Full disclosure – I am a proud papa here.

A few weeks back, my 12-year-old son messed something up. I don’t remember what. I think he didn’t do some homework or something. As a consequence, I had him write me a research paper on what he wanted to be when he grew up. When I told him the assignment, his frown turned up a bit and he said, “Dad, this isn’t a punishment, it’s a FUN-ishment.” He ran off.

I already knew he wanted to be a sports agent. He loves sports. Basketball, baseball, football, hockey — it doesn’t matter. He knows players, standings, trades, etc.

He realizes however that his skill won’t be on the field. This kid is already a master negotiator. “Loophole” Luke is always trying to figure a way to finagle whatever he wants in any discussion. In his current occupation, as a kid, it lands him in trouble sometimes but he thinks it may be an asset in the world of professional sports management.

He turned a paper into me. He researched some colleges that would be good for him to attend, had some general information, the basics. I told him I wanted more and that he needed to do some research.

Late last week he runs into my room yelling, “Dad, one of the sports agents I emailed emailed me back. Sam Levinson from Aces said he is going to call me so we can talk.”

I don’t know much about professional sports, let alone sports agents. I liked Jerry Maguire but, I think it was more for the entertainment value.

So we emailed Sam Levinson back with some times that would be good to call. Luke was careful to remind him that we were in California, Pacific Time Zone.

Luke seemed to know who the guy was but I had to Google him and see if I could learn anything about this sports agent.

Turns out he is more like “The Sports Agent.” Forbes ranked him number 4 in the World’s Most Powerful Sport’s Agents. His company, ACES, Inc. represents a who’s who in professional Baseball. He just set the record for negotiating the largest signing bonus in Major Lewague Baseball history — $30 million.

And he was calling Luke.

I was worried about Luke’s chatty nature and that he would waste the guy’s time. I  had him write out his questions and we practiced him asking me. I reminded him that this guy makes like $10,000 per hour so Luke needed to respect that he was sharing his time with him and not ask silly questions. He needed to follow the rules.

I was driving when the phone rang, I handed it to the kid. While I couldn’t hear the whole conversation, I could pick up bits and pieces. He sounded like what I’d think a New York based sports agent would sound like, giving Luke pointers and asking, “You understand that right?”

He did.

They talked for thirty minutes and Luke asked his questions. They talked players and trade rumors and of course Luke told him about his trip to Dodger Stadium. Levinson told Luke about the players he represented on the Dodgers. Levinson told Luke about other jobs in the industry. Then Luke got to his big question: “Will I be able to raise a family, have kids and be a sports agent?”

I heard Levinson say, “You really are planning ahead here aren’t you?”

“Well, it’s really important to me to be a father.”

Levinson assured him he could. He had a family of his own.

I was stumped. How did my 12-year-old son get this super agent on the phone? I was thinking that he’d get a book. But he went straight to the top. How did he pull that off?

He asked.

There is something amazing about childlike innocence that doesn’t know there are some things you can’t do or that won’t work. Kids really do think they can do anything. They don’t know that there is a fairly complex set of social rules set up and they are supposed to work within those constraints.

Luke didn’t understand that a guy like Sam Levinson doesn’t have time to chat with a 12-year-old who wants to know if he can be a globetrotter and a dad.

I should have pointed out to him that it was because he chose not to follow the rules in the first place, that he had to be writing this paper.

After almost a half an hour, it was Luke that said, “I don’t want to take too much time,” and went to end the call.

This damn kid doesn’t do what he is supposed at school and is given a consequence. He shoots an email and it gets sent to the company owner who returns his call and they chat like old friends. I heard him telling the story later and he referred to his friend, “Sam Levinson.”

He didn’t need a strategy or a plan or an introduction. He needed simply to be who he was.

A friend told me that a remarkable leader needs love, gratitude and curiosity. Kids know that intuitively. Adults need to be reminded sometimes.

They chatted a while longer and Luke handed me the phone. I thanked him and agreed to send him a copy of Luke’s article.

“He was super nice,” Luke said and he sat there quietly. He smiled and looked at me. “That was awesome,” he said.

After the call, I kept driving. After a few minutes of silence, which is rare for him, he looked up at me, smiled again and said, “That was really awesome.”

“It was,” I thought to myself.

“Now, I just hope we all have learned our lesson.”

Take the lead,

Rick Randolph

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