Do you identify as a late bloomer? A lot of people do. If you don’t, it is not too late to bloom. This week, Peter McGraw speaks to the author of a book on late blooming, Rich Karlgaard. An important theme in their discussion is that being single allows you time, energy, and financial resources to bloom later in life. They discuss how you may need to “repot” yourself somewhere else and cover the six characteristics of late bloomers. If you stick around to the end, Peter’s guest presents some notable late bloomers.
Listen to Episode #36 here:
Are You A Late Bloomer?
Do you identify as a late bloomer? I do. If you don’t, it’s not too late to grow later in life. This episode, I speak to the author of a book on late blooming. One of the major themes in the episode is it being solo allows you time, energy and financial resources to grow. He also talks about how you may need to “repot” yourself somewhere different. He presents six characteristics of late bloomers. If you stick to the end, my guest presents some notable late bloomers. In that vein, I’m going to read you part of a passage from George Lois’ book, Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!). He’s the guy that allegedly Don Draper is based on in the show, Mad Men.
Here’s lesson number 102. If you’re reading this and you’re approaching 50 years of age, remember that oak trees do not produce acorns until they are 50 years old. Charles Darwin was 50 when he wrote, On the Origin of Species. At 52, Ray Kroc, a milkshake machine salesman turned McDonald’s from a small chain of restaurants into a humongous fast-food empire. Dr. Ruth Westheimer became famous for her straight talk about sex when she was 52. Julia Child was just shy of 50 when she wrote her first cookbook. I hope that provides you a little bit of inspiration. I hope you enjoy this episode. It’s a good one. Let’s get started.
Our guest is Rich Karlgaard. Rich is a 28-year veteran at Forbes, a speaker and author of four books: Team Genius, The Soft Edge, Life 2.0, and what we’re primarily going to discuss, Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement. Welcome, Rich.
Thanks for having me on your show, Peter.
I found your book in a used bookstore in the Yucca Valley where I was shopping illegally because it was during the pandemic. Joe, the 72-year-old owner of this bookstore, was opening from 10:00 AM to noon, Tuesday through Friday. If you have a mask, you could go in there. The books are $2, $3, $4. I’m sure yours was $4. It was one of the expensive ones. I was grabbing stuff because at that price, it’s worth it to roll the dice on a book. I saw yours and I am a self-identified late bloomer. I grabbed it, read it, and then emailed you and you were kind enough to say yes to this so thank you. The way we should start is I want you to define what is a late bloomer and then tell me how you decided to write this book, then I will say why I think it’s relevant to Solo.
I was an outsider when I decided to write this book in the sense that I’m not a clinical psychologist, nor a neuroscientist for sure. I’m a business writer and I live in Silicon Valley, even though Forbes is headquartered in New York. I’ve spent my career looking at the intersection of technology, business, and finance. For me to write Late Bloomers was meant that I had to do a lot of work, reading background literature, reading and learning as much as I could about psychology, neuroscience, the brain and the psychology of blooming later than expected. I was surprised that there was no good definition of late bloomer out there. In fact, when they would make a rare appearance in the scientific literature, it was always a pejorative.
I decided to come up with my own definition of what it means to be a late bloomer and that is somebody who comes into their full capacities, motivations and sense of purpose later than expected, and it can be very contextual. For instance, the quarterback, Tom Brady, won his first Super Bowl at age 24. You would say that he’s an early bloomer, but Tom Brady only started one year of college at the University of Michigan. He only started one year as a quarterback and he was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft, 198 players were taken before Brady. In the context of football, he was a late bloomer, even though we won a Super Bowl at 24 because he came into his full capacities later than people expect you to in that field.
[bctt tweet=”Late bloomers come into their full capacities, motivations, and sense of purpose later than expected.” via=”no”]
A software coder who blossoms in their 30s would be a late bloomer. A philosopher or a historian who writes great history books or books of philosophy in their 30s would be an early bloomer because it’s contextual to the field, but I want to get back to this. It’s that intersection where your full capacities, your sense of purpose and your motivation get lit up, a light bulb switches on. I wrote the book because I identify as a late bloomer also. As I write about in the book, at the beginning of adolescence through my late 20s, I had the sense that I wasn’t blossoming very much, even though with a couple of exceptions. I was a reasonably good runner in track and field, good enough to qualify for the state, good enough to run in the Fast Heat of the mile, but pretty much that’s the best I got.
