Get Your “Rookie Smarts” On: Liz Wiseman and Buddy Valastro at RootsTech 2017

Originally Posted on
February 16th, 2017


Think of a time when you were a rookie. What happened? How did you operate? What did you do when you didn’t know what to do? What were your aspirations? Liz Wiseman, author of Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, asked us these questions during her keynote address at the Innovator Summit portion of RootsTech 2017. Straight out of business school, Liz found herself a rookie in a fast growing company named Oracle. She had to learn fast and soon found herself heading Oracle University. Years later, intrigued by the idea of rookie smarts, Liz set out to research the concept and wrote the book to share her findings. Currently President of The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm, Liz travels the world educating and motivating people from all walks of life.

Liz asked us to look for a rookie moment in an ancestor’s life. She gave an example of her grandfather who was raised on a ranch in Wyoming and moved to Los Angeles to run a mortuary. I thought of my own grandfather, Edward Raymond Kelsey, raised in Springville, Utah. He homesteaded land in southern Idaho, decided to breed sheep and taught himself everything there was to know about that business. With only an 8th grade education, Ed eventually was named “Grassman of the Year” for the state of Idaho. Quite an accomplishment for this rookie rancher.

We talk of learning from our ancestors’ stories of overcoming trials, but how often do we look at them as rookies? As they migrated to new lands they often had to learn to speak a new language, operate in a new culture, build something out of nothing. Liz asked the audience to think about what we do when we’re the rookie. We suggested that when we are rookies we ask questions, make friends who can help us, we pray, we immerse ourselves in our jobs, we take baby steps.

In her research for writing Rookie Smarts, Liz learned that most people are happiest in rookie mode. We are built for a challenge. On the average, it takes three months for us to feel comfortable in a new situation, but we can start to feel stale after just two years.

Liz finished her keynote address with this quote by Khalil Gibran:

“The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.”

She challenged us to kick comfort to the door and become a rookie again!

In our role as RootsTech Ambassadors, Nicole and I were privileged to sit in on the press conference with Liz following her keynote address. She graciously answered questions and we discussed how to continue to think like a rookie. Some bits of wisdom that came out of that discussion:

– Normalize the feeling of being inadequate, just because you think you’re “faking it” doesn’t mean you don’t belong in whatever new job, calling, or situation you find yourself in.

– With technology developments coming so fast, it is estimated that only 15% of what we know today is going to be relevant in 5 years. We are going to continue to be rookies with the new technology coming.

– Intentionally put yourself in situations where you are a rookie.

– In rookie mode you are in your most humble state. People expect rookies to make mistakes. Give yourself permission to fail.

– If you are in the “boss” position, give your rookies assignments. Legitimize their rookieness and let them use their rookie smarts to improve your company, family, or whatever organization you’re working in.

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