Jim’s Seven Questions: Learning From Young Leaders Full Talk


Announcer: Propelled by an unquenchable curiosity
and a drive to ask the next great question, Jim Collins has invested a quarter of a century
of his career into what makes great companies run and great leaders tick. Jim began his
career at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, earning the Distinguished Teaching
Award in 1992. He went on to found a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, where he
conducts research and engages in Socratic dialogue with CEOs and senior-leadership teams.
Most recently, Jim has wrapped up a two-year appointment studying leadership at West Point.
Today Jim is going to share with us the insights he’s gleaned on emerging leadership from
his time at one of the U.S.’s most prestigious military institutions. Let’s welcome Jim
Collins back to The Summit. {Applause} Jim Collins: Well, good morning, good afternoon,
wherever anyone might be. I would like to begin with an expression of gratitude, gratitude
to Bill for his enduring friendship, for his mentorship to millions, to The Summit for
the tremendous privilege to be back here again with all of you. I feel very much among friends.
I am truly grateful. After investing a quarter of a century of my life researching the singular
question of what makes a great enterprise tick, be it in the business or the social
sectors, I had a transformative opportunity. For 2012 and 2013, I had the honor to serve
as the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy
at West Point. It is one of the world’s greatest leadership-development institutions.
It’s been in the business of building leaders of character for more than 210 years. I traveled
to West Point multiple times to engage in Socratic dialogue and to reflect on the essence
of leadership, how leaders can be built, and how good leaders can become great leaders. Today I would like to share some of my reflections
and learnings. And I emphasize learnings because I was, in fact, the one who learned the most
in this journey. I only hope that I contribute even a small fraction of the learning to the
cadets and to the academy that I learned from them. Inc. magazine came out and wrote an
article about my time in the chair. It was called The Re-Education of Jim Collins.
It’s written by Bo Burlingham. You can Google it if you’re interested. But it had a wonderful
little tagline: The author of Good to Great went to West Point to teach leadership. Instead,
he was the one who got schooled. {Laughter} There is a lot of truth to that. I finished
my two years in the Chair for the Study of Leadership at West Point with a one-hour talk
to the corps of cadets. More than four thousand remarkable, energetic, dedicated, service-oriented
young men and women who wear the cloth of their country, assembled in Eisenhower Hall.
I had in my mind an image of each of those young leaders as being like a vector going
out into time and space. And if you could contribute to or even slightly alter in a
positive way the trajectory of those vectors over the course of a lifetime, it could be
a huge sweep. Therefore, this felt to me like not only a huge opportunity but also a huge
responsibility. So, my mission was to challenge these young leaders by integrating twenty-five
years of research on great enterprises with the two years of my learning at West Point,
what I learned largely from them. And today, inspired by a challenge from (Bill), I would
like to translate what I shared with them to you. I would like to translate what I learned
for young leaders in any sector, for young leaders who want to grow into great leaders.
And for those who have a few more decades under our belts, I would simply like to suggest
that we are all young leaders. {Laughter} I believe that questions are better than answers.
So, I’m going to organize these reflections in the form of seven challenges, in the form
of seven questions. To be clear, these are my personal reflections and views. They do
not represent an official view of West Point or the Academy. They are just Jim’s take.
