Three For Thursday – Jack Wickens


Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

I first met Jack in late 2001 when I joined United Healthcare. Jack was the national president and I was a regional CEO in the Mid-Atlantic. Somewhere along the line the org. chart changed, and I began reporting directly to Jack. Over the first few months of this arrangement, a pattern emerged. Jack would call me late on Friday afternoons. I’d grab my pad and pen and wait to see what he had to say. After exchanging pleasantries, the conversation usually turned to…running! Our mutual passion for the sport is just one of the many reasons our friendship has endured for the many years since we first met.

Jack has essentially had two careers: corporate and causes. He “retired” from a senior executive position at United Healthcare 12 years ago. Since then, Jack has stayed busy and found fulfillment serving on various charity boards, founding and leading a non-profit, and volunteering as a high school coach.

He is currently the chair of the United Healthcare Children’s Foundation, vice chair of the USA Track & Field Foundation, and President/Founder of AthleteBiz. AthleteBiz supports and empowers Olympic-caliber athletes as they pursue their dreams, inspire children (and adults!), and transition to life after sport. With respect to the latter, Jack and I co-direct a program called Your Next Success, to help athletes with that transition.

Jack is a New Jersey native, a Bucknell University graduate, and currently lives in Virginia.  His Three For Thursday follow.

It’s not personal, it’s business
Pretty much every successful moment I’ve had in business (and in life!) was bolstered by a “make it personal” focus. It’s more than a “people are our greatest asset” cliche. I learned early that really listening, being genuinely empathetic, and identifying the triggers that inspire a person, inside or outside your company, is what leads to wins…and to lifelong friendships and fulfillment and a host of other positive things.

What is the top quality that differentiates Olympic-level athletes from everyone else who competes in a sport? An abundance of natural talent? A Herculean training capacity? Brilliant coaching? Maybe. What I’ve observed up close is that “resilience” may be #1. The ability to bounce back from setbacks, injuries, and competition losses. The mental strength to sustain a strong commitment to lofty goals year after year, through inevitable emotional and physical highs and lows. Resilience is the superpower of these athletes, and there’s no reason why it can’t be ours too.

Angela Duckworth, author of the fantastic book, “Grit”, said, “enthusiasm is common, endurance is rare.”

I know, I know. Not a unique idea.  “Family” is on everyone’s short list. I’m a bit obsessive about family (and get teased about it by my daughters). As Rod Stewart once said, “You go through life wondering what it is all about, but at the end of the day it’s all about family.” Of course Rod also said, “If I want to go out and take my trousers down in public I will do that until I’m 80”. So there’s that.

One For The Road
Wear Sunscreen. Twenty years ago, this “song” was a huge surprise hit. Worth a nostalgic listen for us old timers and worth a first listen for the youngsters.

How About You?
What are your Three For Thursday? I’m looking for people who are willing to share their life wisdom.  Please email me at if you’d like to be interviewed for a future Three For Thursday blog.