11 Jun You’re Not Too Late! With Forbes Magazine’s Rich Karlgaard
My guest is Rich Karlgaard. Rich is an entrepreneur turned publisher, in fact, he’s the publisher for Forbes Magazine. He’s an author and columnist, a board director, and Angel investor. He’s experienced some true success, but he will also be the first to tell you that he was no child prodigy, and in many ways, he celebrates that.
That’s what led him to write his newest book called “Late Bloomer, The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.”
Listen To The Podcast:
Mitch Matthews: I think you’re going to love this, I think you’re going to love what Rich has to say. So, let’s get to it. Hey. Rich, welcome to DREAM THINK DO.
Rich Karlgaard: A joy to be on your show, man.
Mitch Matthews: I love it, man. I tell you … well, before I hit record, I was kind of telling you, you surprised me this book.
Rich Karlgaard: Well, thank you. In a good way?
Mitch Matthews: In a good way, I should clarify it, a very good way.
Rich Karlgaard: Well, yeah. A lot of people thought that a book on late bloomers coming from a Forbes publisher would simply be biography’s on famous late bloomers like, Ray Crock or J.K. Rowling, people like that, but I wanted to write about why it is that we celebrate early bloomers today excessively. The damage that causes, and why late bloomers have so many gifts is validated by findings in neuroscience and by just looking around at some of the stories we ought of paid more attention to.
Mitch Matthews: Yeah. Well, and that’s the thing, I just kind of … like some of the folks, I was kind of thinking, I expected some good stories, and you’ve got some great stories and there’s no doubt. So it is full of inspiration as well. This really is not just written to people in their ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. That’s kind of what I was thinking, but this really is for everyone.
You’ve got stuff in there that my high-schooler could benefit from, parents should read and be thinking about as we’re talking about raising our kids. Millennials and the young ones in the workplace can benefit from this because it helps them to understand how a better career works, and how our brain functions, all of that. So, there’s a lot of meat … there’s a lot of gold in them there hills, is a better way to put it. So, I love it.
Now, let’s get into your story here first. Obviously, you had a lot of success over the years. Publisher of Forbes being one of those things top of the list, but you are also very open that you were no star student, not necessarily a star athlete, you wouldn’t consider yourself a child prodigy, but you kind of celebrate that. Why is that? With a little bit of perspective, why is that something to be celebrated?
Rich Karlgaard: Well, I’ll just start, the brief background that you’re referring to here, I was one of those kids in high school, I was a good but not great middle and long distance runner in high school. I got B’s, I went to my local junior college, I improved to B pluses. I was actually, captain of my junior college cross-country team, but was kind of a low bar, and by a series of flukes, I got into Stanford as a transfer student.
Stanford is a much easier institution to get into back then. I was from North Dakota, they were looking for people from obscurer states, and with a slide on their track and cross-country team, not a scholarship level, but at a level where the coach had probably had spoken to the admission’s director.
Anyway, I got in. Sure enough, way over my head, I took the easiest classes possible, classes with names like, “Sleep and Dreams,” and “Human Sex,” and “Film Aesthetics.” Still, barely graduated. At age 25, when my college roommates were doing spectacular things in law, phycology, and one was working for the state shuttle program, I could hold no job greater than temporary typist, dishwasher, and security guard.
One night when I was 25, I was a guard at a trucking yard in San Jose, and in my mall-cop uniform and my flashlight, and I made my rounds and I heard barking across the fence. Swung my flashlight around, came eye-to-eye with my counterpart, a snarling rottweiler. It occurs to me at age 25, my professional colleague was a dog.
Mitch Matthews: Yeah, this was your peer. He had four legs, and he was barking at you.
Rich Karlgaard: A few months after that Steve Jobs, also 25, took Apple public. So I was aware of let’s say, a huge gull. Then, what happened about a year later on a temp typing job … I was a temp typist at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, and I was running with some of the engineers and scientists at noon, and they said, “What are doing stuck in a temp typing pool?” And I said, “I really don’t know,” I’m just clueless at this point, I’m embarrassed to say that. They offered me a job as a temp as a technical writer and technical editor, and all of a sudden it was like the seas parted and suddenly I was aware that I was ready to take on a real job like that, and I did well.
Secondarily, it opened me up to a kind of thinking that I’ve never been exposed to, the thinking of scientists and engineers. My own father was a high school athletic director. So, I leaned into that, and I started reading books on power generation and nuclear power, and I just surprised myself. Then, things … succession of events led to a friend of mine and I, starting Silicon Valley’s first business magazine called Upside, caught the attention of Steve Forbes, and he hired me. So, 10 years after I was a security guard, I was reporting directly to Steve Forbes.
