Lacrosse, Warren Buffet, the New and the Old

Friends,

“Follow me on Twitter.”  I put it at the bottom of my email messages now.  I believe in it, really.  Blips.  Quick messages.  Tiny pearls.  Good information to get.  Good info 2 share.  Speed, speed. . .spd, spd, spd.  No, LOL here.  A culture of perma-ADD? R U w/ me on this?

Maybe pushing past fifty years old is changing everything for me, because I keep thinking that we’re in a crazy hurry.  We’re playing in business and life like my son’s inexperienced lacrosse team – trying to score instantly; not having the patience and experience to set up, spread out, and pass the ball; or on defense, lurching after the ball – left then right – instead of setting the defense.  And the boys’ spirited but inexperienced, college-student coaches inadvertently drive the boys’ pace to near-panic levels.  Tons of energy – yes – but tons of wasted energy.  It’s way bigger than lacrosse!  Warren Buffett, no spring chicken, tried to warn us.  He’s always looking for long term value, not insta-returns.  Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns should have been listening.  Jim Collins (author of Good to Great and Built to Last) quietly put out a little book this year, How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In).  One of his major lessons is that some average and some (that he wrote about as) Great Companies blew themselves out of the water by growing faster than their talent pool could keep up.  And his research has repeatedly revealed that companies sustain success much more often with steady, in-the-trenches CEO successors than by bringing in hotshot outsiders to turn everything upside down.  Knowledge, experience, and discipline matter.

One of the most regular mistakes of “everyday leaders” was pointed out to me this weekend by an RFL reader who is 59 and unemployed.  He was infuriated by a column purporting to help older workers find a job.  The major advice was essentially “hide your age.”  For example, on your resume only list your last 10-15 years of work experience, and don’t put dates anywhere on it.  Now this guy is a tremendous writer, reader, and learner, who’s had experience in a number of fields.  And check your stereotypes at the door; he’s on Facebook and Twitter, too.  He knows his gray hair is killing him, but he’s asking why he should hide, in his great words, “my vulnerability . . . my venerability.”  He’s having a whale of a time getting over the threshold.  I wonder:  So, how do you quantify the value of wisdom?  And is it not hugely obvious that as a society we have grossly tilted the scales of judgment toward speed, speed, speed, youth, youth and more yth.  

On the lacrosse field sideline, I was teasing a 13-year old girl for her relaxed pose in one of those new-fangled collapsible outdoor chairs with the cup-holders and padded seats.  The girl jumped up and said, “I’m sorry.  You can sit here.”  It wasn’t my chair, and I was only teasing, so I said no.  And she said, “No, really.  You should sit here.”  I thought to myself: she’s got some good parents who’ve taught her respect for her elders.  It was refreshing.  I think Warren Buffett would have approved.  Maybe she – and we? – will help the pendulum swing back towards a culture that balances the need for speed and the infatuation with skin-deep youth and “new,” with a view for the long run, for patience, discipline and the appreciation for wisdom.

Follow me on Twitter, but maybe also, be patient this week with someone who forms their thoughts slowly and carefully, or who mostly sticks to their cubicle, but who would probably be happy to share the wisdom they’ve gained if you’d take the time to

Lead with your best self!

Dan

p.s. If someone is looking for an exceptional 59-year old writer, I’ve got the guy for you!