I went to Stanford. You may say somebody who got into Stanford is an early bloomer, but if you look at the route by which I got in and how much easier it was to get in back in the day when I got in it, it wasn’t the accomplishment it is now. The point is that my roommates at Stanford were doing extraordinary things at age 25, beginning legal careers, another one had just finished his Master’s program and was working on the space shuttle program, working on the heat tiles. Another was getting his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and I was doing none of those. In fact, I could hold a job of no greater responsibility. At age 25, I was a dishwasher and security guard.
It hit home one night when I was a security guard. I read about this in late bloomers where I was a security guard at a trucking yard in San Jose. I was making my rounds in my security guard’s uniform, and having to key these places along the perimeter fence to show that I’d made my rounds. I heard barking across the way. I swung my flashlight around and there was an angry-looking dog. It’s a Doberman or some kind of a dog like that. If not for the chain-link fence separating us, it would have torn me apart. It occurred to me after my adrenaline started subsiding that on the other side of the chain-link fence was another trucking yard. That other trucking yards concept of a security guard was a dog. My professional colleagues at the age of 25 were dogs. That qualifies me as a late bloomer. I have the sense that the logical side of my brain, the ability to plan and think ahead, all of the stuff that defines us as fully functioning adults didn’t even begin to happen until I was age 26 or 27.
I want to make sure I have your definition right. You talked about capacity, motivation and sense of purpose.
I don’t like the word passion so much because you can feel passionate about a restaurant that you stayed in or a movie you watched. Passion, as we use it in popular culture is not as deep as a sense of purpose is. The sense of purpose is the fact, the feeling that you’re being well used and coming into your full capacities, “This is what I do.” Scott Adams, the cartoonist and writer, talks about his building blocks of things. He came into his full capacity using building blocks of things that he was pretty good at. When he added up all those things, he got to the point where he was uniquely good at what he did.
He calls it his skills stack. He’s a great late bloomer story.
Without the late bloomer perspective, he couldn’t have come up with a cubicle rat character like Dilbert.
I’m going to dust off the bonus material here and we’re going to talk about a few famous late bloomers at the end. I like that idea about later than expected. What’s interesting is the expectations are skewed young because that’s a newsworthy story. We pay attention to the prodigies, the 30 Under 30, the 40 Under 40, that makes good news and clickbait headlines. It’s fun to think about Mark Zuckerberg, inventing Facebook as a college student. I remember reading a TechCrunch article that did an analysis of successful founders and found that the solo 20-year-old something founder is outside the norm. They’re more likely to be people in their 30s, people who’ve had businesses previously. That’s not a sexy story and yet those people are the ones who are often reaching capacity, have the motivation and sense of purpose.
Since you mentioned TechCrunch, one of the things I’ve been able to observe is that younger people are good as entrepreneurs in the tech space is they feel emerging trends in their fingertips. They’re good at consumer technology. When you look at some of the iconic companies that were founded by founders in their twenties, from Apple to Microsoft to Google to Facebook, they all have those in common. They were rapid-scale companies. Apple a little less because it’s hard to scale hardware. It’s easy to scale software particularly these days. When you look at enterprise technology, the Microsoft that Bill Gates and Paul Allen created is not the Microsoft enterprise giant that it is now.
Salesforce or these big companies.
I did an interview with Bill McDermott, the CEO of ServiceNow. It is founded by a guy named Fred Luddy, who’s the chairman of the board. Fred Luddy founded ServiceNow a day before his 50th birthday and it has got a $75 billion market cap. McDermott is 58 or 59. When you look at enterprise software or enterprise tech, you don’t find that the young people as much at the top because it’s a different kind of more mature sales cycle. It’s not a hot fashion. I think Silicon Valley and Seattle have this image that it’s only the young entrepreneurs that are getting things done. It’s not true. It may be for a variety of reasons because some of the biggest successes have been founded by people in their twenties and it’s a sexier story.
