan­tas­tic feel­ing, and that’s the Amer­i­can dream, right? The rea­son my father was so ecsta­t­ic the first day, and he would always refer to this as heav­en. He said, this place is heav­en. I was will­ing to work, and I made a $1.25 an hour. My first day I could earn, and that’s an incred­i­ble thing. And then he worked his way up and he became the man­ag­er of the ship­ping depart­ment a few years lat­er and was mak­ing more. So rather than see that as such a low-lev­el thing, I real­ly think the entrance to the work­force to join­ing a team, that’s great. I don’t like the idea of encour­ag­ing every, espe­cial­ly in food ser­vice, encour­ag­ing all of them to spend more and more on tech­nol­o­gy, because they have to get rid of their peo­ple, because we’ve made it so unaf­ford­able, and it’s been so dif­fi­cult to hire peo­ple, so let’s just try and make it more and more and more auto­mat­ed. Cause I wor­ry, cause I gained so much from my pizze­ria expe­ri­ence, and then I, when I got my license I went to a nicer pizze­ria and I made more mon­ey, and I did all that through col­lege, it was great. So that’s just one part. The sec­ond part is, it’s tough for me to answer the sec­ond part of the ques­tion because I was so lucky. My par­ents nev­er preached hard work, we just saw it. They both worked their butts off every sin­gle day. My dad got up when it was dark. He nev­er missed a fam­i­ly din­ner. He nev­er missed one of my ball games. Does­n’t mat­ter I was the worst bas­ket­ball play­er you could ever see, he nev­er missed a game. He was at every one of my base­ball games. He was coach­ing, he was so involved in the com­mu­ni­ty. So I think my sis­ter and I did have that huge advan­tage that a lot of peo­ple don’t have of see­ing your mom and dad work so hard every day, because then you just think that’s what you do. This is what you do. You have to get up and work hard.

Doug: Yeah, and that’s real­ly the sto­ry, isn’t it? It’s one thing to have a mes­sage, or it’s one thing to try to say some­thing, but you hit on it, some of that things, but, you know, don’t use words, just do it. At the risk of sound­ing like a Nike com­mer­cial, right, you know, just go forth, and if you want your kids to learn lessons, do it and then maybe help them do some of those sorts of things, like your ear­ly expe­ri­ences as well. I think that’s just fab­u­lous. Yeah, Alan-

Alan: That’s the least effec­tive thing you could ever do to your kids is just tell them, just preach to them. They see what’s going on. Just do what you want them to do, they’ll emu­late it.

Doug: Yeah, I love it. Alan, thank you so much for your time. I have one kind of clos­ing thing that you men­tioned that I wan­na go back to. You talked about lists that you made. When my father turned 60 he made a list. His father passed away at the age of 59, and he made a list of things that he want­ed to do and, you know, places he want­ed to see, kind of like what you were talk­ing about. And that drove him through a lot of health chal­lenges he had, he had a heart trans­plant at the age of 71. And when the doc­tors asked why do you want a new heart, he said I’ve got fam­i­ly, I’ve got kids, I’ve got more to do, I wan­na, I have this list of things that I wan­na keep accom­plish­ing. And he kept revis­ing it and adapt­ing it. So if it’s okay maybe to share, if not specif­i­cal­ly, some of the things that you’ve had kind of on your list as you go for­ward, and real­ly to use it as a way for peo­ple to be able to make a list of their own.

Alan: Yeah, absolute­ly. I think there’s some­thing to it, you know. I make lists all day long, but your tim­ing is great, cause I fin­ished it this week­end for 2022, and I will share part of it. So two of them are busi­ness things. One is a new busi­ness we’re start­ing, that I’m knee deep in that I real­ly wan­na see have suc­cess in a new indus­try we’ve nev­er oper­at­ed in, that I’m very, very attract­ed to. And then two are on the phil­an­thropic side, and those are the ones I’m even more excit­ed about. And they’re both part­ner­ships with Stand Togeth­er. One is, I think that entre­pre­neur­ship is prob­a­bly the great­est tool in the Unit­ed States against pover­ty, end­ing gen­er­a­tional pover­ty, not like every­thing we’ve done, like hand­outs to just make your life a lit­tle less mis­er­able. Or the oth­er side just say­ing, oh pull your­self up by your boot­straps, you’re in Amer­i­ca, you should make it on your own. You know, I like this mid­dle path. I think both sides are a lit­tle nut­ty. And in this mid­dle path, we’ve part­nered with a social entre­pre­neur, we’re gonna bring him to Los Ange­les and we’re gonna blow it up and do it in a real­ly big way. We’re gonna go in heavy with dol­lars, with time, with con­tacts, and I think we can have a real impact, and I have very very high hopes and high expec­ta­tions for that. That’s my first one. And the sec­ond goal is also on the phil­an­thropic side. We’re work­ing on immi­gra­tion reform, we’re work­ing very hard on immi­gra­tion reform. And we’ve been meet­ing with mem­bers of Con­gress very often, and work­ing on some­thing real­ly, real­ly neat, and it’s small, and it’s just around the edges, but I think maybe it’s a way to get things start­ed, and I’ve had some great trac­tion, and I don’t wan­na ruin the sur­prise, but we’re try­ing to do some­thing real­ly, real­ly big, also in Los Ange­les, but around immi­gra­tion. Cel­e­brat­ing immi­grants and immi­gra­tion reform. So they’re, all four, they’re big goals, they’re stretch goals, they’re gonna require a lot of time, a lot of invest­ment, but I’m very opti­mistic on all four.

Doug: All right. Well Alan, thank you so much. Thank you for shar­ing that, that’s impor­tant, you know, I think to see. You’ve had so much suc­cess, you’ve worked hard, and it would be easy to stop. But you make anoth­er list. And the American-

Alan: I wish it were easy to stop, I wish I could stop, I can’t stop, I can’t turn it off. Some­times it’s unbe­liev­able, you know, I just wan­na relax for a week­end, but it’s just, you know, the brain does­n’t stop.

Doug: I love it, good for you. And, you know, there’s some peo­ple who will take encour­age­ment from that, they might just be hav­ing a lit­tle tough time get­ting start­ed. And with your encour­age­ment, with your exam­ple, you know, they can make a list. They can put some­thing on there and find their way for­ward. And that’s real­ly, you know, that’s what we wan­na encour­age peo­ple who are, our audi­ence here, lis­ten­ing here, to be able to believe in them­selves enough and know that the Amer­i­can dream is real. Okay, there’s chal­lenges, it’s not per­fect, but we have to keep work­ing for it and fight­ing for it. You’re an amaz­ing exam­ple of that. You shared so freely of your sto­ry, and I love it that you’re still dream­ing. Alan, thank you so much for join­ing us.

Alan: I real­ly appre­ci­ate it, Doug. I look for­ward to see­ing you next month.

Doug: All right, we’ll look for­ward to see­ing you soon. Take care.

Alan: Take care. All the best.

And that’s it for this episode of Believe!” Thanks for join­ing us.