One of my pleasures is watching and helping younger people develop from high potentials into young leaders. Former NHL hockey player and Wayne Gretzky’s one-time roommate Geoff Courtnall once told me that the formula for winning the Stanley Cup was an equal measure of veterans who deliver and emerging rookies who overachieve. I believe that most healthy organizations, like hockey teams, need the excitement and energy of youth.
In ice hockey, as in life, hall of fame careers usually start fast. Wayne Gretzky was the NHL MVP at age 19, and Bill Gates, the Gretzky of software, founded Microsoft at age 20. If you are a “high draft choice” in life, you have some responsibility to focus your gifts. It isn’t just athletes who fail to live up to their early potential.
I have always had regrets that I didn’t start working in business until I was 28. I always felt just a little behind the power curve.
After decades of hiring and promoting high school and college grads, I have seen that those who get the most opportunities also start fast. They overachieve in their first weeks. They ask the best questions, and always seem to have good ideas bubbling out of them. And, as one successful Hollywood producer once told an entry-level agent, “Work as hard as you can, and then work harder.”
On reflection, there are a few things I did well in my own 20s. I lived the “liberal arts life,” the most priceless education, wandering through several careers and geographies. But for a few twists of fate, I could just as easily have been a commercial fisherman in Australia as a video game VP of marketing. I would say, “Try stuff.” Figure out what you like doing every day, and then always achieve within the possibilities of stuff you love to do…