Mitch Matthews: That’s incredible. I love that in some ways it might sound almost accidental, right? In other ways, you really were giving yourself that chance to experiment, and that’s one of the things you talk about in the book, is really giving yourself some different ways to try some different things. I don’t know if you were being as intentional as you might suggest now, but at the same time, you were benefiting from that kind of experimenting.
Rich Karlgaard: One of the … the security guard job at the trucking yard, was not my usual post. My usual post was coming at 5:00 and relieve the receptionist in an office building, and then a guard would relieve me at midnight. That gave me the chance to read. I would read leftover Wall Street Journals and New York Times, and I started reading thriller novels, I started reading serious novels, my brain was really developing. So by the time I was a technical editor, I knew what good writing was, I knew what good sentence structure, paragraph structure, sections, chapters, et cetera.
The same thing, Ken Fisher runs Fisher Investments today, 100 billion dollars under management, you can’t miss a Fisher Investments ad. He spent his ’20s struggling to get any kind of customer at all. He had to work as a construction worker, and he played guitar in a bar, but he was reading and reading, and reading, all the time, a little more intentionally than I was, he was reading investment books, and he said he was reading about 30 trade magazines a month.
While all his ’20s, appeared that nothing was happening, he was making no progress at all. He was in his own words, “Developing unconventional ideas,” on how to value companies. Finally, he was able to put that to work in his … start Fisher Investments as we know it today, in his early ’30s, and finally, by his late ’30s, it was rocking.
Mitch Matthews: That’s incredible. I love it. I think one of the things you referred to even from your own story in the book too, was kind of reflecting back on some of those experiences that you had as a teenager, experiences you had in college that might even seem like throw-away or waste of time and doing at your quotes, waste of time type activities, but when you look back on them they were still formative. You talked about hanging out in the ugly, which is Stanford’s …
Rich Karlgaard: Undergraduate library.
Mitch Matthews: Undergraduate library, right? And you were perusing specific magazines.
Rich Karlgaard: I read every … because I couldn’t concentrate on my studies, even Sleep and Dreams proved to be too much.
Mitch Matthews: Overwhelming right?
Rich Karlgaard: It’d just put me to sleep. I’d go back in the library and read [Bachich’s 00:10:08] Sports Illustrated backwards and forwards from the beginning year in 1954 to the present. So, years later when I had the chance to start upside the disruptive technology of the day then, was a Macintosh laser printer, Adobe fonts page maker, et cetera. When a friend of mine started Upside, he was in charge of raising money and selling ads, and I was in charge of, “Well, what should this thing be?”
Mitch Matthews: Yeah.
Rich Karlgaard: You know, I had no exposure to business magazines up to that point, and if I thought about them at all, I thought that they were probably kind of boring. The idea that I got was, “Well, business is competitive, what else is competitive? Well, sports is competitive. Well then, therefore, why not create a business magazine that had an attitude,” and you know, down to the way I wrote headlines and captions, and everything else, like Sports Illustrated.
Mitch Matthews: Yeah.
Rich Karlgaard: Let’s describe business in the manner that we describe competitive sports. Sure enough, it was a big hit, nobody had ever seen anything like that before, and it got the attention of Steve Forbes.
Mitch Matthews: That’s awesome. I love that, and I think that is … I mean, we’re big fans of talking about the power of experimenting and looking at life like a scientist or a researcher. There’s really no throw-away experiences as long as you’re learning from them. Right? Sometimes it’s looking back on, “All right, what do we naturally gravitate towards? What are we naturally curious about?” I love that was just a natural part of your story, but that has obviously, played out.
Rich Karlgaard: You know, I was not being subsidized during those wandering years.
Mitch Matthews: Yeah.
Rich Karlgaard: I couldn’t afford that. During those wondering years, I had a 1965 Ford Falcon, and the brakes went out, and I’d have to stop it like Fred Flintstone, you know?
Mitch Matthews: You had to make sure Fred was driving with you to help you make sure you stop evenly.
Rich Karlgaard: Yeah, I mean, it was pretty sad. You know?
Mitch Matthews: Yeah.
Rich Karlgaard: One office job that I had, I showed up in blue patent shoes and a polyester suit. I mean, I looked like I was more appropriately dressed for a disco night. I didn’t know anything about anything, and I had to do it on my own nickel, and it was hard. I can’t say that all this reading Sports Illustrated and thriller novels was intentional, but I was absorbing the arts of making a magazine and the art of writing in a way that would keep people moving from paragraph to paragraph. Something you get when you read a lot of thriller novels, you pick up stuff like that.
Mitch Matthews: Right.