I hope you find them useful. Question #1: What cause do you serve? What
cause do you serve with Level 5 ambition? In one of my seminars at West Point, I brought
with me a truly great leader. She is one of my personal heroes. Wendy Kopp, the founder
of Teach for America. The first thing the cadets noticed is that Wendy is shy and reserved
and soft-spoken, not particularly charismatic. You wouldn’t necessarily notice her in a
crowd. And she told the story of how at age twenty-one she was in a funk. She didn’t
know what she wanted to do with her life, and she had to do a senior honors thesis in
college. She did it on education and she put forth two premises. Premise #1: Every single kid no matter what
zip code, no matter what family circumstance, no matter where born every single kid deserves
a shot at a solid K12 education. Two, we should enlist some of our best young people
coming out of college to sign up for at least two years of deployment into our most underserved
schools, from the Mississippi Delta to Harlem and the Bronx. Since its founding, Teach for
America has deployed more than thirty-five thousand corps members in those schools, more
than a quarter of a million have applied. Wendy Kopp shows that if you have a charismatic
cause, you do not need to be a charismatic leader. In twenty-five years of research into what
makes great companies tick, one of the strongest and most consistent findings to come through
all the data is the idea of Level 5 ambition. In Good to Great, as many of you know, we
discovered the idea of the Level 5 leader, one blessed with a paradoxical blend of personal
humility that’s the X factor of great leadership personal humility with an utterly
indomitable will. But the deep inner essence of Level 5 is the idea of service, of leading
in service to a cause. We are talking here about ambition. Towering, exhausting, relentless,
nonstop ambition, but channeled outward away from yourself into a cause, into an enterprise,
into a purpose, into something that is bigger and more important than we are. See, ego-driven
Level four leaders, they’re really good at inspiring people to follow them. The Level
5 leaders inspire people to follow a cause. And therein is all the difference. At West Point I was surprised to sense that
many of the cadets whom I got to know seemed happier and more engaged than my Stanford
MBA students from when I taught there. And part of that, in my view, is that the ethic
of service, commitment to cause bigger than yourself, just runs through the entire West
Point experience, through the entire institution. And it is service with a capital S. All of
them know that some of them might die in that service. Now, you might be thinking, It’s easier
to have this Level 5 ambition leading in some service to cause at places like Teach for
America and West Point, where the sense of cause is so clear, so omnipresent. But
keep in mind, we originally uncovered the idea of Level 5 ambition using business corporations
as the data set. That’s where we found it. We were not looking for it. It came to us
from the data. This notion of the Level 5 ambition, ambition for a cause, ambition for
something that is not you, was pronounced in all our research studies of companies when
they were truly great in contrast to those infected with the disease of oppressive mediocrity
or in decline. That is why I’d like to challenge young
leaders in every walk of life as you’re heading out, as you’re one of those vectors, to do
what the greatest entrepreneurs and the builders, great builders, have always done: to infuse
your enterprise with some purpose that goes far beyond just making money. Money is like
blood and food and oxygen and water�essential for life. Without them there is no life. But
they are not the point of life. Commitment to service is not a sector choice; it is a
life choice. Or in the words of another great leader I’ve come to know, Frances Hesselbein,
who led the Girl Scouts back from good to great: To serve is to live. Question #2: Will you settle for being a good
leader or will you grow to become a great leader? Peter Drucker, one of my mentors,
the most significant management thinker of the last one hundred years, made the seminal
observation that the twentieth century would be characterized by a fundamental shift in
which the cellular structure of society, of free society, would be organizations well
managed, and that this was the best and only workable alternative to tyranny. And in that
he was profoundly right. I believe we might be on the cusp of a twenty-first-century shift
from a society of organizations well managed into a society composed of networks well led.
You don’t manage a network. And if that’s right, we are going to need great leadership
distributed throughout all sectors. One of my goals in the Chair for the Study
of Leadership at West Point was to try to get clear on a deceptively simple question:
what is leadership? We talk about it all the time, but what exactly is it? Of course, leadership
is not personality. We confuse leadership and personality all the time. It is not position.
It is not title. It is not rank. It is not power. I believe that James MacGregor Burns
had it essentially right when he said, True leadership only exists if people follow when
they would otherwise have the freedom to not follow. To invoke power or rank or position
or title as your primary means of getting things done is an abdication of leadership.
