“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Uncle Paul is in heaven now.” He was an associate director at a homeless shelter in Hartford and had been murdered following a meal. At six years old, I couldn’t comprehend what this meant. He’d been a second father to me, encouraging the wildest dreams of his “bud.” Paul and my father, a director at Catholic Charities, devoted their lives to serving the less fortunate in Hartford. They taught me to use your gifts to serve others and to never shy away from an opportunity to do the right thing—no matter the risk.

I left investment banking for the Marines to craft my own path to service—it felt like the “right” thing to do. The Marines promised leadership through stories about Marine legends and commercials of Marines bravely charging into battle. I learned it wasn’t just about that. It was about tutoring a Marine working towards a college degree or helping a Marine navigate financial challenges during a divorce. These “small” battles waged during late-night phone calls or in the back classrooms of Camp Lejeune led to compounding victories that built enduring trust.

I worried that after the Marines, I’d never find a challenge so fulfilling. When I first told my dad I got into HBS, he said: “Great! So, how are you going to use it help people?” That was exactly what I needed to hear. As I prepare for what’s next, I’ll never forget where I came from, whose shoulders I stand on, and what really matters. I’ll listen, mentor, empower, and serve—just like my dad and Uncle Paul.

— Mike Laffin