Sherman McCorkle

CEO & Co-Founder

Sherman McCorkle is the Chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Sandia Science & Technology Park Development Corporation. He has held numerous other prestigious positions including: Lead Independent Director of EMCORE Corporation – the leading independent provider of advanced inertial navigation products for aerospace defense; President and CEO of Technology Ventures Corporation; President and CEO of Sunwest Credit Services Corporation; Senior Vice-President of Albuquerque National Bank; co-founder and Charter Director of New Mexico Bank and Trust of Plus System Incorporated; and he was appointed to the American Law Institute’s Select Committee on the Uniform Commercial Code of the U.S by the American Bankers Association.

To say he is a leader in the world of business finance and development is an understatement. He was voted by the New Mexico business community as the most influential individual in the state. I sat down with Sherman to try and understand the incredible force that he is. He outlined several principles that he learned along the way, which he still lives by today:

SUCCESS IS BUILT ON FAILURES

Why do we spurn effort? That is Sherman’s principle question. Sherman realized early on that, as a society, we prevent people from putting in effort by scaring them with the idea of fear. He told me: “Think of the word loser. We use it as a put down. We really deter people from trying – it’s part of our folklore as a society. But if we allow ourselves to put forth effort after effort, we can get things done. It’s all about perseverance. Success is built on failures.”

A VALUABLE THING: COLLABORATION

“For my whole life I’ve been asking for help – and that help turned into collaboration. That’s how I’ve been able to accomplish so much. And in order for collaboration to work, you have to respect the differences between you and your collaborators. And collaboration doesn’t work if our differences are: I think you’re stupid and I’m smart. That’s bound to fail. You have to respect the ways you disagree with your colleagues. And there’s an upside to it: we can only have so many ideas ourselves - so the more open you are to others, and the more you respect their ideas, the more ideas you have.”

KNOWING WHEN TO QUIT

The amount of things Sherman has accomplished is almost unfathomable – so I was very curious to know about how often he gives up on a venture, or how he determines when to give up on one venture to pursue another. He said: “That’s inexplicable to me.” Of course! It’s not easy for Sherman to know when to call the quits. He went on: “For me, when I can no longer find any way to pivot, and I can’t find anybody to help me figure out how to pivot, that’s usually when I quit.” So, for Sherman, when he’s exhausted all his ideas, and all his colleague’s ideas, he has nowhere to go with it and gives up. It’s an intuitive approach, and makes sense for someone with such an unwavering dedication to trying.

EFFORT DETERMINES WHAT YOU BECOME

“You can get a good education at Harvard. You can get a good education at the University of New Mexico. But what kind of effort are you going to put out after you graduate? That’s what will really determine what you become.”

HIS SECRET TOOL: BREATHING EXERCISES

“I used to get really bad anxiety. I remember when I was younger and had to give a speech to a couple thousand people… It was to take place at 3:30 in the afternoon, and until then all I could do in my hotel was to routinely walk down to the lobby, pace around, then go back to my room and pace around. I ended up taking about five showers… It was bad. Eventually I learned that breathing exercises are key to getting rid of anxiety. It’s simple: Inhale for 6 seconds, exhale for 3.”

DON’T BE A LONE RANGER

“My first thought when I need to accomplish something is ‘who can I call in to help?’ Building out a team is the best way to accomplish anything. I have zero pride in authorship. I just want to improve things.” This point really struck a chord with me. It’s not uncommon to find big-egos in top positions–whether in the business industry or the entertainment industry–but I find something particularly virtuous about Sherman’s selfless attitude. (And I think that attitude has contributed to his incredible skills at communication and building connections.)

KNOWING WHEN TO HAVE FUN

Even a workaholic like Sherman knows when to have fun. One of the funniest things he told me was: “I sponsored the UNM ski team…because I wanted to ski. I would attend their events then go on the slopes once the event was over.” Ha! “I accept that you can’t work all the time. You have to have part of your time dedicated to fun.” I couldn’t agree more! Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to hit the slopes with Sherman sometime after his next groundbreaking venture.