Some of the most effective military leaders whom I’ve come to know rely precious little
on rank or position. General Colin Powell, in whose book It Worked for Me, which I warmly
recommend to all of you, said, In my thirty-five years of service, I don’t ever recall telling
anyone that’s an order, preferring instead to command with what he called the most delicate
touch. And at West Point, building on that idea of
leading people from here to there, I came across a wonderful sentence from General Eisenhower
in which he said that leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must
be done. Notice those three parts. As a leader, #1, you have to know what must be done. I mean, part of the responsibility of being
a leader is to figure out what must be done on the big things, and much more often than
not, to be right. Two, it’s not about getting people to do what must be done; it’s about
getting them to want to do what must be done. And third, it’s not a science; it’s an
art. Each person has to cultivate his or her own artistry. It might be oratory. It might
be the pen. It might be a genius for figuring out who are the right six people to get in
a room and what is the one question to ask. It’s developing your own peculiar art form.
You learn from others, but you don’t copy them. Beethoven learned from Haydn but did
not copy Haydn. Now, speaking of Eisenhower, what was Dwight
Eisenhower doing in early 1936? He was a relatively undistinguished major working as an assistant
carrying MacArthur’s bags in the Philippines. Eight years later he was Supreme Commander
of Allied Forces and then President of the United States. He did not start out as Eisenhower
as we know today. He grew into being Eisenhower. Most great leaders in every sector that I’ve
had the privilege to touch most great leaders do not start as great leaders. They grow into
great leaders. The critical question is, will you do whatever it takes to scale your leadership
as the demands of your enterprise grows? As your quest, as your cause, as your enterprise
scales from 1X to 2X to 5X to 10X, will you scale your leadership from 1X to 2X to 5X
to 10X? Because if your BHAGs are big enough, you’re going to need to grow a lot. And that
brings me to Question #3: How can you reframe failure as
growth in pursuit of a BHAG? On May 15th, 2007, I sat on the side of El Capitan in Yosemite
Valley, rock climbing with a young man named Tommy Caldwell. Tommy is the greatest free
climber of all time in the environment of El Capitan. We started talking about BHAGs.
BHAG is a term that goes back to the book Built to Last, which I coauthored with my
dear mentor and friend Jerry Porras. It stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. And Tommy asked
me a question, Jim, this BHAG thing, this hairy thing, does a BHAG have to be achievable? Why do you ask? I have this idea for a climb. And looking out across the side of El Cap,
we could see the alabaster smooth wall called the Dawn Wall catching early morning light.
To get a feel for El Capitan, I’d like you to imagine standing at the base of the Empire
State Building. Then stack another one and then another half of one and look up and you
get the sense for the height. Now, make it a mile wide; you get a sense for the scale
of this thing. And it is vertical and overhanging. Tommy’s idea was to free climb the Dawn
Wall, the smoothest, most beautiful, spectacular, terrifying part of the wall. To free climb
means you do use ropes, but they’re there only as safety devices. You have to move up
every single part of the climb under your own power of fingers and toes and hands. Some
of the holds on the Dawn Wall are so small that it is easier to see them at night by
headlamp when you can get a little bit of contrast than in the glare of daylight, when
it makes it very hard to see the hold. Imagine that, holds so small you can’t see them
in sunlight so you need to see them at night by headlamp. These are small holds. And it’s
on a vertical wall and he’s going to free climb this. It would be the hardest big-wall
free climb in history. But I don’t know if I could do it, he thought to himself.
And he said out loud, It might have to wait for a future generation. I said, Well, Tommy, one thing I know is
if you know for certain that you will do the Dawn Wall, then it’s not a BHAG. Fast-forward five years to the summer of 2012.
I brought Tommy with me on one of my visits to West Point to engage in a leadership seminar
with the West Point rock-climbing team. Tommy had committed to the BHAG to free climb the
Dawn Wall, and by the time we were flying out to West Point together, he had accumulated
nothing other than an impressive record of failure on the Dawn Wall. He kept failing.