For readers who aren’t familiar with this term enterprise, this is what we call B2B or Business to Business or Software as a Service. You may sign up for Spotify and cost you $10 a month, but if you sign up for Salesforce for your company, it costs you millions of dollars. That’s the difference and it probably helps to have experienced working in business before you try to build enterprise software.
That’s one myth that you could debunk. I think that Carl Schramm used to have the Kauffman Foundation, the largest philanthropic foundation in the United States that studies entrepreneurship. It says that the average age of an entrepreneur in the US is 47.
Let’s go back to Scott Adams, one of the things that Scott is using, I am sure you’re familiar with this Silicon Valley character named Naval. He is known as the angel investor and he’s turned into a bit of a philosopher these days. He talks about if you’ve developed skills and you keep trying to create businesses, eventually something is going to go your way. Given that you’re going to be building as Adams calls this skill stack that you become a good coder or a good salesperson. You don’t have to become elite in any of those things, but being in the 75th percentile in 3 or 4 things then leads you to be elite in the area.
[bctt tweet=”The average age of an entrepreneur in the US is 47. ” via=”no”]
One of the great things about late blooming entrepreneurs is that they become people they didn’t think they were capable of becoming. A lot of what stops people from trying their hand at entrepreneurship is a fear of sales. They’re introverted or they maybe had a bad experience with salespeople and have mistaken ideas of what salespeople do. They may have been a failed salesperson because they simply didn’t care that much for the product that they were selling. Another one that stops people is they don’t know how to keep books or accounting. They think that it would be impossible to be in business if you didn’t know those things. This is why it’s important to try to find a way to arrive at that intersection of your skills, whether it’s one deep skill or it’s the skill stack, but where you feel like the thing you were meant to do is you have the capacities to do it.
You have a sense of purpose about what you do, and you have this motivation and that gets lit up. When you have a sense of purpose of what you’re doing and you have a motivation that gets lit up, people can start selling and people are able to leapfrog over the accounting problem and realize that they can hire accountants. They realize that they need to boot themselves to a higher level of functionality at their own company and get good people to do the silo thing. We’re going to go through a great experiment here. Because of COVID, I think we’re going to see more entrepreneurship simply because we have to. People are going to become entrepreneurs because they have to.
The 1970s wasn’t a particularly good economic decade. It was certainly better than the 1930s, but it was a below-average economic decade. You had gasoline prices quadrupling. You had the President and the Vice President of the United States resigning in disgrace due to a 45% drop peak-to-trough in the stock market. The President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, towards the end of the decade, talked about melees in the economy. Yet, entrepreneurs came forward and the following companies were created in that decade, Apple, Microsoft, FedEx, Oracle, Charles Schwab. These were an amazing set of companies.
I hope that we see the same thing. Maybe one of the most critical things that could happen that needs to happen in the country is for people to teach people how to be entrepreneurs, give them a helping hand, and showing them how they can do it. Particularly, if they’re from disadvantaged cultures or community and they may be too intimidated to think that they can do that. Amongst all of that, they’re going to be late bloomers because a whole lot of people in their mid-30s, 40s and 50s will have lost their source of income or their business if they had a restaurant or something like that. They’re not going to be the first person in HR at a big company is going to look to hire.
You write about this in the book, this idea of having a growth mindset and how important that is for late bloomers because you have to believe that you’re not born this way, that you can acquire new skills. One of the things I wrote about in my book, Shtick To Business, these standup comedian types fall into one of two categories, but you need both skills to be successful. You might be a kind of Dave Chappelle, a natural performer, at ease on stage, quick-witted or you might be more of a Jerry Seinfeld, more of a joke writer, who puts pen to paper every day. It’s not the most charismatic force on stage. Both of those people need to learn to develop the other skill, which is either writing jokes or becoming a better performer. In order to do that, you have to believe that you can become a better writer or you have to believe that you can become a better performer. That’s a critical element to continue to work on developing the capacity and it seems like it’ll give you the motivation to move towards these skills and accomplishments.
Speaking of comedians, I’m always amazed by the career of George Carlin because if you look at him in let’s say an Ed Sullivan clip in the 1960s, you almost cringe for the guy. It’s passably good enough to have gotten on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was no mean accomplishment, but he’s telling these predictable canned jokes. Some years after that, he completely found himself a changed person and let it rip. This growth mindset, I have to give a tip of the hat to Carol Dweck. She wrote the book, Mindset, and I interviewed her and she said something worrisome for me. If you go look at my book, Late Bloomers and you can buy it on Amazon and shadow bookstores, open two hours a day. It’s coming out in paperback.
