Wednesday, April 21, 2010



By : Ms. Vanessa H. Breaker, M.S., University of Texas (Facilities Management); Founder and Chairperson, Help-U-Advance, Inc., a Career Management Consulting Bureau (Houston, TX); Author, You Can Do It : A 10-Step Formula to Achieve Wealth, Success, Money (And Yes, Love, Too); Owner, several real estate tracts in central Texas; Married; Cowboys fan.

Recently, a college graduate came into my office and asked: "How will I ever get a job in this economy? How will I ever pay my own rent?"

I can understand his frustration. By all accounts, times are very hard out there. For people just starting out in the world, life looks intimidating. No one is hiring. No one even gets an interview. And without a job, you can't pay your rent.

But success is possible. It is possible to defy the odds and live the American dream. Anyone can learn how to be successful. There is a recipe for success: You can learn it. Successful people all behave in a similar way. They all have similar habits. By learning those behaviors and acquiring those habits, you can be successful, too. And when you achieve success, you not only get the job, you get the promotion, the raise, the bonus and the beautiful wife, too! Doesn't that sound nice? You bet it does.

So what are successful behaviors and habits? Well, let us begin by stressing that success is a lifestyle. Success is not a hobby; it is a discipline. You must eat, drink and breathe success. You cannot tolerate failure. And you must be tough: This is a race; no one hires the runner-up.

Living success begins at an early age. Successful people get on the track to success when they are children. They understand what they want from life and they commit themselves to excellence. To that end, stable households produce more successful people than broken ones. After all, a child will not develop the basic skills needed to get good grades and work hard if he or she suffers parental sexual abuse and beatings every day. Those challenges make doing math homework difficult. And kids who fail math won't go to Harvard. In that light, a peaceful home is essential to growing up successful: It allows the focus needed to "home in" on success.

Successful people do not give in to distractions. To achieve success, it is necessary to "stay on track." That means working hard, getting good grades, going to bed early, taking instructions seriously and remembering your place. Yet it is easy to forget these rules when peers goad you to go dancing on Friday night, or when you'd rather watch television shows all evening than do your homework. Put simply, distractions surround us every day. And they threaten to derail us from the success track. To resist distractions, you must simply say: "I want to be successful. I will avoid these distractions." It is about mind over matter: Forget the video games: Think about the accounting job you want.

Education is essential to success in America. In bare outline, success means getting a good job at a good company, making good money and owning property. Yet good companies do not give good jobs to just anyone; they only give them to good people with good educations from good schools. In that light, success requires that you get a good education at a good school. That, in turn, requires that you live successfully without distractions. Only children who live appropriately during childhood will get into the schools needed to get good jobs. It is not so much about learning as it is about showing: Firms want to see good grades from good schools. As long as you get into a good school and show the good grades, you will get a shot at the good jobs. It does not matter whether you remember what you learned. And you will stand no chance at all if you don’t get into a good school: Good grades from bad schools will not impress good companies.

Still, successful living means more than just getting good grades. Once you actually get a job, it is essential to observe successful habits. Successful people keep their jobs because they know what is expected. That means they understand their employer's mission and loyally advance it. They also observe decorum by dressing appropriately, speaking respectfully and refraining from all distractions while carrying on the employer's business. In this sense, successful living is all about acting appropriately on the job: Loyal workers advance far. Ultimately, they rise through the ranks. Good companies love loyal workers who suppress their own interests to earn profits for them. Self-sacrifice is a hallmark of successful living: And it is rewarded.

Intangible factors also influence career success. For better or for worse, birth has much to do with success. Wealthy children stand a better chance to live stable early lives. That, in turn, prepares them to "get on the success track" without distraction. Additionally, powerful parents who attended good schools can assure that their children, too, attend those schools. Wealthy parents can also pay large tuitions and urge employers to hire their children. In some cases, wealthy parents are the employers; and they naturally award jobs to their own blood. In this light, the importance of fortunate birth cannot be overstated. Although it is impossible to "learn" how to be related to powerful people, blood is a sure way to get a big head start in the success race.