For four years, he’d been failing. He kept failing to stick the dyno move. Imagine taking
a pencil, right, and putting it up against the wall, and that’s your handhold. You
literally grab that and you throw yourself sideways seven feet, nothing touching, no
hands, no feet, like some sort of a tree monkey, seven feet sideways, one thousand feet above
the ground, and grab another little hold. And it’s not even the hardest part of the
pitch. {Laughter} I asked Tommy, I said, It’s been four
years. You just are failing and failing and failing. Why do you go back? You’re the
most accomplished free climber of your generation and now all you’re getting is failure. You don’t understand, Jim. I am not failing.
I’m growing. And that is the point of the climb. It is making me stronger. What is the
other side of the coin from success? It’s not failure; it’s growth. Then Tommy asked me, How are the cadets
on this, reframing failure as growth? That’s a great question. And when I asked
the cadets assembled in Eisenhower Hall, How many of you have failed at something here
at West Point? Well, four thousand hands went up. How many experienced some profound
sense of inadequacy? Four thousand hands went up. Let me see a show of hands in this
room. How many, some time in your life, have felt a profound sense of inadequacy relative
to what you faced? {Laughter} Yes. How can you reframe the entire experience
as you are not failing; you are growing? So, did Tommy ever succeed on the Dawn Wall?
Two thousand eight hundred and one days after that day in May when he asked whether a BHAG
has to be achievable, Tommy stood on the top, having succeeded on the Dawn Wall. But that’s
not the really impressive part of the story. There are thirty pitches on the climb. After
he had climbed the hardest middle pitches pitches 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 he
stood on a thing called Wino Tower. There are one thousand feet to go, and those of
us who knew Tommy knew that those last one thousand feet would not be hard for him, that
he could push to the top in one go, grab the glory, the hardest climb in history with the
whole world watching. And it’s January, cool enough to grab those
little holds, but that comes with a risk, which is that if you get a snowstorm, it could
wipe out the ascent because you get the snow on top, which then melts into ice sheets,
which then break off like windowpanes of guillotines that come slicing down at you. Horrifying.
So, every day that goes by is a risk that it could still come to an end. And there was
a problem. Tommy’s partner, Kevin Jorgeson, was stuck back down at pitch 15. You have
a choice. Do you push to the top, grab the summit, achieve the BHAG? Or do you do what
Tommy did? Tommy went back down, risked the extra day, stayed on the wall, and committed
himself to getting Kevin through the climb. And coached him and stayed with him and belayed
him through 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20; and they summited together as a team. {Applause} That brings me to Question #4. How can you
succeed by helping others succeed? Early in my time in the leadership chair at West Point,
I kept asking the cadets, What’s hard here? What’s difficult? They would talk
about the course load and the fact that they had to balance a difficult course load with
the physical demands and the military training; it’s a difficult environment and just managing
your time is difficult. But eventually I kept hearing this word, the IOCT. I’m like, Well,
what’s the IOCT? Sir, you don’t want to know what the
IOCT is. No, I really do. Sir, you don’t want to know. Tell me about the IOCT. It stands for indoor obstacle-course test.
It’s in Hayes Gym, and the way it works is that basically the clock goes off; and
you have to crawl under barriers and run across tires and leap over a pommel horse and grab
an eight-foot shelf and mantle up and fly sideways across these bars and jump through
a tire, cross a balance beam, somersault (which they call a combat roll) over a wall, across
monkey bars, hand over hand up a rope; then you grab a medicine ball and you sprint around
the track. It really hurts. But here’s the key. There’s a graduation
time. Three minutes thirty seconds for the men. If you do not make that time, you don’t
graduate. Slightly different time for the women. They don’t make their time, they
don’t graduate. Imagine going through four years of West Point clocking at 3:35 and not
graduating. So, I wanted to experience a little bit of the cadet’s experience, so I decided,
against all better judgment . . . {Laughter} that for my fifty-fifth birthday gift to myself
. . . {Laughter} I would train for and try to run the IOCT
in twenty-two-year-old-cadet graduation time. I do not recommend this for your fifty-fifth
birthday. {Laughter} And I remember being over there at Hayes Gym,
and I’d be working on the obstacles, and the cadets would come to help me, and I’d
be working on the shelf, and they’d come along and very kindly say, Sir, don’t
do it like that. Sir, you look like an old man. Well . . . {Laughter} I am an old man. So, one day I’m standing
there, and I took a break working on the IOCT, and I stood back and I noticed something interesting.
