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!

12 responses to “Lacrosse, Warren Buffet, the New and the Old

  1. Scott,
    Good one!
    Reminds me of that Queen song: “I want it all.” Here’s the third verse:
    “It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth,
    Here’s to the future, hear the cry of youth,
    I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now,
    I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”
    Interesting that it, too, is about the connection between speed and youth.
    Dan

  2. You mentioned, siting as examples Lehman Brothers and Bears Stern….they should have been listening to Warren Buffet’s preaching about long term valuwe v. insta-returns…..why? When you read about $9 Billion doled out on Wall St. for bonuses….USING TARP FUNDS!!!….you realize the problem…..collusion between the crooks and the robbers….one group located in NYC, the other entity residing part time in Washington, D.C. Of course, Congress “expiditiously” (re: speedily) legislated a watchdog effect on this behavior…..instrumented after ‘just one more’ malfeasance…..then there will be ‘just one more’….than another ‘just one more’……..ad infinity/nauseum. It must be a dialoglike this”……Wall St. to D.C…..”Let us steal just this once (more) from the taxpayer, and we promise never to do it again”……D.C….”OK, but be sure this is the ‘last time’…”……..R…I…G…H…T…Seeing the Dow up, paralleled by double digit unemployment……hmmmmm….something’s continuing to smell rotten in….the USSA.

  3. After reading the past two RFL’s that discussed the male ego and how men have screwed up the workplace for decades and hopefully women can save it from all the things men did wrong…. why would I want to hire a 59-year old man? If what I read in RFL is true, there would be no reason to consider such an entrenched candidate. I’d be better off hiring a younger, enlightened, ego-free female.

  4. Dan

    Matt’s Freudian slippers may not prevent parapraxis. The intent of his comment notwithstanding, there is truth here. I received absolutely glowing reviews in my last job — up until the day they showed me the door because they “needed my salary for other projects.” Interestingly, it all happened after they hired a woman (admittedly much younger and better looking than this man in his late 50’s) AND after I upgraded their computer systems, updated their development processes and files, and wrote four grant requests and a new marketing plan. Six months later, I find I am suddenly no longer even qualified for a job as a part time administrative assistant…

    What happened? Perhaps:

    A fifty-nine year old tech writer,
    Was laid off as “budgets got tighter.”
    Now, last year’s great pride,
    Is not qualified
    As anyone — younger and lighter…

    Mick

  5. Scott’s phrase “I want it now” also made me think of the cry “We want the world and we want it … NOW” from The Doors’ “When the Music’s Over.” Or in response to Pinky’s question, “Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?,” the response “Same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world!”

    So there we have it. Today’s “leaders” are guided by Freddie Mercury, Jim Morrison, and a couple of lab rats. I think everything will turn out just fine, don’t you?

  6. And Scott, I saw your website today. Nice page. I just wanted to let you know that earlier today, I traded in my “I Walk the Line / Folsom Prison Blues” 8-track tape, and they gave me and old Chevy Vega for it.

    It’s the government’s new Clunkers for Cash program. Heh.

  7. A lot of today’s story goes to respect for each other. Today I see people more likely to ignore what other people have to say or offer. They will post to a site, but not read the comments. I think this has a lot to do with the pervasiveness of computers in our lives, and that the younger we are the more these devices have shaped our minds, and even the hard wiring of our brains. People are creatures on a computer screen, not any different from animated figures in computer games. Maybe we think we are more important than we are, becasue when we post on the Internet, we post to the world. And so this is the objective versus subjective identification we give to ohter human beings.

    The 59 year old writer ought to be a prize to scoop up, if he has been writing all his adult life, and close to it. Writing is a skill that grows each year, or each time a writer its down and puts even broken and failing ideas on paper. WHen I wathc old television shows and then compare to most of the shows on today, I notice how immature and boring a lot of the stories and dialogue is. These really are the musings of young persons, and their ideas and arrangements of plot are not all that inspiring, or even humorous. I think this trend started with the sit coms which have one put down after another.

    The boy Lacrosse players being coached by coaches too young to be their fathers, is a neat model for much leadership of today. If we respected the boys and young men, they would have some expereinced leadership to guide them. The boys are learning something by having coaches who are so young, coaches who do not well direct their efforts. Standards are being set, and maybe in a negative way, by their absence, older coaches a being made to appear inadequate, not important.

    Building the mental game is critical, and the older player, who studies the game is the expert. Any game has its physical componant and its mental componant. I read an article about a tennis player who had taken a few years off from competition. He said that the physical part of the game was the easiest to get back, by practice and exersize. It was the mental part that took the greatest effort to get back, the strategy, understanding yourself, learning to observe the opponant, understanding the game, et cetera.

  8. Mark John Hunter’s comments brought back memories of my high school coaches — usually older men — who taught as much about life as they did about sports. I have been blessed to have known more than a few wise men and women in my >50 years. My grandfather taught me about the incredible value of quiet time spent alone, in an older forest. A priest taught me that, with enough faith, facts, and focus — one could see through the Great Wall of China. My grandma equalized every visitor to her home with a sign on her door: “Oh it’s you again…another half-hour shot to hell!” My mother, who passed at age 59 (far too young) was credited with having “Second Sight,” because she had such insight into the human condition and could establish a close rapport with nearly anyone. All displayed wisdom that comes only with experience and time spent living.

