Playing The Long Game

“So many people are doing the “expert” thing wrong.”

“To be VERY clear...That’s OK.”

“Ten years from now? Fifteen years from now?”

Justin Welsh via a LinkedIn post gives us a powerful post about what it takes to be self-sustaining “expert” in this world.

Each line he gives us is a gold nugget.

Aside from the last line, which is the title of this episode, those are the three bolded lines above are the ones that stood out for me.

Innovation Gumbo

1 - “So many people are doing the “expert” thing wrong.”

I remember my last day of LSU football. My time at LSU was a very short. Honestly, my time was up before I even stepped into the locker room. But I didn’t know that. I only knew I had to go try to see what I was made of.

But, when I walked out the Jeff Boss Locker Room on my last day, the two questions I remember asking myself were:

  • “How do I get on a team now?”

  • “All I know is sports. (That wasn’t true, but it’s all I felt passionate about at the time.) How do I become a specialist in my job by the time these guys are retiring from their professional careers?”

I dealt with some depression in the months thereafter because I felt like a lost dog without a home. But I came to terms with it, when I realized that I’d been on some competitive athletic team for nearly 20 years. I figured, “Well if have 20 years to become a professional at something, then I’ll only be 40 by then. These guys (athletes in that locker) will be retiring as I’m hitting my stride.”

Source: NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS & NBA: Which Leagues and Players Make the Most Money?

Source: NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS & NBA: Which Leagues and Players Make the Most Money?

Side note: I was quite naive on the longevity of athletes. Depending on the league, it ranges from 3.5 - 5.5 years.

2 - “To be VERY clear...That’s OK.”

This one is simple but very important.

Stop kicking your own ass mentally and spiritually for not being where you want to be.

Most of this is not your fault. With all the hustle porn and “ageX-under-ageX” lists that are out there to drive advertising revenue, it’s a no-brainer that everyone and their brother has FOMO. It’s not just millennials or Gen-Z that have FOMO. It’s everyone with a social media account.

The weird thing about being young is that you feel like you can’t move fast enough to achieve. Most of my younger days were spent selling to Fortune500s for VC-backed companies where bleeding-edge technology is king. Zuckerberg is the poster child for young phenoms under 30 (25 in Zuck’s case) and is portrayed as the norm. It’s not. That’s why it’s a story.

When you do achieve something, you feel like the right people aren’t noticing.

Sometime after 30, you start realizing you really weren’t that experienced and wish you’d known that then. You also realize that you may not have the same amount of energy, but you’re much more efficient at using the energy you do have because your “BS detecter” is getting legit as you get over the age of 28.

A point on each of these.

  • Focus on where you are now. The phrase “fake it til you make it” gets a bad wrap. The problem is that it’s incomplete. You’re never 100% fake and you’ve never 100% “made it.” If you’ve “made it,” then you’re dying. If you’re not faking a little, then you’re not growing. When I work out (s/o to OrangeTheory Fitness), whether it be strength, power or endurance, I always try tell myself that I can get to that next weight, speed or range even if I’ve never done it before. Because if I don’t make it, then I shed a tear (not really) and then try again the next time. I’m also not stupid about it. If I deadlift 200 pounds today, I’m not going to try to deadlift 400 pounds tomorrow. Your career is the same damn thing.

  • People notice when you achieve something. It’s just that when you’re young the gap between where you are in reality versus where you are in your head is usually huge. I have experienced this (the hard way) many times. The truth is that the gap is usually more accurate than you and whomever’s approval you seek.

  • At the time of this writing, I’m not yet 40; but I’ve talked to a lot of people from around the world and even hosted a podcast with over 60 successful people. They all say that you have somewhere between 20-35 years to really crush your goals (family, business, etc). If you’re having regret or keep looking back, then pick a starting age of somewhere between 28-32 and give yourself a cushion. And don’t look at the years as 1-for-1 because it discounts the velocity of the domino effect. You may have 15+ years of struggle, but once you find your sweet spot, that velocity make for a fun ride.

3 - “Ten years from now? Fifteen years from now?”

One of the first professional mentors that I had was a woman named Brenda in my hometown of New Orleans.

One of the cool things about interviewing for a sales position is that it’s not an uncommon request to “shadow” another sales person. Shadowing allows you to see what it’s like to sell the product, prospect for new customers and talk to existing customers.

For a sales rep, time is money, so when a sales rep is asked by the GM to allow “this 23 year-old interviewee to shadow you for the day,” it’s not usually greeted with great excitement. Brenda was not the sales rep that allowed me to shadow her during the interview process. However, once I got the job, Brenda was the one that let me shadow her whenever I requested help. She was an angel to me. I’d later find out that Brenda was even responsible for helping me close the deal on that first job because I didn’t completely do so myself.

The first piece of advice she gave me that I remember went something like this:

Brenda, “Christien what did you do wrong in that sales meeting?”

Me, “I don’t know. She seemed to like me.”

Brenda, “No darling. She was laughing at you.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I’m a woman, and you were closing like it was a one night stand?”

A bit befuddled because I’d had to watch every HR harassment video on the planet after being hired and not knowing what to say, “What do you mean?”

“You want me to flirt with her?” I asked jokingly.

She laughed, “No goofball. You did enough of that anyway. You’re so transparent in your intentions to sell that you didn’t build any real rapport with her. Aside from the real estate she needs from you (I was selling billboard ads), she has no incentive to work with you. You definitely won’t get the price you need to get the deal approved.”

She had my attention for sure. “Ok so what do I need to do?” I asked eagerly.

“Close like a man not a boy,” she paused.

“Women know from the moment you open your mouth if you want her for a night or possibly longer. 23 year-old guys are myopic. Y’all are thinking one way or the other but not ready to adjust based on her answers or body language. Most older men are. We see that stuff.”

She continued, “Sales is the same way. You’re on offense. They’re on defense. But you can sit back and listen aggressively. Then offer what you offer based on what they say. You may not close the deal but you can start a relationship.”

I felt like I was Luke listening to Yoda. But she altered that quickly with her next line.

“Unless someone calls you...telling you they wanna buy an effing billboard right now, you need to just listen. Nobody cares about your glory days unless they ask.”

Side note...That was around 2004. Interesting enough, I was at SXSW 2009 where Gary Vaynerchuk gave a speech and said the exact same thing. His example was of 19 year-old not a 23 year-old but the premise and message was the same.

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Justin Welsh’s LinkedIn Post:

NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS & NBA: Which Leagues and Players Make the Most Money?:

Quotes from GaryV’s SXSW 2009 Keynote

If you’d like to subscribe to future Innovation Gumbo articles and episodes, please text the word GUMBO to +18449475871 or subscribe via email here.