40Under40 Class: Keep going and keep growing

Congratulations to everyone who was named by Traverse City Business News to the 2021 Hagerty “40Under40” list. Hurrah! Our region needs more people like you.

I hope the magazine does a follow-up story on this year’s class of leaders in 20 years. I bet they’ll all have done remarkable things with their talents, whether in business, through their contributions to society, or through their impact on the people around them.

I would also wager that more than a few of them, when asked how they did it, will say, “I grew myself first” or some equivalent thereof. Why? Because that’s how successful people have always done it.

Vincit qui se vincit. That’s Latin for “He conquers who conquers himself.” I think the best way you can do that is by adopting – very intentionally – a growth mindset, this idea that you’re never done learning, no matter how many diplomas you have, no matter how much you think you know.

I learned that lesson, oddly enough, while studying for my doctorate. At the time, I thought I was destined to be a philosophy professor. Instead, I ultimately ended up leaving my studies mid-stream to join the family business.

I now think of that as the moment when my education ended and my learning began.

See, I knew I knew quite a bit about entrepreneurship, leadership and how to spread ideas, but I also knew I didn’t know nearly as much about business. So I did the logical thing: I applied the skills I already had in our marketing department – a natural fit for me. And as time went by, I learned everything else there is to know about the business side of the business. I was on my way!

But what truly supercharged my life and career was joining a group called YPO (Young Presidents Organization), which today is the largest learning organization for CEOs in the world. To me, the YPO experience was a window, a door and a mirror – a window in the sense that it opened my eyes to the world as it really was; a door because the brilliant people I met and the lessons I learned from them led to incredible opportunities; and a mirror in that I learned a lot about myself.

If you’re a leader or an entrepreneur, I highly recommend you find your own version of YPO, a learning circle or peer group where people who aren’t paid by you give you honest feedback.

For me, it was invaluable – essentially a master class in leadership and life. From that experience, I learned that there is far more to business than just the bottom line.

I learned that strong leaders often possess a strong emotional IQ.

I learned that we all need to give more time to timeless concepts like compassion, soul and grace.

I learned people will work harder for you if you trust them and show them what winning looks like.

I learned that habits are everything. (Fortunately, we live in a Golden Age of habit formation right now. There is so much wonderful material out there, all you need to do is let it into your brain. Here are three titles to start with that will transform your view of yourself and who you can be: “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear and “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy.)

But most of all I learned that it all starts with that notion that you are never, ever a finished product.

So, that is my wish for our 40Under40 leaders today: That you always keep going and keep growing.

You’ll do incredible things in the world if you do.

Onward and upward.

McKeel Hagerty is CEO of The Hagerty Group.