Rich Karlgaard: Steve Forbes, the same thing. Steve Forbes is another passionate lover of thriller novels, it’s what we do when we’re on our airplanes. We don’t watch movies, and he has that way of writing that is compelling, that just keeps you moving forward as a good thriller novelist would.
Mitch Matthews: I love it, I love it. Well, like we started out this conversation, I can tell you, the Dream. Think. Doers, this book really is for all ages. Everybody can get something out of it because it gives you perspective no matter what your age is, but I will say. I want to go after the older side of that we talked about. Maybe the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, as far as, in the workforce, that kind of thing because we have a lot of listeners that are in that age group, and I love talking with them.
I’m in that age group, right? So often, these people have so much experience, they have so much wisdom, but at the same time, I see this group being a group that almost limits themselves or feels stuck because they feel like they can’t really try something new. They’re like, “Well, I’m on this career track, maybe I’ve only got 10 years left of a conventional career. I shouldn’t change anything now, I shouldn’t do anything different.” Right?
You almost see them, the light starts to go out. I call them the grays, where they just start to tune out and say, “Well, I live once I’m in retirement,” Which, I’ve seen way too many of those stories go south. So, I love that you dug in and found a number of stories of people who are willing to kind of experiment … not completely throw their lives out the window and try something new, but in some of those cases, it was experimenting, trying some different things, building it over time, that kind of thing.
What would you say was one of your favorite stories of that kind of thing? Where, somebody gave themselves, whether they were in their ’40s, ’50s, or ’60s, they gave themself that permission to start experimenting. To try something new, to kind of rebrand themselves. What would you say is one of your personal favorite stories?
Rich Karlgaard: Sure, and maybe we can get into a little bit later on, how neuroscience really validates the idea that we keep getting these different kinds of gifts for the different decades of our lives. That which we lose, we lose in very tiny amounts. So, it’s really mostly additive. I think that we’ve come to believe when we look at these early successes like Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, or Sergey Brin and Larry Page at Google, that if we don’t do it then, then we’re not going to do it.
Well, here in Silicon Valley, one of my favorite stories is Diane Green. Diane Green doesn’t call a lot of attention to herself like some of these flashier people, but Diane Green, in her early years out of college, she organized windsurf competitions, she was educated as an engineer, she worked in a company that had offshore oil platforms. Although, back in the day as a woman, she wasn’t allowed to go into this male domain. She worked for Coleman Camper, and then in her ’30s she decided to get a masters in computer science. Then, at age 33, according to her own words, she said, “Well, I’m now ready for a grown-ups job.”
10 years later, at age 43, she co-founded VM Wear. VM Wear today has a market value of about 55 billion dollars, and she led it until her early ’50s, and she led it in a very humane way. She went home for dinner every night to be with her kids. You know, that going against the Silicon Valley grain. Then, she more recently founded a company that Google bought, and until January of this year, at age 64, she was CEO of Google Cloud.
When you look around Silicon Valley, sure, the headline stories are all the early ones, but you look at Dave Duffield who started PeopleSoft at 46 and workday, at 64. You look at Tom Siebel, that started Siebel Systems at 41, and his latest incarnation C3 at 57, promptly after that, he was gored by an elephant on a photo safari, and he spent three years in reconstructive surgery. Now he’s 66, and they’re winning industrial AI contracts right and left.
Fred Luddy started ServiceNow two weeks before his 50th birthday, and today ServiceNow has a market value of over 50 billion dollars. So, there are a lot of great examples of people who do that. finance too, which studies entrepreneurship in America, so the median age for starting a company is 47.
Mitch Matthews: That’s amazing. Well I mean, we were just talking before I hit record that, that’s where I’m at, that 48, 49 window. It is incredible, going back to what you mentioned, as far as, the neuroscience of it. It is incredible how … I know in some ways the bias is towards, “Well, we start to be less sharp.” But it’s incredible I think in so many ways how, as you said, there’re gifts as we age that start to happen with our brains that I do feel like hitting a new gear in regard to some of my thinking and that kind of thing and really say that in a number of the story’s you just mentioned. Also, in some of the neuroscience that you were discussing, just kind of some of the things that’s actually happening in our brains where we’re in some ways just getting started.
Rich Karlgaard: Yes, too. One major study and then one speculation by a prominent neuroscientist are really valuable to understand. There’s a 2015 study led by Lauren Jermine at Harvard, and Joshua Hartshorn of MIT, both post-doc grad students working at Massachusetts General Hospital, and they asked the simple question, “What age do we cognitively peak?” The answer is complex and intriguing and very hopeful.
It depends what form of cognitive abilities you’re talking about, so when it comes to cognitive processing speed and working memory, yeah, those peak early in our teens, and twenties. If you’re going to be a software programmer working under a deadline, those are very valuable attributes to have.
