The 10 Most Obvious Things About How to Succeed in Business

Last Updated Jun 12, 2008 10:11 AM EDT

Are we not yet completely bored by top 10 lists of the things you need to be to succeed? Here's a great example, from Peterson's, a college-oriented site that has built a scholarship program around a top 10 list of things to do to succeed. Here's part of the lame way it starts:

Standing out and getting noticed is important all your life. You need to stand out in college applications, job interviews, in business or to find a date.

Most people just tend to copy what they've seen before and go with it. Following what works is a good plan but you have to do more to show you are a leader not a follower. Show you have something to offer over and above everyone else.


Could this be more obvious? In fact, the post gets worse. Here's the first item on the list: "Be creative. This isn't as easy as it sounds."

Would that it were. I would eat the post for breakfast every morning.

Here's another: "Be Sure. But don't be cocky."

Controlling how others think of you is, of course, simple.

"Be Yourself."

Another trumped-up truism.

These are the worst kinds of pablum, especially since Peterson's preys on the impressionable: college students. At least in a book like "the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People," there's an expectation that you need more than just a mantra to develop a new habit. Sure, you'd hire someone who was creative, who was confident, who was a leader. And some of these things can be learned -- but there's a reason why the dark times in any business often derail entrepreneurs -- it's hard to push through, and sometimes even brilliant, well-positioned people fail.

I do think there's value to positive psychology, but these little lists are like magic pills -- we wish they'd work, we hope they'd work. But they don't. (though they're apparently good for Web traffic, which is why business blogs like Business Pundit are praising this post.)

So why did I link to the post? So you could go check out the videos that it asked students to submit, and start thinking about the video resumes you'll be getting in a few years. Hint: teenagers using YouTube aren't quite ready to take over the business world. Maybe in four years, after they've mastered the 10 truisms to succeeding in business and life.


  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.