It was my high school graduation. I was sitting in the last row, seat 276 or something like that. There were roughly 300 white wooden folding chairs on the football field lawn. It was a hot May day and the sun was extra hot in our graduation gowns. We were seated in the chairs according to our GPA ranking, first to last. My GPA was one of the lowest in my H.S. graduation class. I remember several empty chairs to my left. They were the chairs of the kids with higher GPA’s who hadn’t earned enough credits to graduate. Yes, there were kids who had higher GPAs than me who didn’t have enough credits to graduate — classic!
I graduated H.S. with a 1.5 GPA. Fucking brilliant uh? From the outside, I was an idiot.
I don’t recall caring much about my GPA. I was more devastated that my Dad didn’t show up to graduation, despite having told me just hours before that he would be there. After the ceremony I asked him why he didn’t come and he said, “I wasn’t going to some fake graduation ceremony where the only reason you graduated was because the teachers just wanted to get you out of their hair.” I’m sure you pseudo psych folks could have field day with that. But, I digress.
Other than my Dad not coming, I didn’t give a shit about my GPA or my H.S. experience. I had this unsubstantiated belief that I was a smart kid and when I was ready, I would be just fine and the school, my teachers, my dad, and everyone else who thought I was a fuck up, could go fuck themselves. When I was ready, I would be just fine.
I didn’t apply myself in in H.S. It was that simple. I was more interested in partying with my friends and chasing girls. In spite of my immature behavior, for the most part, I had the sense not to do drugs, and kept my stupidity to the least damaging choices possible. I excelled in sports and hung out with some pretty grounded and cool kids.
What I did know in H.S. was that I was smart. I knew that when I committed to something I would be good at it. I wasn’t going to let the outside world get me down, ’cause I wasn’t playing their game at their speed. I just wasn’t ready.
The challenge for me was finding what I was good at (besides sports) and what it is I wanted to do.
It took me a little while to find what I was good at, but I did. I learned that I was fucking good at selling and influencing people.
Once I found what I wanted to do, success never became an issue. I became completely committed to making my goals, to being the top sales person in every job and crushing quota. When it came to sales and selling, I wanted to be in the valedictorian seat, and you’re damn straight, most times I was.
What this life experience taught me is that there are a lot of smart people out there who are underperforming because they aren’t doing what they love. They haven’t found their “thing.” Just because someone isn’t killing it in their current role, doesn’t mean they aren’t smart. It could mean they’re just bored. To crush it, it takes interest, love and heart too. I don’t care how smart you are, if you don’t like what you’re doing, if it’s not a passion, you’re not going to be good at it. Smarts and intelligence can only take you so far. Passion and love of what you’re doing are the true fuel to success.
When I’m hiring I look for smart people who love sales. I want people who get a rush out of selling. I look for people who see the inherent greatness of helping people get more out of their organizations. I want people who are obsessed with solving problems. I’m drawn to the super smart people who are students of sales and are driven by a passion for getting better. I do the same thing for our recruiting division. I frickin’ love super smart people who are engaged in their passion.
Two hundred and seventy-five people in my high school graduated with a higher GPA than I did. Two hundred and seventy-five people ostensibly were supposed to fair better in life than I was, but it didn’t turn out that way.
GPA, the college one attended, test scores etc. don’t tell the entire story. Smarts, in a real world setting, are not quantitative. As much as we want them to be, they’re not. They are qualitative and learning to find those smart people who don’t have the quantitative stats, but will crush it for you, is an art few possess.
I owe my career to a few really fuckin’ smart and progressive leaders (Particularly Mike Sexe) who saw in me what I saw in myself. They hired me when others wouldn’t. They knew what I knew, and that was I could get it done and that I was super passionate about sales.
Here’s the takeaway from this post —
If you’re really frickin’ smart and aren’t crushing it in life, you haven’t found what you’re meant to do. Stop wasting your time and go find it. When you combine smarts with passion, the sky’s the limit.
If it’s your job to look for talent, find really, really, frickin’ smart people who are fanatical about what it is they are doing or want do and hire them right away.
Hire the idiot. They are game changers.