Much like my Times post the other day, this will sound a little silly. Energy doesn’t get a lot of attention from people in most instances. In sports it’s definitely important, but in other places like business and school it isn’t necessarily talked about a lot. It’s an intangible trait that most people don’t exude and those that do often find themselves in good places.
Sports are a great metaphor for businesses. They are often team based and generally follow a bureaucratic hierarchy. Normally an owner will have first right to the team (Common Stock Equity) with a President of Operations (board of directors) and then a general manager and coach (C-level and managers). The tactical operations of a firm or team are highly contingent on the people or players who carry out initiatives. Teams often thrive when certain players are in leadership roles, with auxiliary members there to assist and carry out other functions. These people are absolutely critical to a team, teams are not just the sum of their leadership. They are very much in need of other skill sets. There are a great deal of different needs for teams; strategic vision, emotional intelligence, a sense of calm and experience, etc. One of the most important in my opinion is energy. Many players in professional sports have made careers out of being energetic and working harder than others. In the NBA, for instance, there are hustle guys like Mark Madsen. In the MLB there are the Ecksteins who aren’t nearly so physically talented as others but simply work harder and build a better ability over time. In the NFL, there are a great deal of players on special teams that get there on effort, but also great players such as John Randle who exude so much raw energy it overcomes the opposition on sheer force of will.
Energy is necessary on any project. It’s necessary in doing good work day to day. We all get burned out, but some people have a special knack for giving that extra effort, showing up 15 minutes early to help set up, write up the formal executive summary, take the extra few hours to research a client before presenting and thousands of other examples. You can see who does these things when you work with them. Certain individuals are there to be a great help and they make teams from mediocre into juggernauts.
There are a few select few who are vastly talented. Those people are very important to have in large companies or to work on projects as their insight can offer a big advantage over the competition. Then there are the people who are maybe average (or better than average depending on what level you are at, if you’re in the big leagues, you’ve got a prerequisite level of natural talent though you may not be an all star) but exude energy to a point that it gives them an edge. I’d rather work with the energetic. Energetic people will learn anything they need to in order to be successful. Extremely talented people often suffer from boredom, when things are so simple for them it’s easy to tire of what may seem trivial. This doesn’t happen with everyone, but Calvin Coolidge hits it pretty hard on the head with the quote below:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” –Calvin Coolidge
Persistence is essentially energy. In my estimates, maybe on in ten people exude the energetic prowess that gives them a leg up. There are many monikers for such a trait: enthusiasm, gusto, stick-to-it-ive-ness, commitment, work ethic and the list goes on. There are so few of these people that it becomes necessary to have one or two on your team. The true superstars are the ones with the wildly rare combination of both a transcendant talent and a remarkable energy. Sports figures such as Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Michael Jordan, Bill Russel, Barry Sanders, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and more all land on this list. There is a reason they are seen as some of the best to ever play their respective games. I’d argue that the majority of people at the top of corporate pyramids likely exuded both the intelligence and energy necessary to rise within the intellectual shark pool.