Still, success is never guaranteed, even for people who enjoy all the advantages. After all, even a minor mishap along the path to success can sink an entire life. A student may develop a drug addiction, ruining his semester grades and costing him a job at a banking firm. A junior associate might have a relationship dispute and perform poorly at work. A promising employee might fall in love and show up late for work. A woman might give birth, requiring her to put off career focus. Put simply, things can happen in life. And they can easily knock a person off the "success track." Just one distraction can unravel a lifetime of work.

And that is to say nothing about the danger of massive cranial injuries. In the above examples, otherwise successful people gave in to distractions through some fault. In other cases, otherwise successful people might fail to achieve success simply because something massively damages their cranium.

Consider, for example, a first-class legal scholar who has done everything right. He has been born into a good family, his father was successful, he had a stable childhood, he followed instructions, he went to bed early, he dressed appropriately, he got into first-class schools and got first-class grades his whole life. He even landed a job at a first-class law firm and the managing partner said: "He is bound to be successful because he has successful habits." He worked hard his whole life and had every reason to expect success. But he amounted to nothing because someone shot him in the forehead with a .38 caliber revolver. This example proves that massive cranial injury can ruin even the most successful lives.

Consider, too, a respected office manager with an excellent salary. This man did everything for his company. He gave up personal relationships to make sure his employer profited. He worked nights and weekends as he advanced up the company ladder. Through his childhood, he followed instructions and did everything he was supposed to do. He never rocked the boat; people called him a square, but it never bothered him because he achieved success. But one day on his way to work he tripped over a piece of fruit and fell into the street, where a concrete mixing truck rolled over his head. Once again, massive cranial injury derailed an otherwise successful life.

These examples say nothing about all the potentially successful people who suffer massive cranial injury prior to achieving success. What about the countless young people who study hard for exams, refrain from drugs, avoid peer pressure and go to bed early, only to be shot in the head with rifles? What about the super interns who give up everything for the company and win glowing reviews from supervisors, only to have their brains dashed out by falling cinder blocks?

No matter the circumstances, these examples teach a clear lesson: Avoiding massive cranial injury is a crucial step on the road to success in the United States. While it is essential to learn positive behaviors to achieve success, it is also vital to avoid being fatally struck in the head while practicing those behaviors. After all, a lifetime of hard work, study, high birth and promise can be instantly destroyed by a single bullet to the brain. That is why the most successful people absorb this lesson: You must not only live successfully; you must also avoid massive cranial injury at all costs.

Massive cranial injury is a worse threat to success than distraction or inappropriate workplace behavior. After all, it is possible to rally from distraction or an office faux pas. But it is not possible to rally from having your skull crushed by a concrete mixing truck. A person's career can recover from an embarrassing extramarital affair or a "C+" on an exam. But it cannot recover from a pointblank shotgun blast to the face.

In all these cases, the lesson emerges: The real key to success in America is to avoid massive cranial injury. After all, no person who suffers massive cranial injury will ever achieve success. And any success he has achieved up to that point instantly vanishes. To that extent, massive cranial injury is the worst thing that can happen to a promising career. Interview mistakes, bad resumes, lackluster university performance and even drug abuse do not threaten careers as much as being brutally slammed in the head with a baseball bat.

You can fix a resume. But you can't fix a shattered cranium. And people with shattered craniums do not get promoted or hired.

In conclusion, if you wish to achieve success in America, remember what is important: Avoid massive cranial injury first. The rest is just details. Because even the best career habits can vanish the moment someone cracks your head open.


Sarah said...

rule #1: brown nosing with all your might. i've seen people succeed with this being their only skill.

Balthazar Oesterhoudt said...

Yes! That is definitely an invaluable skill for career advancement. It has high costs in dignity, but the true careerist cares nothing for that!