For the love of health & wellness: Episode 05

It’s Okay to Be a Late Bloomer: Forbes Magazine’s Rich Karlgaard

In our fifth and final installment of For the Love of Health & Wellness, we’re exploring the wide world of career health, a huge part of many of our lives that affects us mind, body, and soul. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives, and if you work full-time, you know how much of your day seems to be dedicated to making a living. But what happens when you’re ready for the next step . . . and you don’t know what it is? Whether you’re a young person trying to break into a career or you’re wanting to start fresh later in life, what if it feels like the opportunities you expected aren’t presenting themselves? Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes Magazine, helps us embrace the notion that it’s never too late for us. While Rich landed a job that he loves, he didn’t always have a clear idea of his path. Years after he graduated from college, he wandered from job to entry-level job, seeking a spark from something (like so many of us). Rich has written a fascinating book called Late Bloomers, and he and Jen muse on why our world is so obsessed with early achievement, how that’s hurting adults and kids alike, and the benefits of “peaking” at a higher age. It’s never too late to start the business, write the book, go after the dream. In fact, the wisdom we might gain through hard-won experience could be just the thing that helps us succeed.

Transcript from the show

Narrator:  Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen:   Hey, guys. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show. 

Oh man, your brain's about to just buzz and sizzle. Right now we're in a series called For the Love of Health and Wellness, and it's been just good for me. I don't know how else to say it, just healthy and holistic and nurturing and nourishing, and all the things you would want out of health and wellness. None of the damaging messaging, and only that which is good for our minds and souls and bodies.

Today's guest, you guys. He's actually in the realm of health. Not a vein of it you would immediately think about, but that has an extraordinary impact on our lives in every single way. And so today, we're talking a little bit about career health. This is not small. This is a very big deal. I can't tell you how much we actually discuss mental and emotional health today. This is a lot of internal work.

Career health is so vital. I mean, for those of us who work, we spend more time in our jobs than with our families, right? So, maintaining a really healthy, not just life and outlook, but expectation and trajectory, is really vital to how well we are doing—or not.

Listen to this. So today, my guest is Rich Karlgaard. If his name is not automatically familiar to you, I will tell you that Rich is the publisher of Forbes Magazine. Maybe you've heard of it? It's doing okay. I believe that Forbes is going to make it.

So not only is he a really gifted communicator, which you'll see, he's obviously known for the way he breaks down business trends. He's very witty and honest, and he's all over the place. He's on TV, he writes in the Wall Street Journal. I mean, he's a super successful entrepreneur. So he actually very deeply understand health here.

But here's why I'm so excited to talk to him today. This is such a vibrant conversation. Rich just wrote a book called Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed With Early Achievement.

Okay, so this is the book we need right now in our crazy culture. I told him at one point in this interview, I about nodded my head off.  I mean, I love that the president of Forbes, whose literal job is to scout out who is doing big things in the world, is putting us in time-out with actually years of research backing this book, telling us why we are not failures because we didn't invent a startup and make a billion dollars before we turned 30.

Not only this, wait till you hear how he talks about our kids. Even if you struggle to really figure out how career and health and trajectory affects your life as much—it totally does for me, I mean, he was zinging me the entire time—this is so important for us as parents. A great deal of his work is centered on our kids' generation, how burned out, exhausted, tired, and depressed they are, more so than any generation before them with the heavy set of expectations put on their shoulders. We really, really dig this out today.

I took copious notes while we were talking, so his thoughts on this are very practical. They are down to earth. And so this is going to encourage you. And at one point, he's like, "Look, we get better with time, not worse. We are more of an asset the older we get, not less."

And so, he's really turning a lot of these ideas on their head, and he has a lot to talk to us about parents, and how to raise kids who are not crushed with this invented pressure that their generation now has to shoulder, but rather to kind of set them free into their glorious and beautiful young lives.

You're going to love this conversation. It hit me from a dozen different points. I'm really grateful for the emotional and mental and social and spiritual health tips that I just learned in the last hour.

So please enjoy this really vibrant conversation with the smart and interesting Rich Karlgaard.

I am just thrilled, Rich, to have you on the podcast. Like, really honored that you would join us, really honored that you would speak into my listening community. Thanks for being here this morning.

Rich: The honor is entirely mine, Jen.

I mean, you're a deal, you know? You're a big deal. And so I just mentioned to you kind of offline before we hopped on the recording that your area of expertise applies to not just me, but a ton of my listeners. And as we sort of think about health and wellness inside of our careers, we don't have enough people teaching us. We don't have enough speakers in our life.

Generally as women—I don't know how you find this for men. I'd love to hear your opinion. But it seems like a lot of language and messaging aimed at women in general, regardless of our career credentials, tends to be more about how we look, what we weigh, and what it means to maybe be a mother or a wife. And so I find less robust instruction on career health. I mean, obviously men have a different scorecard, don't you think?

Rich: Yeah, possibly that's true.

