Today, Billionaire Eric Schmidt is the executive chairman of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), which has a market cap nearly $675 billion. He was also CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011, a decade when the tech behemoth both went public (2004) and saw meteoric growth.
In those years when Google was rapidly expanding its workforce, Schmidt expected every hire to be top notch.
When Schmidt was at Google, the sales team’s favorite hires were former Olympians and football players who had played in the Super Bowl, because high level athletes necessarily have a well-refined sense of discipline.
“The discipline that they had in their lives as young people, men and women, to get to that point, indicated an extra set of discipline,” says Schmidt.
Schmidt liked to hire rocket scientists, too, because they are inherently interesting, he says.
But if what if you’re not a world class athlete or the next Elon Musk — then what makes you a great hire? In Schmidt’s experience, the are two specific qualities that best predict success, he says in a conversation with LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman on the podcast “Masters of Scale.”
“I would suggest — and this has since been confirmed by many studies — that persistence is the single biggest predictor of future success,” Schmidt says. “And so we would look for persistence.”
Organizational psychologist and New York Times best-selling author Adam Grant agrees with the importance of persistence in success.
“Persistence is one of the most important forces in success and happiness,” says Grant. “There’s the author whose novel was rejected half a dozen times. The artist whose cartoons were turned down over and over. And the musicians who were told ‘guitar groups are on the way out’ and they’d never make it in show business. If they had quit, Harry Potter, Disney and the Beatles wouldn’t exist.”
Just make sure it’s the right determination, says Grant: “Don’t give up on your values, but be willing to give up on your plans.”
The second attribute that predicts success is curiosity, says Schmidt.
Billionaire buddies Warren Buffett and Bill Gates say that they are both driven by their inherent curiosity. “We both certainly share a curiosity about the world,” says Buffett, the famous investor and Oracle of Omaha.
“This is a phenomenal time to be a curious person,” says Gates, who co-founded Microsoft and has an estimated net worth of $75.4 billion.
For a long time under Schmidt’s tenure as CEO, Google had a famous “20 percent rule” that allowed employees to spend one out of five work days working on a project that they believed in. (The continued efficacy of the rule has been debated.) The policy, largely driven by a combination of internal motivation and curiosity, spawned such landmark projects as Gmail, Google Maps, Google News and AdSense.
“The combination of persistence and curiosity is very good predictor of employee success in a knowledge economy,” says Schmidt.
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