The first third of the book is a scathing manifesto against the early blooming pressures that we put on kids and young adults. Carol Dweck, who wrote the book, Mindset, gave me an extraordinary insight. She said the kids that she sees at Stanford are brittle, broken and exhausted. They don’t want to take chances. Think about the perversity of that doing everything it takes to get into an elite university that kids have to do nowadays. They have to get practically near 800 math essays or 800 on the various portions of their SAT. They have to have 4.3 grades at their Advanced Placement courses and probably stand out in some extracurricular like sports and maybe they have a chance of getting into an elite school.
Carol Dweck says that the downside of that is that kids don’t want to try anything. In her words, they’re afraid of marring their perfect records. This is a bad outcome. This is not the outcome that all of these early bloomery pressures that we’re putting in kids and young adults are supposed to accomplish. It was not supposed to lead to higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide either and yet it has. Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic Monthly wrote a cover story in 2015 called The Silicon Valley Suicides about a wave of suicides in high schools in Palo Alto, California.
What struck her is that these kids didn’t fit the normal profile of kids who take their own lives. That is to say, they weren’t people with a long battle of clinical depression or kids who were mucking around with guns or hanging out with the wrong people. There are simply kids who couldn’t handle the pressure. One of the kids that took out his life, his last post on social media was that he was tired of getting up at 4:30 in the morning to keep up with these Advanced Placement classes. He felt like a loser because he was a B-plus student.
It’s brutal. One of the ideas that I fussed around with and I don’t know what to do with it yet because I don’t think it’s an overarching kind of rule, but this idea that when people feel like they don’t have a plan B. Comics have this a lot. They’re like, “I was either going to succeed or die.” They had to take risks because they didn’t know anything else to do. They had nothing to fall back on. When you have a Stanford degree to fall back on, you have this very safe path. That is getting good enough grades to Stanford, then go on the job market, get a job in Corporate America, climb the corporate ladder, make good money, afford that Bay Area house, etc. The problem with that is it is creativity stifling that it doesn’t give someone a chance to create that sense of purpose or build some world changing capacity.
If you go to the fifth anniversary of your college class, who are the people that stand out? They are the people who got through law school and they got a job at a big-time law firm. Probably the earliest blooming among my roommates in college was that kind of a person. He joined what became the top law firm in Silicon Valley. He made a lot of money and had a good career, but I sense this unhappiness about him. I saw his natural humor and the lightness in him began to fade away over the course of his career. At one time, someone who is in more confessional mode, he confessed that he felt like a highly paid concierge service for the people who are going out and doing cool things, which was building companies. I said, “You could do that.” He said, “I can’t.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “The opportunity costs.”
He’s sunk all those costs.
He later found commodation, and it was to step away from working with being a lawyer for the large companies, any carved out this venture law practice within his law firm, where he would work with startup entrepreneurs and discount his fees and take some shares. He finally figured out a way to do that and re-blossomed, repotted himself into a different legal career. He bloomed early and then faded into an unhappy 30s and 40s handling divorce and all kinds of things like that. He then finally repotted himself and bloom.
We’ve covered so far three key areas that people can bloom late in. This can happen in four places. It can happen in art. You can imagine comedy, music, etc. Business entrepreneurship that we’ve talked about. Academia happens sometimes when there’s research on the median age of scientists when they do their discoveries. There are different numbers for math, philosophy, psychology or whatever it is, sports, athletic achievements. This happens a lot. If someone comes into a league, a second-round draft pick and then ends up becoming a hall of fame a basketball player or something.
Look at Andy Reid, the coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He finally had his first Super Bowl and no spring chicken there. If you recall that game against the San Francisco 49ers, I have to say that we will live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’ll never forget it because we saw the collapse of the 49ers against the Chiefs in the last eight minutes of the game. They were firmly in control until they weren’t and San Francisco’s head coach is a brilliant young man. He’s got a career ahead of him. Andy Reid was old enough to be as a father or veteran grizzled. At the end of the day, the grizzled old veteran found a way to get with the best quarterback in the game, Patrick Mahomes. They figured out a way to get disrupt the 49ners momentum, get back in the game, pull a rabbit out of the hat, and win. At least maybe not Patrick Mahomes, who was an early bloomer, but Andy Reid is a great inspirational late bloomer.