So I'm not a trained psychologist. I'm not a neuroscientist. But I sure as heck spent four years interviewing the best people that I could find and coming up with the best, most inspiring stories to address not only the problem, how we got into this mess of putting an insane level of pressure on our kids and young adults, and mothers coming back into the workforce feeling crummy about the way that the workforce looks at them. I've really become kind of evangelical about what I've learned.

As I shared in my book, at age 25 I was a mess. I couldn't hold an adult's responsible kind of a job, and we might go back on that so I can explain just how low I sank-

Jen: Oh yeah, we're going to hit on that for sure.

Rich: But what really catalyzed me, in fact what radicalized me, was in 2014 and 2015 school year, in and around Palo Alto where I live, that there were six high school student suicides. And when you looked at the kids who had killed themselves, they were all B+/A- students who felt inferior because there were students doing better. And I thought, This has to be confronted. We have to look at what is causing this mania for early achievement.

And so that began four years of research, and it really changed my own life and the way that I look at the world and the way I want to spend the rest of my career. Because I've had a great career at Forbes. I'm still at Forbes, where I've spent 30 years writing about the intersection of technology, businesses, and economics. And something pulled me outside of that triangle to write about this.

Jen: Okay, I cannot wait to sort of pick all those threads apart and have a good look at them. But I wonder if first, would you just indulge me, and walk us a little bit through your march to Forbes. Because you kind of mentioned this: you actually had quite a few jobs along the way, which honestly seems kind of like the normal way people find their way into careers. There's nothing wild or crazy about that, although we don't talk about that as much these days, as you mentioned.

And so for you, as you kind of explored your way to the top, more or less, what did you learn about yourself and the kinds of work you enjoyed? Like how would you assess that sort of path to where you are now?

Rich: Well sure. I was born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota. I went to my local junior college. That tells you right away that I was not a superstar in sports or academics or anything else.

By a series of factors—flukes, I would call them—I got into Stanford after junior college. I didn't deserve to get in, but I will say that Stanford back in the day, and we're talking about the 1970s, was a much easier institution to get into than today.

Anyway, I got in. And rather taking advantage of that supremely lucky break, I continued to struggle. I took the easiest classes that I could find, and I still barely graduated with a minimum number of units.

So at age 25, when my college roommates were in law school, one was getting an advanced degree in chemical engineering—he would work on the space shuttle program. Another one was getting his Doctorate of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary—he would become a clinical psychologist. I was capable of holding a job no greater than dishwasher, temp typist, and security guard.

And I remember when it really hit home that I hadn't bloomed at all, and I had in fact squandered everything, I felt utter shame about this. I had a graveyard shift at a trucking firm, and I was making my security guard rounds, and I heard a dog barking. I swung my flashlight around and looked across the fence, and there was a rottweiler looking at me and I was looking at him. And it suddenly occurred to me at age 25, my professional colleague was a dog.

And to rub it in, months later, Steve Jobs, also 25, would take Apple public.

Jen: Sure, yeah.

Rich: Now, that used to be more common, Jen, as you pointed out. It used to be more common and acceptable that people had slow starts. There was no social media where kids could compare the way they feel on the inside about themselves with the curated outsides of the other kids. There was no permanent record of every mistake that you had ever made, which now lives forever on social media.

And then we've got this insane conveyor belt, as I call it, where we think that the whole object of a teen's life is to get into the most elite university they can. And you back that up and there's just this extraordinary pressure on kids to test well, to get 4.3's and advanced placement courses because God forbid, a 3.8's not going to do it. And then to engage in extracurriculars, not because you love the sport or the activity, but because it will look good on your college applications.

Jen: It's all real.

This has contributed mightily to these rising rates of anxiety, depression, and tragically even suicide, that we see today. So, it's not having the outcome that educators and worried parents thought it would. It's causing more harm than it is doing good.

Jen: I'm curious what you discovered in your research. Can you point to either a time or a season or some factor—when did we start normalizing the narrative that our kids needed to achieve early and achieve big? I mean, when did this start switching forward? Because the truth is, not only is this the way that we are absolutely pushing our kids, it's what they're hearing from universities. They are saying, "These are the credentials we're requiring from you."

And so, what do you think? Why did that shift happen, and when did that shift happen?

Yeah, there's a college admissions counselor in the LA suburbs who is telling parents, and I can't believe this, it breaks my heart. He's telling parents to tell their kids that they shouldn't expect to see daylight for two years. Can you imagine that?

Jen: Oh my gosh. No. No!

Rich: I think that's borderline criminal, and maybe not so borderline.

I kind of attribute it to the way the economy has been evolving over the last 20 or 25 years, exacerbated by the 2008/2009 financial calamity and subsequent recovery, which until now was pretty slow. And all of that meeting with the largest population bulge that has hit our country, the millennials.

So you've got all of these terrified millennials, and all of these terrified parents thinking, Well, if the economy is now rewarding two industries over and above everything else, what are they? They're technology, a certain kind of technology, internet technology, web technology, software, and high end financial services, like investment banks, hedge funds, venture capital firms. And you step back and you look at, well what do these high paying industries recruit for? Well, they recruit for people who got near perfect SAT scores, and at least got into an elite college even if they . . .  because they were more entrepreneurial in nature, later dropped out.
And so we've created this SAT/GPA oligarchy that has replaced what used to be a healthy kind of meritocracy.

