“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok
First, three introductions: Daniel Roberts is the lead reporter on the “40 Under 40” list; Leigh Gallagher is an assistant managing editor at Fortune magazine and oversees the “40 Under 40” list. She wrote the Introduction to this book, offering this explanation: “Each chapter in this book is built around a lesson, with three detailed profiles of the Zoomers who demonstrate each. [Clarification: Most Zoomers demonstrate many, if not most of the lessons.] Every one of the 27 profiles is originally reported and newly written for this book – full of fresh material you haven’t read before – and all are chock-full of detail, color, and candor. Because while members of the Fortune 40 Under 40 are many things – disruptors, visionaries, risk takers, dreamers, and big thinkers – one thing they’re not is shy. They dished and opened up to us as never before. To learn their secrets, turn the page – and then start dreaming about when you, too, will zoom.”
It is noteworthy that most (if not all) of the executives on whom Roberts focuses are unfamiliar to most of those who read this book. (They were to me.) Their responses during rigorous interviews are based on their experience, in real-world situations, lessons learned. Here is a representative selection of advice about how to “supercharge” the development of a career:
o “Never be afraid to fail.” Jeff York, CEO, San Francisco 49ers (Page 227)
o “Don’t try to be something or someone you’re not.” Jess Lee, co-founder and CEO, Polyvore (228)
Note: This is what Oscar Wilde had in mind when suggesting, “Be yourself. Every one else is taken.”
o “Spend more time focusing on the task that’s right in front of you.” David Rhodes, president, CBS News (230)
o “Underpromise, overdeliver. Someone once told me this and it has served me well.” Clara Shih, founder and CEO, Hearsay Social (231)
o “Always focus on enabling [begin italics] other people [end italics] to succeed.” Matt Cohler, general partner, Benchmark (231)
o “Be patient. Following the right path is not easy and may sometimes take more time, but it will always get you to your goal. You want to be the tortoise and not the hare!” Aditya Ghosh, president, IniGo Airlines (233)
o “No job is too big, no job is too small. I believe that attitude breeds success.” Cesar Conde, president, Univision Networks (234)
Note: All tasks are significant but some are more significant than others. For years, I was a multi-tasker until someone suggested that I be a sequential-tasker.
o “The advice I give to people is not to look past their current roles. I have always focused all my energy on doing the best job I can in my current role.” Jeff George, division head, Sandoz Novartis (235)
o “I recently gave a talk to 80 young Wall Street people and was asked this same question. I told them to be humble and hungry.” Boaz Weinstein, founder, Saba Capital (238)
o “Be the one in the room who asks more questions rather than gives more answers.” Eric Ryan, founder, Method (240)
o “Be comfortable not knowing the answer, but be great at finding it.” Adam Lowry, co-founder, Method (241)
The most valuable lessons we learn are from our own experience, especially from our failures and setbacks. Also, it is probably easier to zoom into what become failures and setbacks than it is to zoom into what become successes and achievements. As Daniel Roberts, Leigh Gallagher, and their Fortune associates make crystal clear, the Zoomers discussed in this book have experienced both the best and worst of free enterprise. I am curious to know what happens to them in years to come.
There are lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of Zoomers. I fervently hope that the lessons prove valuable to those now preparing for a career or have only recently embarked upon one. I also think several of the lessons can be of substantial benefit to others whose career is unfulfilling. When everything looks hopeless, when nothing goes well no matter how hard you try, keep in mind an observation by Jack Dempsey, that “champions get up when they can’t.”
Derek Bok is right: Learn as much as you can from formal education but also from your personal experiences and from what others have learned. Daniel Roberts, Leigh Gallagher, and their Fortune associates will be rooting for you, as will I, but it’s up to you learn as much as you can and apply it well. Life really is a journey of personal discovery. Bon voyage!