This can happen in intellectual, physical and creative domains. It can be rather broad. For this show, the single person’s guide to a remarkable life, two things are going on. This is targeted at people who focused on autonomy in their life. They may be partnered in some way or dating but they’re not walking a traditional path of marriage, children, the white picket fence, and so on. My argument is that these people have the opportunity. They have time, energy and resources that they can dedicate to things that the typical American doesn’t because they’re living that traditional raising family, settled, and so forth. I like the term remarkable because it suggests that they are doing something worth remarking on.
It’s something that people talk and think about and look at. There’s something elevated about what they’re using time, energy, and resources for. Why do we talk about late bloomers? My argument is that people who are solo, single or divorced, may have more opportunity to develop late. They have a chance to work on those capacities, that they can focus their motivations and develop a sense of purpose outside of the obvious ones. You were talking about your friend who’s like, “You go to law school. What do I do next? You get a job at a law firm, get married, have kids, retire and you die.” That kind of path. I’m curious about your reaction to that logic that I have that there might be a special opportunity for my solo readers to develop later than they might think that they could have or should have.
I’ve got a chapter in the book on this concept of repotting. I think it’s important if you want to bloom, if you want that feeling that you’re at the intersection where you were meant to be, that is the intersection in life where your full complement of talents, your full motivational engagement, and your sense of purpose and mission is deep that you feel lifted towards some destiny. What prevents people from doing that? Part of it is our obsession with this early achievement. We see it at school and sports. I talked a little bit about that in the first third of the book. There was an angry manifesto about that. The last half of the book is, what do we do about it in a culture that rewards and celebrates early bloomers? What should the late bloomers think about?
They have these capacities that keep getting better. Somethings like your ability to do math fast. That’s going to be something that you probably do well in your twenties. High-frequency traders and people who are writing software code under time pressure tend to do those as well. Our management skills, empathetic skills and wisdom skills, all of those are skills that keep growing as we go on. Have faith that we are constantly evolving and becoming new people, but then we also have to get ourselves into the environment, where those things have a better chance to blossom.
For instance, I grew up in a small city of Bismarck, North Dakota. I am an introverted guy who liked to read a lot of books and things like that. It was a valuable insight, but I had a sense that I was somebody who was meant to live in a college town or an urban area. As a matter of fact, I live five miles from Stanford University. I live in the heart of Silicon Valley, which is a wonderful place to live. I can thrive here in a way that I couldn’t thrive. The location and set of friends are important. Sometimes, we all have friends that aren’t the friends we think they are. They’re just people who help us fill time, acquaintances and among those people, a certain percentage of them don’t want to see you blossom because it embarrasses them, perhaps.
They don’t like the comparison. Many people blossom after they get out of a bad relationship or a marriage because they feel like they’ve been held down or compromise the more risk-taking part of their personalities. They improperly channeled their risk-taking desires in any way you can think of. This idea that a lot of us have to repot with a new set of friends, to a different locale, and we shouldn’t be afraid to do that. If you were in a relationship and suddenly you aren’t, that’s an opportunity to think about repotting in a lot of different areas.
I love that term. The metaphor works very nicely. I identify as a late bloomer. I can point to many places in my life, athletically and academically. What happens is once you bloomed in some other area late, you recognize that you can transfer what you’ve learned about skill acquisition, feedback, hard work to those other areas and that’s one of the things as you start to be able to build this. I like this idea that you bring up about where you are may enhance your blooming. That’s something I’ve written about in terms of taking a bigger stage, that’s going to a bigger place where you can be inspired by the people that you meet, the connections that you make. There’s an energy there that you don’t get in small towns.
Peter, from where are you doing this?
I’m in Los Angeles.
I thought you were in Colorado EDU. I mentally pictured you as a Boulder guy.
I have a full-time professor gig at the University of Colorado Boulder. I’m on leave and I’m living in Los Angeles in part for the reasons that LA is a great international city with a lot of opportunities.