Jen: That's good.

Rich: And as I point out in the book, you can't put the finger on any one person or institution. It's a conspiracy that we've all created, but it's time to say we've so overshot on this that we've got to call time out.

Imagine you're raising a son or a daughter, and that son or daughter has the gift of being the world's greatest carpenter, but they've never been exposed to it because nobody in the family's ever been a carpenter. And everything about the conveyor belt, none of it would reveal that kid's strengths. All it would reveal is probably that kid doesn't test well. Maybe he has what we wrongly call ADHD today, simply because he doesn't like to sit still. He looks out the window. All of these things.

And so, rather than this kid being measured and encouraged for this strengths, he gets this idea that he's some kind of a second-rate citizen compared to the people who are getting the great test scores and the great grades and university admissions.

Jen: It's so frustrating. As I'm listening to you talk, and I'm sitting here at my desk, and my head is just nodding and nodding.

I have one of those kids. I have five kids, if you can imagine such a thing, and I've got one of those. And his strengths are just different. He's got a different kind of mind, he thinks differently.

I'm wondering, I don't know if your research took you this far, but is there any other culture on the planet telling us the opposite story right now? Or has western capitalism drowned it all out?

Rich: Well, I'm all for western capitalism, but I'm also all for recognizing when capitalism or the free market is overshot in one direction. And if you look at the university system over the last century, you see that the rise of the IQ test and then the SAT test, which is really a longer, more practical implementation of the early IQ test, they did a great job, actually, of breaking open the university system to people of merit rather than people who were born into wealth and had the connections. So that was good.

It only became bad when it so overshot and people started gaming the system, and you had middle-class families feeling like they were pressured to spend tens of thousands of dollars on SAT tutors and all the rest. And kids who are essentially being asked to trade their natural God-given curiosity for a determined focus. That's what we really need to question. And I think it's really picked up speed, and it's rippled in so many countless ways throughout society.

Carol Dweck wrote a great book called Mindset, perhaps you've talked to her. If you haven't, you should. Wonderful book about why we should cultivate a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset where we believe that whatever we are now will forever be fixed, for good or bad.

And she said the kids that she sees at Stanford today, and unlike when I got in on a fluke back in the 70s, you really have to buckle down to get in today.

Jen: Sure.

Rich: They take only 3% of the people that apply, and it's basically the SAT superstars and the 4.0 plus Advanced Placement courses people. And Carol Dweck said, The freshmen I see today are exhausted and brittle, and they don't want to mar their perfect records." Well, what kind of an end product is that?

So it needs to be questioned. And parents, yeah, you put it perfectly. Parents have been tricked into this. They've been talked away against their instincts. We have two kids that are adopted, but you know, you have five kids that are all . . .  they're all different, but they're all divine creations.

Jen: That's right.

Rich: They were given gifts, and what a shame that our contemporary culture tends to bury the gifts of the many while it only discovers the gifts of the few.

Jen: I really appreciate your work here, and I'm curious if it's catching flight with other important innovators and with the people who make the rules. I mean, I know this is a huge question and I'm jumping ahead, but what's the hope here? I mean, this is a really big ship to turn. Really, really big ship.

What's your prediction, or what do you see as the path forward to sort of stop having the tail wag the dog and maybe get a little bit more in feasible control of this out-of-control machine?

Rich: I think there are a lot of good practices around the world that we might think about trying, at least on a local level, to see if they work. And then there are some interesting developments in the United States among major employers that I want to bring out that's very positive and life affirming.

Some of the interesting examples around the world is that Finland doesn't expose kids to reading, writing, and arithmetic until they're seven years old.

Jen: I read that.

Rich: Under the belief that kids should be kids, that they're these naturally curious discoverers, and what a mistake to label those who can't sit still as suffering from ADHD and then give them Ritalin. Ninety-five percent of the Ritalin prescriptions in the whole world are given to U.S. kids. How are we biologically different?

Jen: Great point.

Rich: I've become a strong believer that we need a revival of skilled trades in public schools. Only one out of 20 public schools has a skilled trades track today. And skilled trades, as Mike Rowe and others have pointed out, can be really, really good paths.

I'm a big believer in gap years, to take a gap year. If you're going to go to college, take a gap year between graduating from high school and entering college. Take two years.

I'm not a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, but I'm a big admirer of the two year Mormon missions that students go on from—

Jen: 18-20.

Rich: Generally after their sophomore year before their junior year. Brigham Young and other places like that are graduating seniors at age 24, and ones that have been out in the world doing something that isn't all that fun, maybe, and they might have to suffer for it, but they learn along the way.

And then I think we should open up the discussion for mandatory military service. Or if you don't like military, there should be an alternative in civilian's service. Because countries that have it like Israel, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden and others, they have better outcomes for their young adults. Less likely to develop alcoholism, drug addiction, less likelihood to go out and commit crime.