Then, in our ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, we begin to develop a whole range of cognitive capabilities that support our ability to be very effective. Executives, managers, leaders, and then in our ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, we develop yet another set of cognitive abilities that allow us to be great coaches and mentors. I think this is wonderfully profound when you think about structuring your career. Lean into where you’re going, not what you were.
Then, this Maverick neuroscientist I talked about, Elkhonon Goldberg at NYU, suddenly realized in his late ’60s, he was getting intuitions as good as the conclusions he reached by a logical decision tree in the years before. That is, he would back test an intuition that he had, and sure enough, it stood the test of logic.
So, we dived into this to try to figure out why, and this speculation is that these neuro-networks that connect the intuitive side of our brain and the logical side of our brain keep growing and growing, and growing, and growing, and we get to the point … and I think popular culture would call this wisdom, where we’re able to reach, you’re actually able to shortcut and get to a great decision faster than you ever were able before.
So, we have these amazing gifts. By the way, when we start losing our cognitive processing speed, it’s not like we fall off a cliff. We lose it at about .2% per year. So think of ourselves throughout our careers that we’re like the pitcher who’s peak fastball was at age 24, but then develops a whole repertoire of pitches, and figures out in a very canny way, something that younger pitchers struggle with.
A younger pitcher with immense talent will get in there and let’s say, they get shellacked in the second inning, and they mentally fall apart, and they have to be called. The really good veteran pitchers say, “You know, I don’t have my best stuff today. I’m going to figure out a way to win anyway.” That’s the kind of capability that we get as we get older.
Mitch Matthews: Absolutely, that whole perseverance thing that you talk about too. So, I love it [crosstalk 00:21:13]. Let’s talk about … oh, go ahead sorry.
Rich Karlgaard: … to call on all of our abilities, not just the one we first called on, “Okay, fastball isn’t working today or I can’t find the strike zone with this pitch, let’s figure out another way to … another repertoire here that will work.”
Mitch Matthews: I love it. So, let’s talk about that though because you do talk about the importance of sometimes … you know, we talk about being late bloomers, and sometimes one of the best ways to help yourself thrive is to re-pot yourself someplace else, right? Sometimes that involves risk, sometimes that involves change, and sometimes that’s a little bit more difficult at any age, but I think as we get a little bit older, maybe the stakes seem a little higher, all of that.
What have you found has been some things that have really allowed people to make some changes, whether they’re small or big? If they’ve been feeling like maybe, maybe, they need to get ready to make some changes or maybe they’re in the midst of it. What have you found has kind of helped people to do that?
Rich Karlgaard: Sure. Well, re-potting is the idea that in any given time, you have your time, your talent, your treasure, and your purpose, and you might be in a pot, or that is an environment that is not fully rewarding those four things. Your time, treasure, talent and purpose. Maybe it did and maybe things have changed. Maybe you have changed, and those four things are a little bit different now. So, the idea of re-potting is to get into the environment where your best able to use those four things.
Now, radical re-potting, that is picking up stakes and moving across the country, and doing something entirely new. Practically speaking, maybe a luxury of the really young, and the comfortably retired. If you’re in mid-career thinking about re-potting, but you have a mortgage and you have a family, and other obligations … think in terms of what a management consultants would call a J’son [spacens 00:23:09].
There’s a story of Kimberly Harrington who was a very successful advertising copywriter in Los Angeles, and then at age 50 concluded that this is advertising is a young person’s game. Age 50, she felt like she just wasn’t getting the best campaigns and best work that she used to get. She always wanted to write serious essays and short stories.
So, she re-potted to Vermont, and the reason why she re-potted to Vermont that if she knew that she stayed in LA, that she would always be tempted to take contract work and then never really get to her next dream. Besides, she said, “LA, the cost of being cool and hip in LA is very high versus the cost of living, the wardrobe you have to have.” So, she moved to Vermont, she said where people think advertising is actually a crappy industry, and she needed to do that.
Or, I think of my friend Quentin Hardy, Quentin Hardy was the San Francisco Bureau Chief of Forbes for a while, then he was a reporter for the New York Times covering technology like artificial intelligence. He knew that his career had peaked at the New York Times, and he decided to re-pot. Now, he’s the Head Editor of Google Cloud. [crosstalk 00:24:24] large company, so they understand that they’re in the content business and they’re hiring real editors, rather than just PR people to lead the content accumulation, and he’s having a ball.
Mitch Matthews: That’s awesome. So, what have you found, when you obviously, been talking with a lot of folks, you’ve interviewed a lot of people who’ve done this successfully? What would you say is one of the big things that they wrestle with, and how have you helped them … or what have you seen as far as patterns or strategies for overcoming that?
