From the Mag: A New Approach to Success

Chris had only worked for me for a few weeks when I asked him to join a roundtable meeting with several outside consultants. He sat through the two-hour presentation stony-faced and silent until asked by the lead consultant if he had any comments. Then he nodded impatiently.

“This has been totally bush league,” he said. “I can’t believe that we actually pay you for doing this.”

 This story originally ran in issue 13 of RELEVANT


He went on to point out many serious flaws in the consultants’ research, but he wasn’t watching carefully enough to see the color drain right out of their faces. By the time they’d slunk out the room, Chris had embarrassed me and everyone else present. He didn’t quite figure this out until the next month’s meeting, to which he pointedly wasn’t invited.

Had Chris been smarter and nicer, he would have made his excellent points and been a hero for it. Poor Chris. He was armed to the teeth, well-educated and wired for decision speed. But he was completely misdirected about how to use his many talents because he was also wired for war—always hostile, always battle-ready. He believed success in business meant that you crush the weak. You always win. You disdain people who aren't as smart as you. You protect everything you know—and everyone you know—lest your weapons fall into enemy hands.

I dubbed him Mad Dog, and the name stuck.

Still, there was something beneath Chris’ surface that was truly sweet. In an off-moment, when his defenses were down, he would flash a glimmer of tenderness, a ray of goodness. It was his tough background more than his personality that was making him mean. And he was smart enough to realize that his behavior was his Achilles heel. His world stayed small while others around him were growing their networks before his eyes. He knew that being perceived as cruel and critical was holding him back. He was having a bad ride in his career vehicle.

On top of that, he was miserable. Although he liked his actual work, he was unhappy in the workplace. He felt lost. He was doing what he had been told to do—win at all cost—but it didn’t feel like winning.

I told Chris that his attitude was dangerous and that if he didn’t believe me, he only had to watch how others treated him. He admitted that he’d been repeatedly taken off projects, and he now realized that his peers disliked him. His mood sank lower.

One day he sent me an email: “I have to change. I’m out of step. I’m acting like someone from my father’s generation.”

Chris approached me because he knew that the company listened to me and supported my projects; he knew that people thrived around me, that my network seemed to grow day to day and exponentially quarter to quarter. Chris was ready to listen.

“What do I do?” he asked.

“Be a lovecat,” I replied. “And that means: Offer your wisdom freely. Give away your address book to everyone who wants it. And always be human.”

I explained why he should be a lovecat—listing the same three steps previously mentioned: sharing your knowledge, sharing your network, sharing your compassion.

We went right to work. I helped him organize his reading. Chris didn’t have a lot to offer that was portable to people—he could tell you what was wrong but he couldn’t help make it right. His knowledge habits were screwed up. He’d taken such hard subjects in school that the moment he finished his graduate work, he stopped studying. He read only to get him through sleepless nights in his spartan Silicon Valley apartment. So I put him on a new curriculum. Reading is a source of potency, I said, so manage it like an asset. Become a walking encyclopedia of answers for anyone who has questions.

Then I showed him how to share his network. Because he was young, Chris didn’t have many contacts. But he had the potential to make new ones—he was dealing with dozens of people on a weekly basis. Soon he was organizing internal meetings for his peers, pollinating them with new ideas he’d picked up from his reading and giving them access to his newly found contacts. Recently I saw him walk out of a 20-person meeting, which he had chaired masterfully, months after wondering how he would ever get airtime at these gatherings. He had built his own little nest.

Mostly we talked about the third step: compassion, or the willingness to demonstrate your humanity at the office. At first Chris resisted because he thought it sounded trite, but the more he thought it over, the more he saw the light. Last month I received an email from him saying, “Guess what? I just made someone’s year.” Chris had befriended a woman who worked in a section that was politically at risk. Chris opened up to the woman, whom he admired but had never told, and let her know at a time when she most needed support how great she was at her job, and how valued her contributions were. “I will help you,” he said. “I will tell people how excellent you are. You should feel secure.”

Those words turned her around. She was able to calm herself, which improved her work performance. And it gave Chris such a profound sense of satisfaction that he finally began to enjoy the office environment. He felt he belonged. He felt a sense of purpose.

Today I see a more potent Chris. I see a monster of knowledge, a connector of people and the kind man who always existed within him, deep inside. Chris has changed his brand. He's found a way to use the word love more than hate. He is no longer Mad Dog. He is a lovecat. And being a lovecat is exactly what all of us must do if we want to succeed in the 21st century.

Multiply the value!

If you want to find happiness, success and wealth take this advice: Multiply value. This is how you become Spider-Man instead of Smithers.

Produce value in the lives of other people. Help them succeed. Be a cash/value machine for customers, co-workers—even your boss. If you do this, you’ll find yourself getting bigger roles in the company, taking home bigger bonuses/checks and whistling while you work.

There are three ways you can multiply value in the lives of others. Each one of these ways involves sharing one of your intangibles to promote success, satisfaction and growth in others.

    • Share knowledge.

    • Share your network.

    • Share your compassion.

When you share these intangibles, you help others get smarter, better connected and more balanced. You spin a web with them and build sustainable and positive relationships.

I’ve learned that your career works like a business. You spin a personal web of relationships, and this determines your value. When you give in a way that causes you to gain from feedback, you cannot go wrong. If you get really educated on your business or your customer’s situation and share that knowledge, you build the foundation of a great relationship (respect). When you connect two people in your relationship network that “should meet” and then disappear, you further your relationship with both of them (trust, gratitude). When you share your compassion with others, they reflect it back to you (love). When you truly wish for their happiness and toil to solve their suffering, you reach the peak in your relationship with them.

This is a theory I’ve tested around the world with thousands of businesspeople, and dozens of leading companies great and small. Nice, smart people really do succeed. Or, to paraphrase the late, great Dale Carnegie: You’ll accomplish more in the next two months developing a sincere interest in two people than you’ll accomplish in the next two years trying to get two people interested in you.

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