career success

Authority vs. Influence

When most people think of power, they think of the person in the conference room with the most authority. Formal authority comes from decision-making power and control over resources. If you’re a member of the board, you have power because you must approve my operating budget for the fiscal year. If you are my boss, [...]

Problem Talker vs. Problem Solver

In life and work, there are two ways to approach a problem. You can talk about a problem, or you can solve the problem. The problem talker spends all of his time complaining about the problem. “Boss, this budgeting process is so inefficient and a waste of time.” “The way we orient new employees to [...]

Prepared for Luck

Over the years, I’ve noticed the role that luck plays in success for myself and others. I won’t lie. Getting lucky on an opportunity is great. The problem is that you can’t control when or if you get lucky. However, what you can control is whether you are prepared enough so that, when luck presents [...]

Inside a Fortune 500 Boardroom

I’ve only been in a Fortune 500 boardroom once. I will never forget it. The conference room had an incredible view of Manhattan. The boardroom table itself was a gorgeous mahogany table that seated 60 people. I’ve never seen a conference room table so large before. The table was so large that every seating position [...]

Making Mistakes

A wise person once told me, “Making mistakes is how we human beings learn.” I spent most of my life trying to avoid mistakes and then beating myself up when I inevitably made them.  In hindsight, this was terribly arrogant of me, counterproductive, and a difficult way to live. It was arrogant because to never [...]

Scaffolding

Over the years, I’ve homeschooled my kids in math. In the process of learning teaching methods for math, I came across the term “scaffolding.” In construction, “scaffold” refers to the temporary metal frame with large wood planks that surrounds a construction site. The scaffold gives construction workers a place to stand while working on the [...]

Master then Break the Rules

When you first learn a craft, it’s useful to learn the rules. As you master the rules, it’s useful to break the rules. The difference between learning, mastering, and then breaking the rules comes from understanding why the rules exist. Rules, rules of thumbs, or conventions exist around problems in a field that recur frequently. [...]

How to Wield Power

At Stanford, I took a class called Power & Politics. My professor said, “If you put two people in a room together, there’s politics.” As much as I disliked the answer at the time, I’ve come to appreciate that it is true. Politics occurs when different people with conflicting needs try to each get what [...]

Objective vs. Perceived Value

In school, if you get 95 out of 100 questions correct, you get a 95% score. Much of childhood education grading is done on an objective basis. However, once you enter the workforce, this changes. You get promoted based on how others perceive your abilities, as opposed to any objective measure of your abilities. You [...]

Fact vs. Opinion

One of the first lessons every first-year at McKinsey is taught is the difference between a fact and an opinion. The worst thing you could do at McKinsey was present an opinion as if it were fact. If you did this in front of a partner, the partner would never want you on another project. [...]

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