Rich Karlgaard: Well, I have two chapters that take a contrarian view on two subjects. One is self-doubt, and one is quitting. Now, I think the popular culture is when you look at self-doubt with the way you deal with self-doubt is to bull your way through it, learning the tricks to kind of boost up your confidence. Throw your shoulders back, read inspirational literature, listen to inspirational podcasts, and so forth. That’s undeniably a useful thing, but I look at it as more of a tactic to get you through a low spot. There’s a long-term strategy, you need to be able to come to terms with your self-doubt, and to be able to proceed despite having self-doubt because self-doubt, always will show up at the worst moment, and right when you’re about to go on a major sales call or whatever it is.
So, the first thing you have to do with self-doubt is wall it off from your self-worth. I think it really helps to be an afeard person of faith, a religious faith, or some kind of faith that where you are convinced that your existence on earth is not an accident. You’re here for a reason. It helps because if you know that, then your self-worth is not something that your self-doubt can ever damage. Your self-worth was given to you, and it’s invaluable and indestructible.
So, do that, then step back and look at your self-doubt dispassionately as you would a friends self-doubt, and you say, “Well, when self-doubt shows up, it’s inconvenient, it’s annoying, it may cause panic,” but it generally is telling you something. It’s maybe telling you that you’re not prepared or maybe telling you that in your business you need a partner who’s your compliment that does the things that you don’t do well, they do well. Just as you do things well that they couldn’t do well. It might mean that you’re just stressed out and need to take a break, and get a better nights sleep.
So you learn to use self-doubt as information, pure and simple, and if you think this is just kind of [hopey 00:26:55] talk, remember … I got to know the football coach Bill Walsh quite well when he was writing a column for me at Forbes ASAP, and I would go down to visit him. He won three Super Bowls for the 49ers, and he was back at Stanford, and he would give me an hour interview, and we’d talk, and then I would turn it into a column, and he’d edit it and we’d have a column.
We talked about confidence, and he snorted, and he said, “Confidence is the most overrated thing in football.” He said, “I can’t tell you how many confident blow-hards I’ve seen in the coaching profession that got no better after the age of 40, because their confidence blinded them to really learning.” Walsh is a guy that wears self-doubt on his sleeve, he was a little bit of a neurotic professor. But, he learned to move forward with it, he knew with experimentation there would be, of course, self-doubt.
The final one is that I talked to is Carol Dweck who wrote the great book Mindset. I’m sure many of your listeners have read that terrific book. She was the one who queued me into thinking of seeing self-doubt as an annoying friend. Listen to what the self-doubt says, okay, tell the self-doubt go sit down, now proceed anyway.
Mitch Matthews: Yup. I love it. So, that is so powerful to instead of just dismissing it, to be able to say, “All right, is there any truth in this?” It’s a mind battle a little bit, and say, “I heard you, now go sit down.” We had Lise Cartwright whose written like 25 best-selling books, 26 best-selling books, and she even named her … that voice, Nigel. Now, she’s from New Zealand, so for her to say Nigel, was just … it makes you giggle, or laugh anyway. It sounds like straight out of the [crosstalk 00:28:36] … Nigel, I hear you, go sit down.
Rich Karlgaard: … Carol Dweck, honest to God, told me that one of her colleagues In New Zealand suggested this idea. I mean, Carol Dweck given the name Derrick [crosstalk 00:28:50].
Mitch Matthews: Yeah.
Rich Karlgaard: But Carol Dweck must have borrowed that idea. So, it’s a splendid idea.
Mitch Matthews: It is, and it’s so great. It’s one of those, she said she had to name it kind of a funny name, which, she felt bad because one of her classmates was named Nigel. So, even in the book, she spoke to that Nigel saying, “It’s not you, it’s not you.”
Rich Karlgaard: You’ve got a nerdy annoying name.
Mitch Matthews: Right, right.
Rich Karlgaard: Don’t take it seriously, pat it on the shoulder, go sit down because in the long-term where kind of trumped-up confidence … you know, you get in front of a mirror, you throw your shoulders back, you listen to something that inspires you. Yeah, that can get you through a low point, but that’s tactical, and the strategy is learning … I need to learn the tools to proceed despite my self-doubt and listen to what it is saying.
Mitch Matthews: I love that. I think that is so powerful because the self-doubt is a part of your brain that is trying to keep you alive, right? So, it’s going to keep coming back until we acknowledge it, until we recognize those things, and either tell it to go sit down or go and change your behavior.
Rich Karlgaard: I’m going to learn how to proceed anyway. I’m going to learn how to take this information, proceed anyway, it will come again, you’re not going to stop it. It’s like a cloud, it gets between you and the sun, it just … you move.
