Surround Yourself With Smart People

Marissa Mayer on surrounding yourself with people who challenge you.
September 27, 2013

Business Insider takes a detailed look into the working life of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. In one choice excerpt, she tells the story of why she chose to work at Google.

When people ask Mayer why she joined Google after getting her masters in symbolic systems at Stanford, she likes to tell them her “Laura Beckman story.” It’s about the daughter of her middle school piano teacher, Joanne Beckman.

Mayer begins: “Laura tried out for the volleyball team her junior year at high school. At the end of the tryouts, she was given a hard choice: bench on varsity, or start on JV.

“Most people, when they’re faced with this choice, would choose to play – and they’ll pick JV. Laura did the opposite. She chose varsity, and she benched the whole season.

“But then an amazing thing happened. Senior year she tried out and she made varsity as a starter, and all the JV starters from the previous year benched their whole senior year.

“I remember asking her: ‘How did you know to choose varsity?’

“And she said, ‘I just knew that if I got to practice with the better players every day, I would become a much better player, even if I didn’t get to play in any of the games.’”

The moral of Mayer’s story is that it’s always better to surround yourself with the best people so that they will challenge you and you will grow.

“My quest to find, and be surrounded by, smart people is what brought me to Google,” she says.

“The turning point for me,” she says, “was realizing that I would learn more at Google, trying to build a company, regardless of whether we failed or succeeded, than I would at any of the other companies I had offers from.”

Read the entire biography here.

This article was originally published on 99u.com.

Sean Blanda is the managing editor of 99u.com.

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