So there are many ways where we can take the human being as they are constructed, and deal with that wonderful potential, and develop that wonderful potential in ways that are not just treating kids like a robot on a conveyor belt.

Jen: That is so interesting. And it is interesting to look at the rest of the world, and just look at the data. I mean, ideology aside, we can simply look at outcomes and get a pretty clear idea of the two very trajectories, the one that we're on and the one that some of the rest of the world is on.
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Okay, back to our show.
Jen: I'm curious a little bit closer in, I mean, as you really funneled into the idea of blooming later, did you find any scientific difference between an early achiever's brain or a late bloomer's? Is this a personality thing? Did you discover any reason at all why it appears some people are just born with a kind of very high ambition and drive, and some others take their time and wander a little bit more?

Rich: Well, that's a great question and it's a deep question, and it gets you into the eternal debate about nature versus nurture, and that nature versus nurture dichotomy gets played out, and the psychologists and neuroscientists don't always agree. Even if they agree on the right answer, they're in a turf war that they fight that it's not enough to have the right answer, which we all want, and good suggestions, and it's how you got there.

So, I've spent four years doing this, because I wanted to make everything in Late Bloomers academically and scientifically defensible. I didn't just want it to be my own opinions.

Now, picking some of the stories I did, and you can find my opinion in there. I mean, you can find my opinion in the early part of the book very outraged that we've created this conveyor belt system. You find my opinion coming out in the middle chapters about a growing sense of hope that neuroscience, under the emerging neuroscience, like the great study that led by Laura Germine at Harvard, published in 2015 along with MIT and Mass General Hospital, that asks a simple question. At what age do we cognitively peak?

And it yields a very complex, and I think exceedingly hopeful answer. And that is, well it depends what kind of cognitive abilities you're talking about.

Jen: Great point.

Rich: If it's the ability to have a rapid synaptic processing speed and working memory, all the things that make you really good at sitting down and taking a three-hour standardized test, or all the things that make you really good at doing software programming under time pressure, yeah, those peak in their 20s.

Then when we get into our 30s, 40s, and 50s, a whole range of neurological capabilities from deeper pattern recognition, empathy and compassion, communication skills really begin to kick in. And then when we get into our 50s, 60s, and 70s, that which we call wisdom really begins to kick in.

And I found this amazing maverick neuropsychologist at NYU, Elkhonon Goldberg, who even thinks there's a neurological explanation for wisdom, which he basically boils down to these neural pathways between the left and right hemispheres of the brain that continue to grow and grow and grow throughout our lives, as long as we take care of our physical health, and as long as we commit to staying engaged learners.

Jen: Yeah. I mean, our experience confirms what you are saying. I'm in my 40s, and I see those sort of skills and gifts developing sort of in a continuous arc forward positively, and there's room for that. There's space for that. And those are assets, you know?

Rich: Oh, they're huge.

Jen: Yeah, huge assets as we look at our careers and our paths and decisions that we put into play later in life. That is a sincere, sincere advantage, right?

Rich: It's a huge advantage. I think it particularly applies to mothers.

Let's just use a common example that a mother exits the workforce in her mid or late 20s, has and raises children, is the primary caregiver of the children, and then comes back, let's say, five, 10, 15, 20 years later back into the workforce.

And think about that mom. Think about the evolution of her brain toward all of these executive functioning skills that only began to kick in in her 30s, 40s, and 50s. Think about all the real-world experience. Who's a better negotiator, you know, of hostile parties than a mother?

Jen: Totally.

Rich: Who's a better manager? Who's a better multi-processor? All of those things.

And we've got to start a revolution here so that employers are acknowledging that. And yeah, they'll mouth the right words, they'll say all the right pieties about that, but in fact that mother is coming back into the workforce, is competing against people, men and women who don't have that "hole in their resume," and therefore disadvantaged. So, corporations can say all they want, but they're not living up their virtuous talk.

So, we need a revolution there, and there are some wonderful revolutionaries out there, like Carol Fishman Cohen, who was an investment banker, stopped out, had four kids, got into the workforce later. She was an early blooming superstar, and when she came back in, she had a hard time convincing anybody that she had any worth at all. And over time, she felt what she called a shattering loss of confidence.

So what she did, she said, "There must be other parents and mothers who are in the same boat." She started a company in Cambridge, Massachusetts called iReLaunch. And it's kind of part support group, part skills training, part counseling, because it's important to realize the person you were when you left the workforce, let's say in your 20s, to have and raise children, and the person you are now in your 40s coming back in, are different people. Your cognitive profile has evolved. So one of the things is don't go back and try to be the person you were. Aim for the person you're becoming. So they have a lot of counseling around that.

This movement is catching on. In Silicon Valley, Beth Kawasaki and some other people are doing the same thing. So, I think this is a wonderful response.

And then employers.

Jen: Exactly.

