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The Leadership Podcast

The Leadership Podcast

Why do we do this?

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

How we do this?

#1 We interview great leaders.
#2 We review the books great leaders read and write.
#3 We have fun!

Sep 11, 2019

Rich Karlgaard is the publisher of Forbes magazine and author of Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement, along with four acclaimed previous books.  Rich talks about his own experience as a late bloomer, why our society is so focused on early achievement, and the misconceptions of early success when it comes to neuroscience. He also discusses the harm of agism, and how those who haven’t bloomed fully can arrive at the intersection of using their native gifts, deepest passions, and abiding purpose. 

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Key Takeaways 

[3:50] Rich describes his acceptance at Stanford as a fluke. After graduation, he worked as a security guard and dishwasher while his peers were getting great jobs and starting successful companies. He was honest and upfront with his workplace that he wanted to blossom but wasn’t sure why he hadn’t yet, and they gave him a shot to be the Technical Editor and Writer at the Nuclear Power Division. He took the job seriously and became seriously interested in nuclear engineering. 

[7:43] We are impatient for success, and have created a school system that puts pressure to get into elite colleges. The competition also starts at a much earlier age, leaving teens and young adults feeling overwhelmed and possibly depressed. 

[9:18] When our educational system is just a “conveyer belt to early success”, it leaves us with unnecessary baggage and takes the focus off realizing our natural gifts. 

[13:12] Our cognition peaks depends on the ability. While speed and memory may hit their stride in the teens and 20’s, our 30’s open up a range of abilities such as leadership, executive skills, entrepreneurialism and compassion. In the 40’s and beyond, we gain higher functions of wisdom to mentor and coach. 

[15:35] Lean into the person that you are becoming, not the person you were. 

[18:00] The Silicon Valley Myth may have us thinking that innovation only happens in the early to young achievers in their mid 20’s, but there is a larger picture of many successful late bloomers. 

[21:38] It is useful to have a greater faith that convinces you that you are here for a reason. This assures you of self worth and separates you from self doubt. 

[23:44] Great leaders know when persevering is the most courageous thing to do, but also is open to know when quitting and focusing time and energy on something else is the best move. 

[29:01] Rich believes the greatest blooming happens because of a willingness to be brave and discover what we are good at and follow our curiosity. 

[32:17] A lot of successful leaders talk about their time in school, and how we can redefine education for people that learn in different ways. 

[34:07] Three ways Rich suggests we can take the pressure off early achievement: 

  1. Start kids later in traditional school work, and focus more on fun and healthy play before the age of 7. 
  2. Advocate for skill trade programs. They teach tangible skills, typically pay well and can even be a very attractive background for someone pursuing higher education. 
  3. Gap years can help encourage travel and learning about new environments. 
  4. Mandatory military or civilian service gives a sense of purpose, belonging, and duty to something bigger than ourselves. 

[37:38] Agism is a tragic loss of human talent, however responsibility goes both ways. It is up to organizations to provide more opportunities, including mentorship and coaching, and up to the applicants to network and see where they can add value. 

[47:16] Rich’s challenge: move forward with self doubt. Find peer groups who you can talk about your plans, dreams and worries. 


Quotable Quotes 

  • “I literally felt my brain developing and opening up at age 26 and 27.” 
  • “We need to learn how to quit when we can reallocate our time, treasure and purpose towards something better.” 


  • “Lean into the person that you are becoming, not the person you were.” 



Lee Kuan Yew 

Carol Dweck 


The Electric Power Research Institute 

Alden Mills

Dan Pink 

The Silicon Valley Suicides 

MIT, MGH Research Says Not All Cognitive Abilities Decline As You Age

Dave Duffield 

Tom Siegel 


Fred Luddy 


Reid Hoffman