There were clumps of cadets helping other cadets. Now, you’ve got to remember, in
West Point everybody’s failing at something. There were some cadets for whom the IOCT was
the thing that could really get in their way. Their classmates were taking time out of their
busy lives to come and make sure that their friends got through the IOCT. If I could take
away one thing from that experience that I wish I could bottle and put into every organization,
it would be this idea that we succeed at our very best only when we help others succeed.
This idea that when you’re facing severe challenges or inadequacies or difficulty or risk or fear
that the response is, Let me help you. And to create this incredible idea, which
is you are never alone. I came away from my time at West Point thinking
about engaged cultures. And I drew this triangle�Tommy and I drew it on the airplane of inspired
motivations. If you could build this into your organization, these three points of this
triangle. On one point at the top is the idea of service. And on the bottom right is the
idea of success. And on the bottom left is the idea of growth, right? We’ve talked
about all three of those: service, success, and growth. But if you could build a culture
that has service to cause or purpose that you are willing to suffer for, that you are
willing to sacrifice for; and that has challenge or growth in the form of BHAGs that push people
and make them grow because they’re so hard; and has the idea of communal success built
into the culture, the idea “What can we do to reinforce the idea that we only succeed
by helping each other?” That is how I think we build meaning. For it is impossible,
in my view, to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And I believe it is
very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. And how do we create meaning?
Service, growth, communal success. Question #5: Have you found your Hedgehog,
your personal Hedgehog? In prior talks here at The Summit, I discussed the idea of an
organizational Hedgehog Concept. It’s the crux idea in Good to Great. It’s the idea
that by focusing on the intersection of three circles what you’re passionate about, what
you can be the best in the world at, and what drives your economic or your resource engine with
great discipline in the middle of those three circles, you eventually start to get momentum
in the flywheel that produces a breakthrough from good to great. But today I want to hit
on the idea of the personal Hedgehog. I’d like you to imagine living in the intersection
of three circles. Top circle, man, you are passionate about it and you love to do it.
When you wake up in the morning, you think to yourself, I so hope I get a long life
because there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than what I am doing. Second, now
the circle changes from best in the world to what you are encoded for, what you are
made for, what you are constructed for, what you were put here for. Now, this is very different
from what you might be good at. Let me illustrate the difference in my own experience. When I went off to college, I thought I was
going to be a mathematician because I was one of these kids who was good at math. So,
I majored in mathematical sciences. But along the way I met those who are genetically encoded
for math. {Laughter} I had to find a different Hedgehog. Now imagine
the third circle. You have an economic engine. You can make a living and you can fund your
BHAGs. Now imagine if you have all three of those. You’re passionate about it and love
to do it; and, man, you are constructed, you are made for it, you were put here to do it;
and you have an economic engine to make a living and fund your BHAGs. You have found
a Hedgehog. And when you lead out of your Hedgehog, that is part of the wellspring of
the incredible, irrational endurance to persist. I met a persistent Hedgehog in 1988. I was
just thirty years old, and I had the great privilege to begin teaching a course on entrepreneurship
at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. And I felt inadequate. I felt intimidated.