Mitch Matthews: Yup, I love it. I also think … I want to go back just for a second, there’s just so much we can talk about here, but going back, I think you’re right, as far as, to … you know, one of the other aspects, for me I know personally, because I grew up a worrier. I am a worrier in recovery. I feel … I’m not perfect at it, but I’m better than I was yesterday. I know for me, a big part of overcoming that, and being more present and not being anxious as much, it has been my faith. [crosstalk 00:30:40]. Feeling that connection too, in my case, feeling that connection to God, and knowing I was put here for a reason. Not always being wildly clear on that reason, but the days I have more clarity, it’s amazing how that has a direct impact-
Rich Karlgaard: Can I …
Mitch Matthews: … and I think that is important.
Rich Karlgaard: Can I add to that Mitch because I agree with you 100% on that. I already talked about, if you have … if you can lull off your self-doubt from your self-worth because your self-worth was given to you by God, what an advantage, what an advantage. This self-doubt doesn’t have to wreck your day, it doesn’t have to wreck your life. It is just momentarily annoying, and you listen to what it says.
The other thing is that I was surprised when I got into the book that there was no clinical definition of blooming, so I came up with a couple of suggestions, one is chronological, and one goes to the issue you just raised. The chronological definition of late blooming is people come into their own, their fulfillment, their destiny, simply later than expected, and they often do it in unusual ways surprising people around them what it really is, what causes it to happen is through this process of brave experimentation, you find this intersection of your deepest God given gifts, your deepest passions, and you’re abiding purpose.
When those three come together in alignment, no longer do you feel pushed by the outside world. You feel pull, you feel pulled toward some supreme destiny that has your name on it. When you feel pull opposed to being pushed, you will work hard without burning out. You will acquire skills you didn’t think you have. You described yourself as an introvert, I described myself as introvert.
The thing that terrifies most introverts when they got into business for themselves is this idea that they’re going to have to sell. It’s hard for an introvert to sell when they’re selling somebody else’s products or they’re being pushed by somebody else. When they feel like they’re being pulled toward a destiny, suddenly the ability to sell comes, trust that it will come. Really trust that it will come. You will get the powers of salesmanship, you will get the powers of courage and resilience if you feel like you’re being pulled toward your destiny.
Mitch Matthews: That’s gold. That is just brilliant. I couldn’t agree more. I love that, even just that picture, but I also think it’s that whole thing, if you’ve felt that, you know exactly what you’re talking about. The difference between the pull and the push.
Rich Karlgaard: I remember in high school fundraising things, I was always the worst. I couldn’t sell snow to Eskimos, I mean, it was because I was so embarrassed. The idea that somebody would turn me down was just terrifying. It’s only when I’m really doing it in a line with what I feel is a divine destiny, that I’m able to do it. You know? Then it doesn’t feel like salesmanship, it feels like your evangelical work I guess.
Mitch Matthews: Yeah, exactly. Something you feel called to. I love it. All right. Well, we’re going to take a quick break, when I come back, we’re going to … or when we come back, I want to go after that other point you were about to make around quitting. You really took a different perspective on self-doubt, and you also took kind of a contrarian view on quitting, and I want to get after that after we’re back from a quick break.
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All right, so I love the perspective you have, you really did take a different look at self-doubt, and how we need to listen and embrace self-doubt. You also really took a different view of quitting. Talk to us about that, especially in reference to that person that’s maybe the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and they’re thinking about making a change.
Rich Karlgaard: I think popular culture does a disservice when it puts out the message that quitters never win, and winners never quit, and you find it everywhere and often times we’ll tell our kids that. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to do that. It’s become one of those cannons that we all say. When you think about it, it’s just not provably true whatsoever, you think about Richard Branson has quit a lot of businesses, he quit Virgin Brides, he quit Virgin Cola.
Here in Silicon Valley, one of our iconic companies that’s been around a long time Intel, the seminal moment at Intel occurred when it decided to get out of the memory chip business, where suddenly it was not able to compete against new competitors offshore, and bet it all on the microprocessor. There are great story’s around how one of the founders didn’t want to quit the memory chip business, one did, and they left it up to the third Gordon Moore, “What do you think about this Gordon Moore?” Who was the technologist, and usually didn’t get involved in these decisions, and Gordon Moore said, “Well, what would happen if somebody else bought us?” And both of them said, “They would tell us to get out of the memory chip business.”
Mitch Matthews: Wow.
Rich Karlgaard: “Why don’t we do that?” So they literally walked out the door all pledged to get out and be a new company when they walked in the door. So, when we look at our own paths, we have to give ourselves permission to quit.
Mitch Matthews: Yup.
