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What Made Me: The Atlantic’s David Bradley

The owner of the Atlantic Magazine—and founder of the Advisory Board and the Corporate Executive Board—on the influences that shaped his life.

Photograph by Douglas Sonders.

The piece of advice: It’s not elegant, but the advice—from my first client—has proved helpful across a lifetime of hiring: “You would always rather wrestle a bear than flog a dead horse.”

The book: Science and Health, the textbook for the Christian Science Church. My sister and I were raised as Christian Scientists by a remarkably devout mother. Christian Science has a radical view of life—that God created the world, including man, as perfect, wholly spiritual, with no touch of sin, disease, or death. I’m no longer a Christian Scientist, but the hard-wiring is done.

At age 36, I met a problem doctors and hospitals didn’t fix. I lost my voice for six utterly silent months and then lost it for long chapters across the following 14 years. There were low moments. I think the distance I could keep from despair was largely what remained of my Christian Science faith.

The early job: At age 13—and for three years—I was a groom at Meadowbrook Stables in Chevy Chase, mucking out the pony stalls. At age 19, I was a summer intern in the East Wing of the White House. That year was 1973. No one went to jail from the stables.

The Failure or Setback: I didn’t mean to be a businessman. I meant to be a US senator. That’s still the case. What happened?

This article appears in the March 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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