You think if you’re an endurance athlete, a cyclist, a runner or a triathlete in a place like Boulder, you have a lot of support. That’s why it’s becoming this natural center. In fact, around the US and the world, you find these clusters and tribes. I think it’s important to find your tribe.
This came up in a previous episode called Dating Friends and Sleeping with Strangers. I talked to a guy who that’s his life philosophy. We spent a lot of time talking about what makes a good friend. It’s someone who is trustworthy, reliable, energizing and make your life better. We talked about something that Jordan Peterson has talked about. What a good friend will do is they will celebrate with you when good things happen. They will commiserate with you when bad things happen versus a bad friend who will feel threatened by your successes and not want to celebrate them. They will not want to help your commiserate because they’ll say, “That’s bad. That reminds me of the time when this other bad thing happened to me.” They’re outdoing you in that competitive way.
They steal the conversation. Parenthetically, it’s going to be interesting what kind of new Jordan Peterson we will see after his healthcare crisis. I wish him nothing but the best, but that’s true, particularly on both sides, the celebration and the commiseration. You have to be alert to signs. People you think are friends, but they’re a little snarky with you. Anything serious turns into irony. They’re throwing up what they’re doing. They may be occasionally fun to hang around with and probably even more fun to party with, but what they’re doing is throwing a barrier up and telling you, “I don’t want to engage at that level.” That’s fine. It’s helpful to see those people for who they are. They may be fun acquaintances and that’s all.
This extends to partners. You were talking about people who get divorced. They have a partner who has been holding them back, who’s not encouraging them to develop skills and not to take chances. That’s why I thought this idea of solo living. It is not necessarily sufficient. There are plenty of people who are enhanced and lifted up by their partners, but it’s important to recognize what is your partner doing, if you have one. Are they elevating you? Are they holding you back? I’m going to read one of the things that you present in the book. You can comment on a few of them as you put forth some strengths that late bloomers have. If you possess these strengths, you are more likely to bloom. We can talk about a few of them in the interest of time because I want to get to our bonus material, the famous late bloomers. You have curiosity, compassion, resilience, insight, creativity, wisdom and equanimity. Can we start with the last one because that was fascinating to me?
Equanimity is a multi-syllabic, $100 word that simply means you’re able to stay calm under pressure. I’ll give you two examples of people who were stunningly good at saying calm under pressure. They both happen to be pilots. One was Captain Sullenberger whom we know what he did. He landed the plane in the Hudson after a flock of birds took out the two engines. He had to decide whether he could make it to Teterboro or Newark. He knew as a glider pilot in his spare time that he couldn’t do that. He managed a safe landing on the Hudson and got everybody out. When you listen to the tapes, you will be struck of how calm he is. He was 57 when he pulled that off.
The same thing happened with Tammie Jo Shults, the Southwest Airlines pilot, who was flying toward Philadelphia at 35,000 feet. One of the engines blew up. In fact, a shrapnel from the exploded engine went through a window and killed a woman, but she had to take the plane. The cabin was depressurized. She took the plane from 35,000 feet down to 10,000 feet. Stuff was flying around, people were screaming and vomiting, and she got the plane under control. She landed in Philadelphia without incident. It’s the same thing. If you listen to the air traffic control tapes and she’s as calm as calm could be. It turns out that Tammie Jo Shults was in the military during the First Gulf War in the early ‘90s. Women couldn’t be fighter pilots at that time, but they could be fighter pilot instructors. She was the best on the base. She instructed these fighter pilots.
Equanimity is the ability to stay calm under pressure is something that we get. It’s a gift that we get as we get older. We should realize that and put that to good use. I love curiosity because curiosity is the bedrock of all blossoming and blooming and the courage to follow curiosity. The reason why I think we’re in trouble as a country with this obsession on early blooming is we’re asking kids and young adults to set aside their natural curiosity and replace it with a determined focus. This is what Carol Dweck is talking about when she said these kids don’t want to mark their perfect record. They don’t know how to be curious. They don’t know how to disrespect their curiosity in favor of taking somebody else’s test and acing it.
