I think I finally figured out the secret to success. It came to me as an epiphany one night as I was driving home from work. Frankly, it was so simple and obvious, I can not believe it took me years to figure it out. It came to me as I was thinking about some of the key people I've met over the years in the Information Technology field, and I found their attributes were essentially no different than other successful businessmen I've met. I guess we should begin by asking ourselves what we consider to be a "success." To me, this is not just making a comfortable living. Instead, I'm talking about those people who dominate an industry or company, primarily through their personalities. I do not wish to portray this concept of success in a cynical light, but rather as a realistic perspective of the captains of industry.
In order to become a success in any industry or business, I have discovered it is not necessary to produce a good work product, nor do you have to be conscientious about your craft. No, it's much simpler than that; you just have to be an ass ****. And I say this with the utmost sincerity. All of the "movers and shakers" I have met over the years, particularly in the IT industry, fall into this category and you would be hard pressed to find anyone that does not possess these simple attributes as described herein.
First, you have to find a cause for you to pitch. It really does not matter what it is, just something you are comfortable with, and something that appeals to the masses, particularly if it relates to a human weakness such as greed, violence or sex. Or it might be that you have invented a new mousetrap. In this event, you need to portray it as "state of the art." Either way, you want to go well beyond simply peddling your offering, you want it to dominate market share.
Next, you have to cultivate a certain physical image, something that identifies you, usually by not conforming to current standards. This could be something as simple as a new hair style, facial hair, clothes, hats, jewelry, etc. The more outlandish, the better as you will inevitably be falsely mistaken for a genius and it becomes your unique logo which people remember. For example, I remember one guy who loved to wear a cape. You may not remember exactly what he said, but you remembered him because of that stupid cape.
Next, you have to master the art of communications as well as miscommunications. Very important: you do not have to be right in your message, just entertaining. This means you can be loud, obnoxious, even insulting in order to get noticed. And the more verbose your vocabulary is, the better, as people will misunderstand what you say yet regard you as a genius. This means you always try to speak above your audience, and most certainly not at their level. By doing so, you are endeavoring to dominate your audience through intimidation. You must also be a master politician as you have to be acutely aware of the hot buttons needed to motivate or coerce people to do what you want them to do.
This fixation on physical image and communications obviously means you realize the importance of facade as opposed to substance. It also means you understand the need to keep moving along before somebody understands what you are really about. This requires you to be able to move politically faster than your opponents and undermine them as required. I am reminded of one CEO in the IT field who during the work week would make the life of everyone in the office miserable, but always made it a point to attend his church every week to be canceled of any wrong doing.
All of this highlights two points: first, morality and ethics have nothing whatsoever to do with becoming a success, and second; you must be self-centered with a huge ego. You see workers more as servants as opposed to employees. It also means your word is not your bond. In fact, honesty and integrity have absolutely nothing doing with becoming a success. To illustrate, I remember when Hitler wrote that preposterous Munich Agreement for Neville Chamberlain promising he would never invade the Sudetenland: what a classic!
To be a success your behavior is perhaps best characterized as "pompous" and you enjoy a highly visible profile. I am reminded of a customer of ours in the Midwest who was developing new information systems for the business. Whereas most of the project teams quietly went about their business and delivered quality systems on-time and within budget, there was one Project Manager who never delivered anything of substance on time or within budget. But because of the nature of the projects he was working on, where he was applauded for his skills for putting out fires, he enjoyed much higher visibility than everyone else and was promoted more rapidly than others. In other words, he capitalized on "the squeaky wheel gets the oil" phenomenon. As an aside, we advised our client that their chief firefighter was also their chief arsonist (which never quite set well with management or the subject in question).
Successful people are certainly not afraid of stepping on toes and making enemies as they already know how to combat them. Show me someone who is successful without making any enemies and I'll show you a fraud. If they're not pissing someone off, they're not doing their job. In fact, they've discovered employees generally work better when they're pissed off. This sense of ruthlessness may make his confidants squirm a bit, but not to the point of creating a mutiny.
To offset their unscrupulous tactics, successful people will support high profile causes, such as charity, which is designed more to improve the person's image as opposed to helping a worthy cause (besides, it's a handy tax write-off). Another earmark of the successful person is his / her infatuation with toys. They have to have the most expensive car, the largest boat, or their house house has to be wired with the latest technological gizmos. All of this is aimed at projecting a certain "winning" image to impress others. It's one thing not to be apologetic for your success, quite another to flaunt it like PT Barnum.
Now for the big question: Do you have the strength and temerety to be a success? Just remember, you have to look at yourself in the mirror every day. Frankly, most of us do not have the intestinal fortitude for it, and quite often our moral convictions prohibit us from acting accordingly.
Please understand, I do not present this thesis to be insulting, cynical or even humorous, but to consider the subject very objectively. We certainly do not like to believe these attributes for success are valid, but are they? The idea of someone working their way from the mailroom to the boardroom in this day and age is simply a ludicrous fantasy. It requires taking some rather unscrupulous tactics in order to succeed.
But interestingly, the masses are enamored with successful people, even in the face of some of their practices. For example, on one hand we are appalled by executives who are generously rewarded with hefty bonuses even if the company is floundering, but on the other hand we envy their success.
There is only one drawback to being a success, it is very lonely as you have no true friends to confide in. In fact, you are closer to your attorneys and accountants than you are to your friends and neighbors. Nonetheless, you trust nobody but yourself. But if you have supreme confidence in yourself this may be a small price to pay.
I guess the point of all of this is that there is nothing fair in business, a message I often convey to young people entering the work force. If you want something, you are going to have to earn it, which will inevitably require you to compromise your principles.
A lot of people confuse the quirky mannerisms described herein as "entrepreneurial" or mistake them as signs of brilliance. In reality, it is nothing more than a joke. To paraphrase an old expression, "You do not have to be a brain to be a success, just an ass ****."