How to Be Successful

While reading the WSJ on Sunday, I came on to this interesting article about success.

Scott Adams’ Secret of Success: Failure

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 10.13.32 PMBest ways to climb the corporate ladder

Scott Adams writes very useful tips for those who are figuring out the best way to climb the corporate ladder:

  1. Beware of advice about successful people and their methods
  2. Forget about passion
  3. Forget about goals
  4. Be systems oriented
  5. Your job is not your job; your job is to find a better job
  6. Stay in the game, until luck finds you
  7. Useful information never comes from upper management
  8. Diversify

The gofer conundrum 

My favorite story is of him passing up the opportunity to be a gofer. The VP was impressed by his B.S. abilities. The VP wanted to champion him, and present him to other upper management who would be impressed with his B.S. But he passed up the opportunity. The VP hired someone else, and that someone else became the youngest VP ever.

When we are young, we think success is…

We grow up thinking success is a straight line for everybody. You get good grades in school, do some community service along the way, try to be an athletic or music star, ace your college entrance exams, get into a good college, ace your college exams, graduate with honors (or at least a 3.0 GPA+), get a good job (or at least one that pays), climb the ladder by being an awesome worker (because that’s how you aced everything else before), spend the money, and retire eventually.

I am a prime example

I used to think it was this way. I graduated as valedictorian in high school, graduated with honors from college, and then, earned two master’s. So now I look up at the corporate ladder, and wonder how am I going to climb this now? It should be easy right? All I have to do is work hard, and be a star. I’m a hard worker! I can do this.

Corporations are like pyramid schemes

The problem with working within a corporation is that generally hard work won’t get much of anywhere. This is how I see it. Hard workers become invaluable in their positions, and stay there. The political savvy ones, who know how to B.S. their work, are recruited to climb the corporate ladder. Not every single VP is full of B.S. They have to pretty smart to fool everyone with their B.S., right? But I often wonder if this is a sick cycle. The B.S. upper management hires other B.S. management. It’s a never ending cycle. Results? Sure, results matter, but if you have a good network, you can manipulate what you are getting by.

I know what your thinking. Already 23 and a cynic. Not a cynic. Very much a realist. I hope I can enlighten some kids who are slightly younger and about to join the pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes are awesome as long as your on top and reaping all the rewards. Right now I’m at the bottom of the pyramid scheme. But I recognize it.

My dilemma

Am I the only one that recognizes B.S.? Sigh, sometimes I think so. I’ve started to treat my job as a job not a passion. It sucks a bit, but it also means I don’t come home frustrated by the inefficiency of my company (rant for another day). My next step: finding my next, better job. Always keeping my eyes on the lookout for something better.

What are your thoughts on success in a corporation?



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  • Hi, I’m a new reader here. I don’t think you’re a cynic. I worked in the corporate world for many years. Unfortunately, this is pretty much the landscape of corporate america. It can be disappointing, especially when you are a hard worker. Working in the corporate world means you have to find ways to navigate through all the BS. I think you’re wise for recognizing all these things early on in your career.

    • It’s important to recognize this as a young millennial. I’m not saying it’s going to be like this for every person, but there are workplaces like this. I just want some of my peers to know they are not alone. I hope that there are workplaces that are not like this. I’m sure there are. Hopefully, I’ll land on one soon.

  • Kali @ Common Sense Millennial

    I felt like I was reading my own thoughts! I also felt the same way about how success works when I was younger – you work hard, you earn merits, you succeed, because that’s how the school system (grade school and university) is set up. You’re completely right.. the corporate world does NOT work that way and it’s a frustrating lesson to learn and accept that just working hard is not going to move you any higher on that ladder. I don’t think you’re a cynic at all, I think these are realistic observations of how that system IS set up.

    I still take my job seriously, and I want to work hard because that’s something that makes me happy. I can’t buy into or participate in the BS – which is why I’m currently working on plan B. I’m sticking with the corporate office life for now, but I am trying to work my way toward self-employment and doing what I truly enjoy.