There is a difference between convergent thinking and divergent thinking. These guys get good at convergent thinking. Yet, the world, in the long run, rewards divergent thinking, which leads to creativity. I think people should read this book because it is inspirational. The first step as you approach this as a reader is I would encourage you to think about and try to find the places in life where you bloomed late and use that as inspiration and motivation to focus on these other areas. We’re going to turn to some bonus material about some famous late bloomers. I think people get a kick out of who some of these are. Rich, I appreciate your time. Thank you for writing such a good book that is going to be inspirational.
[bctt tweet=”Curiosity is the bedrock of blooming.” via=”no”]
We are here for a little bit of bonus material. We’re going to talk about a few famous late bloomers. A couple already came up in the previous conversation, like Scott Adams and Tom Brady. Who else do you have, Rich, who might know or might not know that fit the description of late bloomer?
The actor Morgan Freeman is a classic late bloomer. He toiled away on the stage. I believe he appeared in his first movie at age 53. Once people got to look on him on the big screen and heard that iconic voice and that wonderful soulful person that he is, his career took off. He also learned to fly a plane and eventually piloted his own jet from Hollywood to this large plot of land that he has in Northern Mississippi. He not only bloomed in his professional career, but he bloomed in his advocation because his professional career success allowed him to become a pilot and eventually own a flying zone.
It helps to have millions of dollars if you want to become a pilot.
I always thought airplanes flew on the Bernoulli’s principle, but they fly with money. It takes money to hoist an airplane in the air.
He’s a great one.
A person who’s not perhaps known in popular culture, but as an iconic figure in Silicon Valley, where I live is the entrepreneur, Diane Greene. She was the CEO of Google Cloud at age 63, but Diane made her first big success for a company she founded with her husband called VMware. Diane started VMware in her 40s. She didn’t even get her advanced degree in computer science until she was in her 30s. She had a passion for small sailboats and kiteboarding and things like that. She worked at Coleman camper company for much of her 20s. She knocked around classically trying different things, mainly in the recreational fields. She decided around her mid-30s, that it is time to go back and get a degree and she did. In her 40s, she created VMware. VMware is worth about $60 billion and still a great software company. There are a lot of people like that.
One of my favorites is the football coach, Bill Walsh. He was the coach the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl wins in the 1980s. He did not have his first head coaching job of any kind, other than semi-pro football, which is played on lumpy fields with bar bouncers and until he was 47 years old. He allowed all of these things to percolate in his mind when he was head coach of the semi-professional team, the San Jose Apaches. He began to experiment with ideas and he couldn’t have done if he had been in a professional football program at the time. It would have been considered too radical and that was when he imagined what a football offense would look like if it was run as if you were in abounding, a basketball against the full-court press because he had seen a high school practice the day before. He decided to do it.
You do it with a bunch of pick and rolls. You have a lot of people in motion whoever is inbounding the ball has to be able to track his four teammates at the same time. He says, “What would it look like if I had a quarterback like that?” People forget that the quarterback that he drafted, Joe Montana is well-known as a quarterback at Notre Dame. Joe Montana almost pursued basketball, instead he had a full ride at North Carolina State under Jim Valvano. The ramp on Montana as a quarterback because he had a weak arm. Walsh saw that he was a point guard and his arm was good enough, but the thing that he valued is Montana as a good point guard, will be able to see everybody on the court or the field. That was the genesis of the West Coast offense, which still gets practiced in one form or another.
I like the fact that you have some time to experiment with the ability to take risks. The fact that you’re pulling in some of these examples from other areas, that you can learn from other domains. If you’re too young, you have to have enough experience broadly, widely to be able to do that.
In fact, you’re actively discouraged to do it because you are asked to trade your curiosity to look into adjacent fields and see, “What can I borrow from this or that and acquire your skill stack,” being Scott Adams wonderful terminology. To build your own skill stack, as opposed to following the cookie-cutter template that society has thrown at you.
I appreciate your time. I hope this inspires people to pay attention, not to the 30 to under 30 crowd, but the 70 under 70 crowds, which I want to be part of someday. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much, Peter. It was a pleasure doing the show.
- Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!)
- On the Origin of Species
- Team Genius
- The Soft Edge
- Life 2.0
- Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement
- Kauffman Foundation
- Shtick To Business
- The Silicon Valley Suicides – Article
- Dating Friends and Sleeping with Strangers – Previous episode
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