Late bloomers can still come in first

DIFFERENT STROKES: The sprinter knows that he must exert all his effort right from the "off". The seeker of the marathon trophy is aware that he needs consistent and lasting strength. The "off" is less important to him than perseverance.


    Mar 03, 2015

    Late bloomers can still come in first

    WE ALL know the story of the tortoise and the hare. The hare was faster, but lost the race because the tortoise kept going when the hare could not. It's an old fable with much truth in it.

    But today, we know more about late developers and why they can have an advantage.

    Take the young man who came to see me recently. Not yet 30, he is building a business that is going to be very successful. His high IQ has put him ahead of 99.9 per cent of other start-ups.

    Fortunately for him, he has a lot of emotional intelligence (EQ) too. So much so that he came to talk to me not principally about his start-up, but about life in general and the ethics of business in particular.

    It is rare for a young tiger to seek to establish his moral stand in business before he has made a financial success of it. Rare, but very wise.

    As an early developer on the road to success with high IQ and EQ advantages, this young man is sensible to look and learn how a later developer might act.

    After success strikes, attitudes change and people think they are invincible and morally unassailable. How wrong they are.

    A business grounded in sound but realistic ethics will be more durable than one that is in it for the quick buck at any price.

    My young visitor is seeking to couple his intellectual advantage with standards to ensure his staff have acceptable levels of stress, to give customers what is promised on the quote and to deal with suppliers as partners, not slaves.

    In other words, he is trying to balance the advantages of the sprinter with those of the long-distance runner. Good for him, he will succeed.

    The analogy with running is a good one. The sprinter knows that he must exert all his effort right from the "off". The seeker of the marathon trophy is aware that he needs consistent and lasting strength. The "off" is less important to him than perseverance.

    Late developers understand the long-distance runner's motivations. I was a late developer in business, so I have always been in the process of catching up.

    What are the advantages of slower development, apart from those I have already explained? I have found four aspects of "slower than the fastest" to make me realise I am lucky.

    First, people seem more willing to help someone who is patently non-threatening. We all need a leg up in life from time to time. The mentors in my business life have appeared when I was struggling to identify what I was doing and why I was doing it.

    Second, fundamentals have been more important to me than to my swifter rivals. They had to be because I could not win on the quick-smart calculation, but I could catch up by asking how a decision affected the future of the business. When planning for a big multinational company, I found this particularly useful.

    Third, I was forced to be more creative and imaginative than my cleverer colleagues.

    Looking at the broader issue always adds to your stature. If you do so creatively, you will be seen to be strategic, something everyone wants more than ever now. Slower starters must put creativity at the top of their list of things to do.

    Being slower also meant that I had to work out for myself what I needed to learn. I could not just leave it to others to decide. Not all my choices were right, of course, but the majority increased my stature and helped me compete far better than the learning I would have followed had I done routine courses and degrees.

    Fourth, I discovered the value of pondering, the process of letting the brain work its way through a problem or vision. Our brains do not always see problems or opportunities clearly to start with.

    Therefore, it is important to give them time - an hour musing, a power nap, a good night's sleep - to sweep away the cobwebs of obfuscation and observe what matters.

    All the above can be learnt. You just need a few good role plays to get you on the right track.

    Persevere and you will come in first.

    The writer is founder mentor of Terrific Mentors International.