    • I learned early on from people that you had to network. But I also thought you had to work hard and get results to move up. Sometimes I see people get promoted that don’t have results. This may not be the case in every company. I’m writing from the perspective of one job at one corporation. But I have also talked to other at different companies. The experience does vary, and it also depends on your position.

  • I’ll have to disagree with the general sentiment. I don’t find that people in leadership (or those who move into leadership positions) do not work hard; quite the contrary. I haven’t found corporate life to be a true meritocracy by any means and, yes, networking matters nearly as much as your own efforts. But I have not found that B.S. is the path to advancement. I’ve seen corporate cultures where that is the case, but I don’t think they are the norm, or even the majority. Perhaps my experience isn’t typical.

    • MR. DbF, I am glad your experience has been different. Actually I’m happy there are corporate organizations that are not like what I’m experiencing right now. I work with a lot of great people, but there are those people that you wonder about.
      Networking should matter. I think it’s good to network, but you need to network and get results.

      • I might be making an assumption here, but are you young in your career? If so, I’d bet that if you work in some different corporate cultures over the next few years or decades, your viewpoint might change as you gain different experiences.

  • I think it depends on the culture of the corporation. I worked for a very large US retailer (rhymes with Beers) and the culture was crap. SImilar to what you said, the people who were full of hot air and went golfing with the right people got promoted while the really hard workers were abused. I worked in multiple departments and it was a company wide issue.

    On the other hand, some of the smaller places I’ve worked at truly have rewarded the good people.

    I think I mentioned it to you before, this is why I like being a contractor/consultant. I’m paid good money to do a job and do it well. No BS. No golf. No team building exercises (I hate that crap!). Just work.

    My advice to you is if they aren’t appreciating you, leave. Sooner than later. Life is too short.

  • Today my boss (I work in fundraising) was schmoozing with a prospective donor that could give as much as 1 million dollars to us (that’s a huge gift for us as we’re not a big potatoes non-profit) and he was surprised as he said the guy seemed introverted yet was a CEO at his last job for years. I told him that studies prove that introverts often make the best CEOs but often times the terrible boss above them may overlook them for that very reason. If the corporation doesn’t really seek out all sorts of qualities in their employees, they can end up passing on some great people. I certainly felt like that at my old job and quit as result.

  • My main tip is to always pick the job where you’ll learn the most, even if it’s less money. It’ll turn into more money in the long run.

  • My ex boyfriend was a very smart workaholic, and also very likable and personable, but constantly got overlooked for higher up positions, yet snake-like uber good looking dudes got promotions. Just because you’re smart and work hard doesn’t mean you will see the benefits. Not that you have to lower your standards, but recognize that you might have to re-work some strategies. It’s the same thing with women too. Studies show beautiful women get more opportunities then there average looking counterparts. Sad but true.

  • The corporate ladder can be very frustrating. I am sorry you are going through that now. I think you have the right attitude about always having an eye out for something better.

  • I jumped off the corporate years ago and haven’t looked back. I got my MBA and the future seemed filled with a lot of BS and I didn’t want to deal with. I think it gave me the confidence to do my own thing and follow my own path.

  • eemusings (NZMuse)

    Cynical? Yes, but only because you’ve cottoned on to the game. That’s how it works. Get too good at your job and they’ll want to keep you there forever.

  • I used to work in corporate and saw a lot of favouritism (sorry, Canadian spelling, lol). I felt it was all about networking and who you knew. If you knew the right people and formed strong alliances with them, then you could climb up the ladder. Otherwise, you would be stuck. While I don’t work for corporate anymore, I still believe networking and creating opportunities for yourself are a couple of factors for being successful.

    I used to think that because I worked hard in school, it would be the same way with my career. Not always….you have to add in luck and timing.

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