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Sep 10, 201501:13 PMMad @ Mgmt

with Walter Simson

Are you ready to succeed?

(page 1 of 2)

I have the easiest job in the world.

Perhaps “easy” is not the right word. After all, my work involves constant travel, detailed analysis, crushing deadlines, and enough pressure to make a pair of diamond stud earrings.

But it’s still easy, in that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I shudder to think what might have happened if I had not decided, in late middle age, to become a consultant. Previously, I had been an executive in technology companies, and that came with certain rewards and prestige.

In between CEO gigs, I used to consult on turnarounds, because a tech ramp-up is basically a turnaround dressed up in drag. 

After my last CEO stint, I started to think about consulting full time. I enjoyed the variety, stimulation, and ability to help real people. Could I change from being a company leader to a company advisor?

While a voice told me consulting full time might be a good career change, another, darker voice decided against it. Consultants borrow your watch to tell the time. Most consulting firms go out of business in three years. Being a consultant doesn’t build shareholder value for you, this voice said.

By the way, I’m clearing up the language of this negative voice, which had the colorful vocabulary of a drill sergeant on Monday wakeup.

I did have some practical challenges, which the drill sergeant never failed to mention. I had no clients, no offerings, no referrals, and no business cards. What in the world, Sarge asked, makes you think you can follow this dream?

Then someone suggested a book, Are You Ready to Succeed? by business professor Srikumar S. Rao. (Upon reading the title, the drill sergeant said, “Succeed? It’s about freakin’ time”).

This book arose out of a Columbia business school course in, of all things, dealing with the internal pressures that we in the business world face every day. One such internal pressure is what Rao calls the Voice of Judgment, which many of us carry around without even realizing it. We have a cheerleader for failure hidden away in plain sight. If it were broadcast on cable we’d cancel the subscription, but because it is in our own head it has free editorial reign.

That was my drill sergeant.

One of the book’s points is that, if you want to succeed, you have to deal with this voice. I followed the book’s prescriptions and my drill sergeant turned into a chauffeur, helping me get to the places I needed to go.

Another bugaboo the book deals with is prestige. Is prestige important? Or is it more important to do something meaningful?

I decided that I would do what I do best and to hell with prestige. At the time it was a hard call, but it now seems obvious.


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