STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Seems like every week, some video appears on a Facebook page showing some early achiever - a 5-year-old playing a piano concerto, an 11-year-old college graduate, the preteen sports prodigy. Rich Karlgaard is not interested in young achievers. He is the publisher of Forbes magazine and has a new book entitled "Late Bloomers: The Power Of Patience In A World Obsessed With Early Achievement." He spoke with Rachel Martin.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm just going to ask you straight out of the gate. Were you an early or late bloomer?
RICH KARLGAARD: Well, I'm a late bloomer. At age 25, despite having graduated from Stanford - although by the skin of my teeth - I could hold no job greater than security guard, temporary typist and night watchman. And I remember once on my night watchman's job when I was 25 years old, I was walking the perimeter of a trucking yard. And I heard a dog barking. And I swung my flashlight. And it was a Rottweiler in the lot next door. And it occurred to me right then that my professional colleague at age 25 was a dog.
MARTIN: (Laughter) And that gave you pause, apparently (laughter).
KARLGAARD: That gave me pause. A few months after that, Steve Jobs would take Apple public. He was also 25 when that happened.
KARLGAARD: So the comparison was really, really pretty awful.
MARTIN: Do you think that human beings are naturally meant to reach their peak later than we think, say, in their 40s?
KARLGAARD: Well, some people are naturally gifted, focused prodigies. And I have nothing against them. In fact, I applaud them. I might be jealous of them, but I applaud them.
MARTIN: Right. We all are.
KARLGAARD: And the problem arises when we think that's the path that's appropriate for all kids, teens and young adults. If you look at what neuroscience has to say - and there was a great 2015 study. And they looked at, what do we do best during each decade of our life? And sure enough - this shouldn't surprise - our rapid synaptic processing speed and working memory peak in our 20s. But then in our 30s, 40s and 50s, we begin to develop a whole range of skills we didn't have before - executive functioning, management skills, compassion, equanimity - all of those things that make us effective.
MARTIN: Wisdom? Do we get some wisdom with age?
KARLGAARD: Yeah, we get - well, wisdom really begins to kick in our 50s, 60s and 70s.
MARTIN: So in the book, it's not like you're saying don't celebrate these people who we see doing incredibly remarkable things at young ages. We can do that. It's just that we also need to celebrate people for whom success comes later.
KARLGAARD: Well, absolutely. Now, here where I live in Silicon Valley, it's kind of ground central for putting pressure on teens and young adults because there are so many examples of young adults who have gone out and done tremendous things, whether it's the two founders of Google, whether it's Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook.
KARLGAARD: The pressure that this is putting on kids, teens and parents is incredible. So this pressure cooker and this idea that we're putting kids on a conveyor belt - they're supposed to trade their youthful curiosity for determined focus - is having on the whole, I believe, a very bad outcome. And that's why I wanted to start a national conversation about this.
MARTIN: How has doing this book changed the way you think about ambition?
KARLGAARD: I think ambition is good but - and some people will really respond to ambition. There are people who - and this characterizes most early bloomers, I think. They're naturally ambitious. They're naturally competitive. They like to win. They like to impress people. They like to run up the score, whatever the score happens to be in their field. Late bloomers tend to be more of the explorer type. I do poorly when I'm under competitive pressure. I do much better when I explore my curiosity. It's the difference between feeling being pushed, which I don't like and I think a lot of people don't like, versus being pulled by some vision and dream and higher purpose.
MARTIN: Rich Karlgaard is the author of "Late Bloomers: The Power Of Patience In A World Obsessed With Early Achievement." Rich, thank you so much for taking the time.
KARLGAARD: Thank you very much, Rachel.
(SOUNDBITE OF IVO VOLLERING'S "THE TIME WE SPEND")
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