Many of my students were more experienced than I was, smarter than I was, and I knew
it. I figured I needed some help. So, I picked up the phone and out of the blue I called
Steve Jobs. And I said, Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m teaching this course on
entrepreneurship, and I really want it to be about how to turn a small business into
a great company, and I don’t really have any idea what I’m doing. Would you come
down and guest lecture with me and my students, and do a session? Steve, who was in my
experience always gracious, agreed. Partway into the session with my students,
he made this little quip, Well, I got booted out of my last company. Something we should
all probably experience at some point is getting fired. This was 1988. Just three years earlier
he had lost control of Apple in a bitter boardroom battle. And many people wrote him off. Some
people even laughed behind his back. Consider this: when there was a gathering of the five
hundred supposedly most important technology leaders in Silicon Valley, he didn’t get
an invitation. This is Steve Jobs. His new company NeXT wasn’t becoming the next big
thing. The wonderful stories of Pixar were off in the future. They were just getting
going. He was in the wilderness. And you would think he might show some bitterness,
some anger about that. I mean, I’m sure he was hurt. But he shows up. He bounced down
in the middle of the classroom, sits cross-legged right in front, and says, So, what do you
want to talk about? And we had this almost two-hour session on life and leadership and
creativity and technology and building companies. And he just exuded nothing except passion
and energy and intensity. This was a man in his Hedgehog. He had an unquenchable love
for his work, which is why no matter what anybody said, he got up every day and he went
to work every single day. And he had a passion for an idea, the idea that the most efficient
animal in the world is a man on a bicycle and computers are bicycles for the mind. And
he would ask, What would change the world more? We could make one computer one thousand
times more powerful; or we could make computers small, elegantly, beautifully accessible and
put them in the hands of one thousand creative people. He never lost passion for that idea.
And he was encoded for it. What if Steve Jobs had quit in 1985? What
if Wendy had quit when no one would fund Teach for America early on? What if Tommy had quit
at Year Four on the Dawn Wall? What if Winston Churchill had quit in 1932 when Lady Astor
quipped, Oh Churchill? He’s finished. Not quite. True creators stay in the game.
We cannot control, we cannot predict every hand we get dealt in life. That’s not entirely
up to us. Sometimes you’re going to get good hands and sometimes you’re going to get bad
hands. But if you believe that life comes down to a single hand, man, you can lose really
easily. But if you see life as a series of hands, and you refuse to leave the game, and
you play every hand you get, whether it’s a good hand or a bad hand, to the very best
of your ability, that adds up to a huge, compounding effect. Show of hands, how many of you somewhere along
the way have at some point in life been flat out decked? I mean laying on your back looking
up, decked. Yes. That’s when you have to stay in the game. It is a whole lot easier
to stay in the game, of course, and to get back up every time you’re decked, which
would give you a chance to grow and mature as Steve Jobs did from that young, immature
entrepreneur, the harsh, peculiar genius with a thousand helpers; but he stayed in the game
and he grew and he matured to become a mature company builder. But you have to be in your
Hedgehog. You love to do it. You’re made to do it. You’re called to do it. So, no
matter what hand you get, why would you stop? West Point professor Michael Hennelly shared
with me a remarkable vignette. When General George Catlett Marshall was about fifty-five
years old, he wrote a note to a mentor lamenting that he feared that he was fast becoming too
old to be of significant use, to have any future importance to the army and to his country.
But he was in his Hedgehog, that of being a leader who gets things done behind the scenes
without accepting a lot of credit. That was George Marshall. So, he stayed in the game.