    Wisdom may be defined as: knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight. That’s a lot of weight for one word to carry. Personally, I like “insight,” for a short definition. The wise person “sees” through the clutter and hype — to the core issues/facts/questions and (if very lucky) the TRUTH. It is difficult to see the truth for yourself, if you are speeding past it at Internet speeds.

    I love to gather data from Twitter and Facebook, but I still write my e-mails (most of the time) in a text editor first, so I have a chance to take at least one good, long look at what I wrote before sending it off. Almost every time I ignored this step, I have regretted it. Our 34th Vice President and 33rd* President, Harry Truman used to write long, long-hand letters when he was angry and then filed them in a drawer, never to be delivered. It helped him gain perspective. He was a wise man…sometimes.

    Mick

    *Truman is 34th President only if you count Grover Cleveland twice…

  9. Mark John –
    Thanks for your reflections on writing. One of the joys of the internet is discovering people like you, Tony, the activeadvocate, and Mick who have honed their craft over many years.
    Matt Tan –
    Sarcasm is a strange tool. It’s satisfying to employ. “I sure got that SOB, Mulhern, in the middle of a contradiction!” Sarcasm’s generally not employed (I can’t know for sure what YOU meant) to engage, but is instead intended to end a dialogue. But I’d invite you to engage at a level where your truth is not self-evident. Is it so obvious that what I’ve written about gender (generalizations, to be sure) are inconsistent with what I’ve written about age (another generalization)? Sure isn’t to me. The points I’ve been making have all been about becoming more inclusive individuals and groups. That applies to women, kids, old folks, or yes, even white men.
    I know for many white guys (sorry for the racial profiling) they get defensive and angry about any use of categories, or dimishment of them as a group. I hope – but frankly doubt – that these upset white guys were the ones who were/are just so sensitive in rooting out bias (overt or subtle) when it applies to those historically hurt – racial minorities, gays, etc. We should raise the issues for everyone.
    But here are the questions I’d love for you and the Marks and Terry to bite into:
    1. What are the attributes of leadership that generally attend the work of women in leadership? What works about these attributes? How are they changing the workplace? Are we adapting to those? Are we raising our boys and girls to adapt to a new form of leadership?
    2. What are the attributes of leadership that generally attend the work of men in leadership? I will still say to my son, “play like a man.” That has some intrinsic meaning to me. I don’t think we want to lose that in the culture; it’s too valuable. (I wanted to say that to my girls in AAU basketball, but obviously it needed a new formulation 🙂 . So, how do we continue to inculcate “male” values and strengths? How do we make room for them at work tables that (I believe) will increasingly be headed by women? How do we raise our boys and girls to ply these traditionally male tools?
    I’d love your thoughts on these. Your sarcastic reply has caused me to try to articulate more clearly. I’d genuinely love to see you do the same.
    Lead with your BEST self!
    Dan

  10. Dan,

    I’d be happy to accept your challenge. There remains one trivial aspect, however, that I shall address here/now. What you call sarcasm, in a dismissive manner, I prefer to call a reality byte.
    Do I not state factual, accurate information? Has there not been egregious behavior on Wall St, regardless of the ire of the American populace? Do they act with impunity? Does not Nancy Pelosi’s use of Air Force II for weekly/periodic travel excursions back and forth from D.C. to S.F., CA cost the taxpayers close to $50M per year? Is that the type of female persuasion leadership we are to admire? When you start hitting hard at the core of the problem, instead of talking idealisms that are designed to diminish/circumvent the realities of the problems….well, then, at that time, I’ll begin an attempt to walk lock stepped and mouth shut as the good robot the current administration desires.

    1. Mark,
      First – I was actually talking about Mark Tan’s reply in terms of sarcasm.
      But if you want to discuss the question of sarcasm, take your last sentence: “I’ll begin an attempt to walk lock stepped and mouth shut as the good robot the current administration desires.” Isn’t this an example of “dripping” with sarcasm, Mark? In terms of management style, you’ve had a more open and listening administration than I have EVER seen in my life. Indeed, the president is now being attacked for letting Congress argue and deliberate over health care. And our democracy -ever a work in progress – is involving Americans in the health care debate in a wide-sweeping way. I don’t remember such an effort under Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, or certainly President Bush. To suggest it’s robotic makes me wonder what you’re thinking!
      Is there “ire.” You bet there’s ire. And are ALL women the pictures of progressive leadership? Of course not. Nancy Pelosi is a favorite whipping boy. So was Newt. So was Tip O’Neil. Being Speaker of the House is incredibly difficult. Getting to 51% will ensure that 49% nearly despise you. We should have some respect for that position, I think, and even extend it to Madame Pelosi.
      Thanks for the dialogue.
      d.
      p.s. Will we get back on topic?

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