Rich: I think that we've got to start a revolution among employers that gets both at the kids who are not superstars, according to the SAT and according to grades, and parents returning to the workforce that don't sideline these people. These people are enormously valuable. And you may talk the right language here, but you set up these HR screens so they can't even get past the screen to get an interview because they've got, in the case of returning parent, they've got a "hole in their resume." Or in the case of the young kid who is not the superstar who may blossom into a superstar, at a moment in time when they were measured and fitted for all this, they didn't . . .  the fitting system didn't catch those kids at their best.

Jen: I wish everybody in the world could hear you talk about this. I think your work is obviously one cog in the wheel of forward progress. And then there's just all this incredible data, and I love that you're putting it out into the world to say, "Look at all these examples. I mean, look at this behavioral science example and look at this cognitive example, and then look at these real-life examples." They're very, very compelling.

I'm curious if you've found in your research, was there any particular pattern for late bloomers that they tend to follow as they kind of march toward success later in life rather than earlier?

Rich: Yeah, I'll give you the example of two women that I hugely admire.

One is, this is a woman that I would elevate into sainthood. Her name is Jeannie Courtney, and at age 50 she started a therapeutic boarding school for at-risk teenage girls. And the reason I know Jeannie Courtney well and my life knows her well is that we sent our daughter to Jeannie's school, because our daughter was just overwhelmed with anger and was causing disruption in school and at home.

And Jeannie started Spring Ridge Academy at age 50. What was her background? Was she an early blooming academic superstar? No. She was an eighth-grade teacher, and picked up a lot of practical knowledge. Then she and her husband ran a video store for several years. Then when her aging father started losing it a little bit, she helped him manage a few of his rental properties.

So, think about this. She was working with eighth graders. She was learning how to keep a business alive at a video rental store, and then how to negotiate on the property stuff. And it all came together at age 50, and she started Spring Ridge Academy.

And by the way, she was a voracious reader of books. Just anything. Still is. Anything that could help her.

You can imagine without a formal background, either educationally or in terms of her career, it might have been a little difficult, but she found somebody who really believed in her cause, and she put everything she had on the line and started it and created what many regard as a world-class therapeutic boarding school for troubled teenage girls. Jeannie is a late bloomer in every sense.

Now, another one is from Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley of course is ground central for lionizing the early achievers like Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, etc., etc. It has a downside. I believe that the Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, who was a supreme early achiever, learned Mandarin when she was in grade school, got all these kind of scholarships, etc., etc. I believe she got trapped by her early blooming image of self. And when things began to go sideways at Theranos, the technology didn't work, rather than calling time out and telling everybody, “Let's get this right,” she doubled down and now it's sort of a big crash and burn.

But Dianne Green. This is really kind of says something about the media, you know, that the media will elevate an Elizabeth Holmes because she was young and good looking and dynamic and all of that, and many people haven't heard of Dianne Green.

Well, Dianne Green was the co-founder of VMware back in the 90s. It has a market value today of about $55 billion. And then until January was the CEO of Google Cloud at age 64.

Now, Dianne Green, Dianne Green as a little girl grew up on the Maryland shore, loved to catch fish, learned how to sail a dinghy. She created some little sailing competitions for the tiniest sailboats.

She went off and worked at Coleman Camper for a while. Then she had I think a civil engineering degree or something like that. She worked in the offshore oil business for a while, mixing it up with the rough men.

And then at age 33, as she likes to say, "I felt it was time to grow up." She went back and got advanced degrees in computer science. Then at age 43 co-founded VMware, and led it to glory.

Interestingly again, some of the burdens that women face that men don't, the board eventually replaced her as CEO because she wasn't out there enough. She wasn't one of these dynamic spokespeople. She never sought out to do that.

By the way, she created a culture at VMware where she herself as CEO went home at 6:00 every night. And when she was in town, made sure she was there for dinner with her family.

Jen: Oh, I love that.

Rich: And gave permission to everybody in the organization to do that.

I mean, VMware is a great, great company today. She set it on the right moral and ethical as well as business path.

So, I think it's the Diane Greens that we need to hold up as the great examples in Silicon Valley. And because she's quiet and unassuming, as brilliant and accomplished as she is with all those pos- 40 accomplishments of her, she doesn't fit the profile of what the media likes when they look at women entrepreneurs. They like them young, model looking like.

Jen: Of course.

Rich: And the message that sends is really terrible.

Jen: It sure is. And I find that so encouraging. And I'm loving that for my listeners who are women, either going back to work, or in a lot of cases, changing work. They're 15 years in to one space, and really like chasing down a different kind of a dream or a different sort of industry. And those stories are incredibly encouraging for us to hear.

Rich: But there are some other things. I knew, intuitively felt that late bloomers probably have bigger issues around self-doubt. And I can't prove this scientifically, but my wife said, and women have more issues around self-doubt. Either that, or men just simply are unwilling to talk about their self-doubt, which may be the case.

So, I did a whole chapter on self-doubt, and how to use it rather than to run away from it, or rather than to confront it with this false throw your shoulders back, puff up your chest, fake it till you make it attitude, which might be able to get you through a pinch, I acknowledge that, but as a long-term strategy, you can't do that.