Rich Karlgaard: Now, by no means am I saying we should develop the habit of becoming a quitter the first sign of adversity. That’s the worst thing that we can do, that’s the worst thing that we can tell our children to do. We have to develop our own endurance and resilience, but if you go back to this idea that we have the optimal use of our time, our treasure, our talent, and our purpose, maybe misapplied in what we’re doing now.
We should have the courage to be able to examine that and say, “Should I quit the path I’m on, and get on another path.” Maybe just a 10 or 20-degree turn, in which case, it’s not really quitting, it’s just a turn. Sometimes we have to have the courage to quit and say this is not working. Sometimes when we’re raising your children, and they’re not prospering under a really disciplined regimented regime, maybe the answer is not to double-down on that, maybe we have to think about this.
What I would like readers to do, is to give themselves permission to quit if they really have to quit. Now, this is hard, figuring out when you’re quitting because you’re simply running … you’re simply not up to the adversity or your lack of self-confidence is one thing and it should be resisted.
Quitting because it’s not your divine destiny you could be doing something better, that should be available to everybody. Just as it’s available to all the great entrepreneurs, it’s available to any military General who decides to execute a strategic retreat. So, learning the habit of having rational discussion around your time, treasure, talent, and purpose are best applied, is useful for everybody.
Mitch Matthews: I love it. Well, it was funny because as I was prepping for the interview, and digging into the book, I think one of the other areas that you talked about is in some ways like a career trajectory, and how we should embrace … and I may butcher your concept here, so correct me. But kind of embrace even the vision of an arch, right? Or, almost a bell where you might in a career, you might elevate and go in certain heights in regard to promotion, and achievements and all of that. To not discount the whole idea of giving yourself a lateral or taking a demotion from time to time, to go into a position, or go back to a position that you love, or go back to a position that maybe gives you more flexibility.
I was just speaking to somebody this week, and they had achieved a high level within an organization, C-suite level, but where the home office was, they didn’t like living there, they loved … he and his wife talked about where they used to love to live. He’s like, “I can take a demotion,” or kind of almost a lateral, but for the most part it was a demotion, but going back to a role that he loved, it allowed them to move to a city they loved and he made less money.
But moving to this different city was much lower cost of living, and he’s like, “It was crazy,” he was like, “I was looking around going, why isn’t everybody doing this,” because they couldn’t of been happier. As I was reading through your book, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, yeah. That’s exactly what he did.”
His career looks like an arch, but it was intentional, and he loved it. I would not call that quitting, I would just call that pivoting, but at the same time, he had to give himself that same permission you’re talking about. There’s a lot of power in that.
Rich Karlgaard: Well, companies … look, if you’re … because the alternative to that, that most companies file is what you might call is up and out. If you’re successful you get promoted, and you’ll get a higher paycheck, and if you continue to be successful, you’ll keep going up that latter. Then one day, the Chief Financial Officer and everybody else realizes they have a couple problems, that they’re probably overpaying you at some point.
Number two, they’ve got to make way for all this talent coming up, or they’re going to lose the younger talent. Rather than having this discussion with the older employee to probe about whether they’d be happy to take pay cuts and trade in their Vice Presidents title for one called coach or mentor or something. They get rid of them instead of moving them onto the downside of the arch.
There’s some enlightened companies that do a better job of that. A lot of law firms you bust your behind to make partner, and then you go up, up, up and then in the pyramid scheme that is the compensation mechanism at partnerships like that, you’re getting too much. You’re taking too much as a partner, and so you’re out at age 55 or 60, by common agreement. A lot of law firms now are saying, “Well now you can go back to being called of counsel,” rather than a partner.
Also, is the idea that when you look at what we become good at as we get older, we become wiser, and we become ideal coaches and mentors. Now, a lot of millennials employers, they have all the talent in the world, but they have a hard time integrating themselves into the culture of a company. They don’t know how to have conversations, they walk into blind traps that they should otherwise not.
So, I’ve become a real big believer in age diversity. Inside of organizations the older employee working with the younger employee, but you have to get to the position that the older employee is not reflexivity defending their turf. That’s why you have to take away the title and call them mentor and coach, your job is now to coach these young people up.
This is basically, I’m in my early ’60s now, I don’t have either the paycheck or responsibilities at Forbes that I once had. They let me keep this fancy title called publisher, but really what I do I’m outward bound, I help the salespeople open doors, I do a lot of speeches and stuff like that. Forbes also, in trading away my higher salary compensation for years past, allows me to develop my own personal portfolio things, which includes this book, outside paid speeches, and then a consulting arrangement I have a Silicon Valley eye company.
