Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Oh, everyone always knew.
They knew from the beginning.
They took one look at this new young employee and said: “There goes our CEO in, what, 10 years’ time.”
It’s piffle, of course.
Yet those who write books about business conspire with those who love to post-rationalize about glorious entrepreneurial successes to create this myth of the true indicators of ultimate success.
IAC chairman Barry Diller would like to offer a more realistic view.
“I would say there are none,” he began.
As in zero plus zippo plus ninguna.
At least when new employees arrive.
Diller said his method of seeing what people are truly like and what they can truly do was blessedly simple:
Bring people into an organization — young, inexperienced, but with energy, and edge — and drop them into water above their heads as quickly as you can.
Suddenly, the highly, um, driven employee who always looks the part might show that they can’t play the part. At all. In any way.
No matter how much they’ve rehearsed. No matter how much they’ve impressed in interviews.
Diller offered the example of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, previously CEO of IAC’s Expedia.
It’s not as if Khosrowshahi was some obvious blinding talent, whose mere smile mesmerized his co-workers into worship. At least, not in Diller’s version:
He came to one of the [IAC] progenitor companies, as basically an analyst/clerk. And each year or two or three, we threw more and more at him until we finally said to him, after he had become CFO of one of our public companies, ‘We’re going to spin off Expedia, and I think you’re going to go run it.’ He said, ‘But I don’t have any operational experience.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s the good thing.’
It’s charming that Diller didn’t seem to ask Khosrowshahi if he’d like to run Expedia.
Still, it’s instructive that someone might not think they were the right person for the job, yet manifestly actually were.
And then, slipped at the very end of the interview, was the perfect example to every young, aspiring, self-regarding job applicant.
Diller was asked what about a job applicant — or even any young person — would put him off.
His answer is such a wise warning to those so brimming with confidence that they see their own future from where they’re currently standing:
Someone with too many specific goals.
Life is a meandering, nonsensical maze of opportunity, grief, despair, joy and luck.
If you think you can see your way through that, you might just be a nincompoop.