So what you have to do is the very first thing you have to do is build an impenetrable wall between your self-worth and your self-doubt, that you are a worthy person.

I think, again, now I'm more in the realm of opinion, not fact. But my opinion is is that if you have a belief in a divine destiny, you believe in God or a higher power or something along those lines, then maybe it's easier to have an unshakeable belief that you have inherent self-worth. If you're a divine creation, then you have inherent self-worth.

So just wall it off from self-doubt. Now you can begin to look at self-doubt more clinically. You can say, okay, it's like a cloud that just passed between you and the sun. You didn't welcome it. It always shows up at the worst possible time, right before you're doing a job interview or right before you're giving a speech. It always shows up at the worst possible time, but it's telling you something. And that's the key lesson here.

And again I go back to Carol Dweck, the great author of Mindset and the psychology professor at Stanford. When I interviewed her, she said, "Learn to look at self-doubt like an annoying friend that always shows up at the worst time."

Jen: That's good.

Rich: "But has something valuable to say. It's just that they're really . . .  you don't like seeing them even, you know? You don't like their whiny voice, you don't like whatever it is."

But in there is a message, and if you can separate out the message that self-doubt is bringing you, without it affecting your self-worth, and you can step back and begin to look at it clinically, as you might if you yourself were a psychologist or a coach, looking at you from a distance, you would say, "Well maybe that self-doubt is bringing me valuable information. Maybe the reason I'm nervous about this speech is that I didn't quite get who would be in the audience, and so I've concocted a speech that I'm going to have to adapt more to the needs of the audience that I have, rather than the audience that I thought I would have."

Or you just go, “Maybe the reason I'm feeling self-doubt about this job interview is that I know in my deep soul that this would be a bad fit.”

Jen: Wow.

Rich: See, this is information you can work with. And then there are all kinds of stuff validated by the best psychology and clinical practice out there about steps you can take along the way.

So I think we all need to look at self-doubt as a friend. To deny it exists is simply to live in denial, and then you fall into this popular culture trap that you just throw your shoulders back, puff up your chest, chutzpah, you know, all of that. It's not something you can work with for the long term and grow.

But neither can you let it infect your self-worth, because now you're in a heap of trouble. Then that leads to fatalism and depression and places where you don't want to go.

Jen: I really appreciate everything you just said. I have a scenario right this minute on my plate where I am wallowing a teeny bit in self-doubt. And even just hearing you say, “What can you learn from it?” I flipped a little switch in my head listening to you talk and thought, Oh wait, I see something in there that is a real message to pay attention to. That is incredibly useful, just that sense of mindfulness.
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Jen:  When it comes to our kids, you know, I'm 44. So I have a developed brain. I have the capacity to build that wall. It's hard. It's still a challenge, but I can build that wall. I can have a sense of sort of clinical mindfulness about my work world, my career world, all the competing voices and forces.

When it comes to our kids, I've got a 21-year-old, I have an 18-year-old, I have a 16-year-old,  they're just so undeveloped, you know? They're so young. They're either still in adolescence or freshly out of it.

And so what really pragmatic, like down and gritty advice would you give parents listening to how we can aid our kids in this? How do we give them permission to fail and try again? How do we point them toward remembering when they're feeling overwhelmed or disappointed in themselves what's real and what's true and what's possible?

You know, they don't have the life experience we have. They don't have the maturity we have. How would you counsel us parents trying to break this cycle?

Rich: Yeah. Well I think the first thing you have to do and always should do, and I know we all try to do this, but we don't always do it perfectly, is that we have to show, in everything we do, unconditional love for our children. Because if they perceive that our love is conditional on their accomplishments, then you've just created a porous wall between their self-doubt and their self-worth.

Jen: That's right. That's good.

Rich: And that's not where you want to go.

One of the phenomenons that happened to me as I was researching and writing Late Bloomers is that I had to confront my own guilt and shame over the messages that I may have given to our children.

They weren't academic superstars. I tried not to push them and say that they had to be that, but in many ways, I might. It might have been just being overly enthusiastic about a conversation we're having with a friend and their kid just got into Princeton or something.

Our boy struggled with weight. And I was a long distance runner in college, and I was, if anything, too skinny. And I'm still on the thin side. So I'm sure that I said things, not directly to him because I never would, that might have indicated to him that my love for him was conditional on him paying attention to fitness and what he eats.

So I think no parent is perfect and we have to work through that, but unconditional love is really important.

And then just as we deal with our own self-doubt, it's a useful tool to step back and look at it clinically. In fact, there are studies that psychologists have validated that . . .  a couple of ideas here that are really important. One is to help you get that clinical distance, when you're thinking about yourself, don't refer to yourself in the first person, as in, I am feeling panicked about this talk. You're telling yourself. You step back and you say, "Why is Jen feeling panicked about this talk?"

So you step back, referring to yourself in the third person, and then this idea of reframing that . . .  “Why is Jen so excited about this talk?” Because your body perceives panic and excitement kind of in the same way.