So, I’ve moved into the portfolio stage of my company, and I had enough goodwill built up at Forbes where I could have that conversation with him, and we arrived at something, and it’s a little less pay than I would have wanted myself, but to be still affiliated with Forbes is nothing but gold for me.
Mitch Matthews: Right, absolutely. I love that you’re an example of exactly what we’re talking about. I think that there’s so much power in that, and to look at … I heard a statistic recently that ten thousand people retired today in the United States, and that number is going to continue for about the next decade based on the number of boomers that are out there and those kinds of things.
It’s incredible to think of in many ways, the gold that exists, there’s so much value in those folks that are retiring, but in many ways, they are needing to reinvent themselves, they’re far from done. So, it is that whole thing of being able to say, “All right, what do I want to do in this next season?” So I think I love it, and-
Rich Karlgaard: There’s a great book out right now called The Trillion Dollar Coach by, Eric Schmidt and Johnathan Rosenberg, and it’s on this character named Bill Campbell who is beloved in Silicon Valley, and he was the coach that all … they’d meet him at a bar, and when Eric Schmidt was CEO of Google, he would visit him in Campbell’s little office. Now, Campbell was in on nobody, Campbell had been the Head of Marketing at Apple, and he was the CEO of Claris, and then he was the CEO at Intuit for a while, so he had all of that, but he was the coach. I’m telling you, even the youngest most brilliant people walk into stupid traps all the time-
Mitch Matthews: Right.
Rich Karlgaard: … Facebook, Facebook needs a coach, Facebook needs adult supervision or the governments going to break them up. I mean, you can see the writing on the wall. They’re blind. They’re brilliant, but they’re blind, they need coaching. So this idea that the older employee … but you have to take away the turf-protecting aspect of the older employee, otherwise, the younger person will always doubt whether they’re getting the real story from the older person.
Mitch Matthews: Yup, so true. I love it. Man, we can keep going for another three hours, Rich, this is … it truly is golden, I so appreciate what you’re doing, and I think that the timing on this is perfect. In fact, it’s one of those where … you know, as you can imagine, I get sent a lot of books, which is one of the best parts of having a podcast, but when I saw yours it’s like, “Dang!” Great title, great timing, I’m just I’m excited for you my friend. So this is awesome. All right, so Dream. Think. Doers, our guest has been Rick Karlgaard, his book is called Late Bloomers, The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement. Go grab it whenever you’re buying books. Rich, where can people find out more about you?
Rich Karlgaard: Well, you can go to RichKarlgaard.com and find out more about me, and you can find the book in the usual places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, independent book stores.
Mitch Matthews: Love it, and I love it. Well, keep bringing the awesome my friend and thanks for taking the time.
Rich Karlgaard: Thank you so much.
Mitch Matthews: All right Dream. Think. Doer, let me know what to send out to you. I enjoyed Rich’s story immensely, as well as, the science that he’s using to back this thing up. I’d love to hear from you though, what stood out to you? Was it a particular story? A particular strategy? Was it re-potting?
I love it, as my wife is a master gardener, and so it’s one of those she can make anything grow, but boy, as he was talking about that, I’ve seen her do that with plants actually, like a plant looks like it’s starting to die because it’s in the wrong sized pot. Now, I would never know that, but my wife could take a look at that and Melissa can look at that and just go, “That’s the wrong size pot or it’s the wrong type of soil.” And she’ll just pull it out, put it in a different one and boom, that plant, that flower, whatever, takes off and it’s amazing how many plants she’s brought back from the edge of death.
I think that, that picture though, for individuals, and careers, and all of that, it’s so, so important. Remember that sometimes it’s the wrong pot, sometimes that pots too small, sometimes it’s the wrong soil. Now, I know, there can be some risk in that. Right? If you’re 50, if you’re 55, there can be some risks in that, but we’ve certainly talked about this subject of how can you make those changes? How can you make start to experiment? How can you do that with small steps of faith over time as opposed to one giant blind leap of faith? I think that’s what Rich was talking about. That’s what I’m a big fan of, that’s definitely something we talk about in my book, Dream Job Redefined as well.
So if you are listening to Rich’s tips, thoughts, science, strategies, that is fantastic. My hope is that resonated with you, I know it did for me. I’d highly recommend Late Bloomers, go check that out. Also, maybe while you’re there, grab a copy of Dream Job Redefined as well. I know it’s just a shameless plug. Hey, but it’s my podcast. I can do whatever I want to. I think that those two books together could probably help you to bridge where you’re at, and where you want to go. So, check out Rich’s book, great stories, great science, great strategies, and grab a copy of Dream Job Redefined as well.
All right, I want to hear from you though, what’s something that stood out to you? Leave a comment and let me know what YOU think!
I can’t wait to hear from you.