Career Warfare Rule 10 Everybody Coulda Been a Contender; Make Sure You Stay One

Most people start their career with big dreams and ambitions. yet at some point their career grinds to a halt, with nothing to show for decades of work except a dull and forgettable personal brand. Middle age and mid career are especially dangerous, as your responsibilities outside of work are growing. Its easy to coast, become a cog in the machine, and wind up with mediocrity. So if you are not content to be a quiet quitter,:

  1. Don’t be a Generic, Be Tylenol
    Even though generic acetaminophen is cheaper than Tylenol, people still flock to the latter, because it has a stronger brand. Don’t turn generic in middle age, and don’t be afraid to part ways with more generic peers. Distinguish yourself from them.
  2. Get Back On The Horse
    You may get passed over for a promotion, but its foolish to give up after a few setbacks.
  3. It Never Hurts To Ask
    Ask your boss why you are not getting promoted, and what is needed to get to the next level.
  4. Never Sell Your Brand Short For Money
    Don’t sell yourself short. Once people know you can be bought for 5-10% of your salary, they no longer have to give you interesting opportunities at work or offer you career growth. They can throw a few trinkets to keep you happy. Don’t let the short term prospect of a small bump in pay keep you out of the running for bigger jobs down the line.
  5. If Lightning Is About To Strike, Make Sure You are Standing In An Open Field
    Sometimes life will hand out and give you an opportunity to shine. Although you can’t make lightning strike, you can stand in an open field. Position yourself so that you will maximize your chances. If your org is headed by executives close to retirement, then stay and do not accept the job transfer. Always be on the lookout for unexpected opportunities, and be ready. As they say, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
  6. Gamble Shrewdly
    Sometimes you must make a bet on your brand. Taking on a difficult project carries with it risk of failure, but the payoff is huge. Your reputation will be that of someone who steps in when others could not or would not, and did the needful.
  7. Create A Brain Trust
    As mentioned in the book, Think And Grow Rich by Napolean Hill, create a mastermind group of people who have political savvy that you can turn to for advice.
  8. Tinker With Success
    Make adjustments and experiment on your brand. It is not too late to make changes. Don’t be too deadset in your ways and think that you don’t have to answer to anybody.
  9. Do Not Cross The Lines Of Integrity
    Do not lie, cheat or steal. The damage to your brand will be irreparable.
  10. Understand That The Unexamined Reputation Is Not Worth Having
    To sum up the book: “Be conscious every day of what you are building”. Every day you are telling others a story based on the words you use, the way you treat others, and how you look. You are actively building your brand, and creating the person that others will remember and think of. Be aware of what you are creating. Create through your actions; it is not enough to think you are a great leader. Show it and live it.

Career Warfare Rule 9: The Higher You Fly, The More You Will Be Shot At

The more successful you become, the more scrutiny you will undergo. Private personal embarrassments that nobody would have cared about in the past now become news. Bad press comes with the territory once you reach a certain level of success. This is the price that one must pay. So it would be wise to prepare in advance. This can mean the difference between a news story that lasts for a year, to one that lasts only a few weeks. Even if you have not reached a point in your career where the media cares, these principles apply to the scrutiny that you would face within your own org.

Understand when, As Ricky Said To Lucy, “You Got Some Splainin’ To Do
Prevent a negative news story from happening in the first place. Explain things ahead of time before they blow up. Its much better for the press to hear information from you first, rather than them thinking they found some dirt on you.

The Bunker Won’t Work For You Any Better Than It Worked For Eva Braun
Do not try to cover up, minimize, or dismiss a negative story. Do not try to hide in a bunker. Once a negative story breaks, additional stories will follow. By hiding, you lose control over the narrative. Now instead of focusing on the mistake that was made, the news will focus on your unwillingness to address it. This will result in everything from your past being dredged up and served as news.

Public Perjury Is A Bad Idea
Do not lie. Lying when you are already under the scrutiny of the press will further undermine your credibility; your every action is already under a microscope. The truth, while painful, is a much better alternative than a lie.

Be Prepared For the Dime-Droppers
Bad news will bring everyone from your past with an ax to grind out of the woodwork. There is not much you can do, but know it is coming. Prepare yourself and your family accordingly.

Every Brand Has Incendiary Spots; Avoid pouring gasoline on yours
There are two types of stories to avoid. The “Confirmation” story in which suspicions about your brand are confirmed, and the “Cross cut” story, in which some aspect of your brand is exposed as a lie. Watergate was a textbook confirmation story; Nixon had been regarded as underhanded throughout his career, Watergate proved it. Jimmy Swaggart is the classic crosscut story. Famous televangelist preaching the sinfulness of homosexuality only to get caught doing drugs with male prostitutes.

Don’t Go On A Jihad
Don’t shift the blame to others. Take ownership and responsibility for your mistakes. Blaming things on others will make you look worse, and oftentimes the blame you level at others will boomerang back. Don’t become a laughingstock by blaming a vast conspiracy.

Update Your Eyeglass Prescription Regularly
What was once ok to say or do in the past, is not necessarily ok now. Standards and times change.

Don’t let them see you sweat
Don’t let others see how the criticism and scrutiny is negatively impacting you. If they don’t see you sweat, you generally don’t sweat that long. Do not give up

Career Warfare Rule 8 Try Not to be swallowed by the Bubble

As you become more successful, you will gain in power and influence. You will gain in admirers. People will go out of their way to get on your good side. They will become more deferential. Yet success can also bring about your own downfall. Take care not to live in a bubble. Many have self destructed at the top. You may start to think that the rules don’t apply to you, or that checks and balances are for others. And that is exactly how the collapse of Enron happened.

To prevent this from happening, keep the following in mind:

Be skeptical of your own genius

Nobody bats 100 all the time, and neither do you

Surround yourself with equally skeptical people

Don’t hire only sychophants. Value skeptics who double check what you do. Demand push back when there is a lapse in judgement.

Keep the friends who remind you that you’re human

The higher up you go, the less you’ll be able to have normal conversations with your peers at work. Talking about anything emotional such as mom being ill will come off as weakness. Keep friends around who you can still talk to about the everyday problems in life to remind you of your own humanity.

Have some sympathy for your victims

Executives have to do difficult things such as layoffs and cost cutting. It is important to have empathy, as these decisions will be impacting real people.

Develop interests other than golf in your leisure time

Having hobbies outside of work will remind you that the world is bigger than your corporate domain.

Remember who feeds your family

It is your customers and shareholders. Do not lose sight of this. This is who you are accountable to.

Build goodwill outside of your kingdom

Win the approval of the community, and people will think better of the company you represent. Build a goodwill reservoir that you can tap in times of drought.

  • Treat the press respectfully. Work with the media instead of against it. Nixon was hostile with the media, and they unleased their pent up rage after Watergate. They are still kicking him around to this day, which is why nobody remembers that Nixon established the Environment Protection Agency, or any of his other accomplishments. It is better to to give the media access to you so you have some chance to influence the story. It doesn’t mean you must grant every interview or talk to obviously hostile reporters.
  • Work very hard to make your organization successful. The public is much more forgiving of winners. Steinbrenner was hated as the owner of the Yankees. In the 90s the Yankees started to win, and it improved his reputation. The flip side is that if you are on the losing side, no one will make any allowances for you.
  • Give back. Give to the community. Whether it is time, influence, or money, make sure your organization is helping the community. If not people will want you to fail. Mid scandal is not the time to do charity work, as everyone will be skeptical. Either you have a good reputation at that point or you don’t. Give where you can make the most difference. Give locally – cultivate goodwill in your backyard. Give personally using your time and money.