So when we look at our kids, I think we have to step back into if a perfect coach existed for these kids, what would this perfect coach say? A perfect coach who starts out from the point of view of unconditional love, but nevertheless is there to be a perfect coach—not the parent with baggage, not the parent with prior histories of uncomfortable conversations with the child, not the parent who's feeling guilty about not showing unconditional love and now is overreacting and trying to let the kid off the hook and excusing them all the time.

What would, if you, if you suddenly became the best coach of your kids that ever existed, starting from a point of unconditional love, what would you say to that child? You wouldn't let them off the hook, you know? You would coach them into a greater sense of their selves. So, there are a lot of practical techniques like that that can be very valuable.

But I would say for parents, first of all forgive yourself for anything that you didn't do perfectly. It's a new day. Unconditionally love your child forever . . .  starting now and forever. And then just imagine what that unconditional, loving, good coach would be.

Another thing I believe is really important is for all of us, whether we're dealing with our own frustrations about not blooming in middle age or not blooming again, you know, 'cause you can bloom many times, or we're worried about our children, is to get into peer groups. Peer groups are wonderfully powerful because the great thing about a peer group, whether it's a church group or any other kind of a peer group, where you're in and amongst people who are going through the same walk that you are, is that you don't have prior baggage. You're in the same boat. You can confess what's troubling you at this point. But you're there also to help the other people in the peer group.

That's of enormous, enormous advantage, whether you're talking about yourself or you're talking about your children.

Jen: That's such great advice, all of it. I love the imagery of a coach. That just instantly brings clarity to the fog, and kind of lays some paver stones like through that season of their lives.

Let me ask you this question, and I think I probably know the answer, but I'd like to hear what you say. Do you think there is an optimal time to peak, as you say in your book, or is that even something we can answer?

Rich: I would go back to Laura Germine's breakthrough 2015 study. She's the neuroscientist at Harvard that did the study with MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital. I would say it's just very encouraging that we can peak at multiple times.

Jen: Yes.

Rich: There's no reason. The danger of the early bloomer is that they develop [a] fixed mindset that Carol Dweck talks about. In fact, in Carol Dweck's book, she talks about the tennis player John McEnroe who was an early bloomer. He won the NCAA singles in tennis as a freshman, then he dropped out of college and became a pro. And I mean, he was a prodigy in his teens and early 20s, but he developed this image around himself that he was the king of the jungle in tennis for his generation.

And then starting in his mid-20s and late 20s, there were later blooming stars in his age set who began to beat him. And rather than commit himself to doubling down on coaching or fitness or whatever it was, he got trapped in his fixed mindset and took out his frustrations with officials.

And so today, he is just as well known for yelling at line judges at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in front of everybody in the world as he was for a quite impressive tennis career. He now knows that. He was asked in an interview a couple years ago whether he regards himself as one of the top 10 tennis players of all time, and he said—I'm paraphrasing him, this isn't an exact quote—he said, “I could have been.”

Jen: Wow. Yeah. There's not a more hopeful message that you can bloom at any age. That's so exciting. And it's wonderful as grown adults. It's wonderful as parents. Because you're right, it is so impossibly easy to buy into the notion of early-blooming young adults, that that's the right path or the best path or the only path, when in fact it's just simply not true and it's not even healthy.

And so all of this would just create such a healthier culture. I just want everybody to listen to the drum that you are banging. And I took a bunch of notes while you were talking, because you know, just like anybody, I battle some of these same bad messages in my own life, even inside my own family.
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Okay, you guys, back to our show.
I wonder, Rich, if I can ask you just three quick questions. We are asking all of our guests in the Health and Wellness series these questions. So just kind of top of your head, whatever comes to mind.

Rich: Sure.

Jen: Here's the first one. What's one either small or simple thing that you do every day to take care of yourself?

Rich: I no longer eat snacks. I don't eat in between meals, and we don't eat dessert except on special occasions. So I try to keep my calorie intake reasonable without getting obsessed about it, just with simple things like that.

Jen: Do you feel better?

Rich: Oh yeah. Yeah.

Jen: Oh yeah, I bet.

Rich: Yeah, yeah. I'm glad to say I'm not at my peak weight, but I don't get on the scale every day or think about . . .  I don't get into the weeds. Simply by not eating snacks, by not having potato chips and things like that around the house has been a real benefit.

Jen: That's a great lever to pull.

How about this? And you've listed so many amazing leaders and thinkers and clinicians. By the way, listeners, as always, we will have all of this linked over on the transcript page, everybody that Rich mentioned we will have a link to.

But if you had one teacher, maybe that you have really learned from, that has impacted your either physical or mental or spiritual or emotional health in any way that you would recommend to us, who's somebody that you would reach for?

Rich: Well, he's no longer with us, but I think about him all the time. And he was the great football coach Bill Walsh.

Jen: Sure.

Rich: He led the 49ers from the bottom of the league in the NFL in the late 70s to three Super Bowls in a short period of time. And then he left the franchise in the condition to win three more. And I used to spend quite a lot of time with him interviewing him for a column that he wrote for me, and I learned so much from him.