And after that note, he became the first five-star general officer in the history of the United
States Army, chief of staff of the Army in World War II, a chief architect of the Allied
victory, later Secretary of State known for this little thing called the Marshall Plan,
and recipient of the Nobel Prize. If any of you are reaching your forties or your fifties
or your sixties or beyond, and wondering, Am I fast becoming too old to be of any
use? I would just like to simply suggest that real creative impact accelerates, if
you choose, after fifty. Male: Amen! {Laughter and applause} Jim Collins: Wonderful thing to do on a fiftieth
or sixtieth birthday is to simply say, Nice start! {Laughter} Question #6: Will you build your unit, your
minibus, into a pocket of greatness? One thing I gained greater appreciation for at West
Point is that great leadership at the top doesn’t amount to very much without exceptional
leadership at the unit level. This is the cellular structure. This is where great things
get done. When I look at how the good-to-great CEOs became CEO, they did it by not focusing
on their career. They focused on their unit of responsibility. At every stage of their career, whatever they
were running, whether it be a little accounting department or whether it be a manufacturing
facility, controllership, they built their unit into a pocket of greatness. That is why
they were tapped. Focus on your unit, not on your career. Every responsibility you get,
make it a pocket of greatness. If you do that, you are more likely to die of indigestion
from too much responsibility than starvation from too little. And focusing on your unit
means above all being a First Who leader rather than a First What leader. And that the #1
executive skill for building a pocket of greatness of any size is figuring out who should be
in the key seats on the bus, to be rigorous about your people decisions. And we’ve spoken
about this before, but it also means not being ruthless. Be rigorous, not ruthless. That
means taking care of your people. For in the end, life is people. One of our greatest living military leaders,
a four-star, told me a story of how early in his career after graduating from West Point,
he worried a lot about promotions and how, perhaps, he might not be advancing as fast
as he had hoped. Then he had an epiphany, and he changed his focus from taking care
of his career to taking care of his people. And at that point, he said, everything changed.
They would not let me fail. Life is people. A few decades ago, a young girl sat dejected
after a cross-country running meet where she ran on the boys team because, amazingly,
there was no girls team. And she had had a bad race. Her cross-country coach and physics
teacher, Roger Briggs, walked over and gave her a handwritten note, some words of encouragement
that ended with, Your time will come. That high school girl became my wife of now
thirty-five years. The thing I am most proud of in my life is my marriage. Joanne Ernst. {Applause} When we were going through her journals recently
for an award she was going to receive, I noticed this piece of paper; she still carries around
that handwritten note from four decades ago. If you ever wonder about the value of an expression
of support and kindness four decades. Her time did come. She went on to become world
champion, in fact, winning the Hawaii IRONMAN Triathlon World Championship in 1985. Despite
an epic battle with a running injury that limited her run training to just seventeen
miles a week, sixteen miles into the marathon with ten miles to go that caught up with her;
and with a ten-minute lead, she started losing a minute a mile. Do the math. {Laughter} With three miles to go, she had to literally
stop and pound on her quadriceps and plead, Let me run. And the race shifted to
a race in which she wanted to finish knowing she couldn’t have run a step faster. She
won a race lasting more than ten hours by a mere ninety-three seconds. And it did not
make her happy. {Laughter} It did not give her meaning because it was
just an individual achievement. I won the IRONMAN. In the great circle of life ten years after
that, we returned to our hometown of Boulder, Colorado, and she got a call from her former
high school cross-country coach and physics teacher, Roger Briggs, who said, We have
a need for a high school boys and girls cross-country and track coach. Would you take
the job? She returned to that school, threw herself
into the kids program, and built a dynasty with four state championships, boys and
girls, with no stars. She did it by building a culture in which the kids are not running
for themselves; they are running for each other. And when you are suffering at the end
of the race, you are not running for you. And she said, I have found something that
makes me happy and gives me meaning. Investing in the kids. Building a program. Showing them
what’s possible. Changing their lives. The greatest leaders and people I have known
and studied, they find a way to make a contribution, have a distinctive impact on people on real-live
flesh-and-blood people. And so, I close with the seventh question, THE question How
will you change the lives of others? It might be a lot of people or just a few, but
how will some people’s lives be better and different because you were here on this earth?
Life is people. And I hope you take advantage to be useful. I end where I began. I am grateful. It has
been my tremendous privilege to be back here at The Summit, to be here with all of you
to share a little of what I have learned. Thank you very much. {Applause}

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