In Defense of a 2-Year-Old Secretariat

While reading Warren Buffett’s letter to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders last week, I came across something very interesting.

Apparently, Warren Buffett just hired 39-year-old Todd Combs as part of his succession plan.  Some are up in arms, saying he “lacks experience” and is too green.  Since Todd and I share the same generation, I was intrigued by the following explanation by the “Oracle of Omaha” himself:

“Our goal was to find a 2-year-old Secretariat, not a 10-year-old Seabiscuit.”
– Warren Buffett

I want to be clear that I have absolutely no problem with experienced people.  In fact, I’m on the lookout for an experienced mentor myself.  I believe that experience may bring additional maturity, strength, and other positive traits to a person.

However, in a time when our world is changing faster than ever before, I want to caution people who focus on “experience” rather than talent and learning ability.

Just look at the last 10 years, as Google went mainstream and some of the most popular marketing tools in the world wove themselves into the fabric our lives:

  • Wikipedia (2001)
  • Linkedin (2003)
  • Facebook (2004)
  • YouTube (2005)
  • Twitter (2006)
  • iPhone (2007)
  • Groupon (2007)
  • Foursquare (2009)

The Attention Age has begun!

With New Media entering the stage, business leaders must deal with 24 hour news cycles and the collective attention span of a world constantly seeking out the next big thing.

Personally, I’m enjoying it.

I’m embracing it.  I’m learning it.  I’m living it.

Whether you’re a “10-year-old Seabiscuit” or a “2-year-old Secretariat”, one thing is for certain:

Experience isn’t as important as it used to be.

We’re all students in these new and exciting times, and the leaders who are best with creativity, learning, and vision will win big.

Todd, I’ll be cheering you on.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

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Published by Aaron Biebert

I'm a director, film/video exec producer, leader & 8pm Warrior. I am passionately chasing my goals at all times. I'm listening. Let's talk!

8 comments on “In Defense of a 2-Year-Old Secretariat”

  1. Its not that simple and it depends on the industry- If you hire those who have no experience and learning ability that works in a place where there is actually someone to learn from or where they are creating what will be i.e Facebook etc.
    In the healthcare field I see more and more, people who are bright and innovative but have absolutely no idea how to manage people and processes and those who might pass on some of that wisdom have long moved on. Like anything the key is balance between both and in the example you describe Mr Buffet clearly sees himself as the “oracle” to impart wisdom for the successors.

    1. Jen, you make a great point about the difference between industries. I think you are 100% correct about surgery, and for that matter any other repetitive line of work where things change slowly (or not at all in the case of the human body).

      With that said, if hospitals are hiring leaders who don’t have management skills, that is a whole other issue. It’s important to hire a horse for a horse race, not a camel or giraffe. That is a good idea for another blog topic. :-)

      My main concern was using experience as a litmus test for someone’s ability above all else. I would agree that with all else (skills, learning ability, creativity, knowledge, etc.) equal, an experienced person may be a better choice, but we’re talking about 2-year-old Secretariats here, not the average 2-year-old horse. I think Mr. Buffett’s point was that he didn’t feel it was wise to pass up Todd just because he didn’t have a ton of experience. In the same way, I think it would be unwise to pass up a very talented 40-year-old surgeon just because you had an average 58-year-old surgeon available with more experience.

      “Time” is only one kind of teacher.

  2. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

    1. No contact page, just discussion here on the blog and facebook page (http://facebook.com/8pmWarriors). I just tried emailing you (got it from the comment form), but it came back. Follow me on twitter (@8pmWarrior) and I’ll shoot you a DM with email address. Otherwise, feel free to post recommendations here. I’m not afraid to have the community see it. :-)

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