Now, he was a late bloomer. He didn't get his head coaching job of significance of any kind until he was 46 at Stanford University, and then not the 49ers until a couple years after that. But he was always experimenting, and he was a guy that had a lot of self-doubt, but he didn't hide it. I expected when I first met him that he was kind of this stand up straight military general demeanor, and he was the opposite. He was like a neurotic professor.

He used to walk Civil War battlefields and other great battlefields, trying to figure out what the strategy was, and whether there were any applicable lessons to football. He got the first insight for what became known as the west coast offense of a lot of short passes, spreading the receivers around the field, when he saw a high school basketball practice and the team was practicing inbounding the ball against a full court press. And suddenly, the light bulb went off for him.

So he was always learning. He dealt with his self-doubt openly and honestly in the way that I described earlier, and I think about him often.

Again, I'm doing this from memory, I'm not looking directly at the quote as I took it down, but we talked about confidence, and he said, with outrage, he said, "Confidence will get you your first job or two, but I can't tell you how many confident blowhards burn out at age 40, and how many confident blowhards that I've been passing in my later-blooming career."

Jen: Wow, that's fabulous. I love that. That's so great.

Okay, here's the last question we actually ask every guest in every single series. This is one of our favorite questions. I learned it from one of my favorite teachers. Her name is Barbara Brown Taylor. Anyway, your answer can be whatever you want it to be. It can be really serious and poignant, or it can be very small and silly, or anything in between. It's completely up to you.

The question is this: What is saving your life right now?

Rich: What is saving my life right now is this mission to spread the gospel of late blooming far and wide.

And a friend asked me, he said, "Given the initial reception, do you feel happy?" And I said, "No. Happy's not the right word. I actually feel a death. And I feel a death of my old self. And that old self was more ego-driven, self-centric, would have checked the Amazon ratings every hour. And I feel a death of that and the awakening of something that I am becoming around this deep-seeded mission to talk about the pitfalls of this early blooming session, why neuroscience and psychology doesn't support it at all, and then what we must do to bloom many times and to have our children bloom many times."

Jen: It's good work. It's a really good message. I think it has the potential to really turn the tides, definitely for our kids, and certainly for theirs.

And I meant it when I said I wish everybody would read this and listen to this. I feel trapped in this culture of early and more. And so I'm really grateful that, number one, that you care; number two, that you've devoted so many years to this research and study and writing process, and now the evangelism of your work.

And so, count on me to do this. I will bang the drum for you. We will definitely post links to the book and to some of your other interviews around it over on our transcript page.

Anything else, anywhere else that my listeners can find you if they are wanting more information?

Rich: Sure. You can go to It has a link to the book. And then can go straight to the book webpage, which is LateBloomer, singular. The book title is Late Bloomers, plural, but

Jen: Great, perfect. We'll link over to that too.

Rich, thank you so much for your time. I am so happy to have met you. I'm thrilled that somebody in your position with the degree of influence that you have has taken on this mantle. This feels really important and really timely and necessary for the health of not only ourselves, but our kids. And so, just couldn't appreciate you more. Thank you for your time and your expertise today.

Rich: Thank you so much. Let's go out and start a national conversation around this.

Jen: I love it. Let's do it.

I found that so interesting. Somewhere in the middle of that, you guys, my brain was thinking, How quickly can I get this episode mixed and edited back in my inbox so I can send it to my kids?

I really want them to hear this. I mean, we are doing this work in our house right now with my college-aged kids, and this weird sense of dissatisfaction and discouragement that they have both experienced in college, even having sort of followed this path that Rich talked about.

I'm just telling you, this episode really . . .  I don't know the other word to say. It just kind of ministered to me and gave me a lot of hope, even in my own career.

Anyhow, I hope that was useful to you, and I would love for us to buy in to this message as parents and help break this terrible downward trend that we are sort of passing off to our kids.

You guys, as I mentioned, go over to, underneath the Podcast tab, we'll have all of this. All these amazing people Rich mentioned, his book, his social handles, any other really cool interviews he's done for the book that I think you might want to listen to. So, that is a wonderful resource. Amanda builds it out every single week. Please take advantage of it. We do that for you when you're like, Whew, there was a lot in there and I want to see it with my eyeballs and have it condensed in one place. That's your thing.

In addition, we have the whole written transcript, should you ever want to read back through it or cut and paste any of it, or just save it.

Thank you for sharing our podcast with your friends, with your people, with your small groups, with your kids. We love that. Thanks for posting on socials your favorite episodes and sending in the people that you love, and then of course, as always, thanks for subscribing. If you haven't, go subscribe. We love our subscriber community, and it just means this shows up in your inbox without you having to do a single thing. Every single week, it just comes to you without you trying.

So anyhow, this series is just really . . . I hope it's nurturing to you. I hope that when you hear “health and wellness,” that we can begin to toggle the idea of what that means, that this is not diet culture or some terrible idea that's been attached to that, but rather our minds and our souls and our spirits and our bodies, our families, our careers. Just this holistic idea of what makes us healthy and well.

So you guys, thank you for joining me, and I'll see you next week.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!