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The Way Out

It isn’t often that an inspirational business book by a former insurance executive catches my attention, but Donald J. Hurzeler’s “The Way Up” had me at the first blurb.

“Need to be re-energized about work? Is your ‘hope tank’ nearly empty?” writes James R. Marks in a pithy panegyric to Mr. Hurzeler’s newly published tome. “This book will point you in the direction of success.”

Like you, my hope tank is not only empty, but my optimism muffler is also spewing smoke, my commitment spark plugs are misfiring, and my enthusiasm drive train has disconnected from my success differential.

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It may be too late for “The Way Up” to repair me before I reach the career junkyard, but I do see a few hundred thousand miles left in you, so let’s take a look at how exactly author Hurzeler suggests you “Keep Your Career Moving in the Right Direction.”

Starting at the beginning of both his book and his career, the author reminds us of the importance of making a good first impression. At his first job with “a very large company,” the author found himself competing against people who “all seemed like winners.” Well, almost all.

There was this one guy who wore a hat at his desk, had a big beer belly and wore a bow tie,” Hurzeler confides in a parenthetical remark. What exactly spells “l-o-s-e-r” about this dapper co-worker mystifies me, but if the price of success is untying my bow tie or doffing my hat, I’ll do it. Just don’t ask me to give up my beer belly. It took a lot of time, money and hard work to acquire that belly, and I’ve become quite attached to it.

Becoming the specific subject expert in your company is another way to move up, and I do agree with Hurzeler that there is a benefit to being “the person who knows more about and has more experience with a specific subject than anyone else in the world.” Just think how your encyclopedic knowledge on techniques to extract free snacks from the vending machine has made you a hero to the underpaid and underfed masses that huddle together in your company’s break room. However, I would caution against being “The person companies turns to when they need to cut expenses.”

When companies need to cut expenses, who you want to be is the person companies can’t find.

“Install a Periscope in Your Cubicle,” is another suggestion for making your way up the corporate ladder. The author’s point here is that it’s important to learn everything about the way your company works. As an example of the benefits of minding everybody’s business, Hurzeler tells how he once discovered some of his fellow employees sneaking out the back stairs at 4:35 p.m.

While you might be tempted to ignore such a great escape or even, heaven forbid, join it, Hurzeler went running to the boss. “I physically dragged him to the stairwell. It was like standing at the entrance of a bat cave just as the sun goes down. It was quite an eye-opener for my boss … ”

It must have also been quite an eye-opener for the author’s co-workers, and I’m sure they thanked him for improving productivity through increased executive oversight. “What a wonderful, observant guy,” they probably said, as they headed for the unemployment office. No doubt, they also had productive ideas about where Hurzeler could store his periscope when he wasn’t using it.

Becoming a “Networking Black Belt” is another success tip you’ll find in “The Way Up.” You’ll also find out you don’t want to be a “Networking No Belt.” Why? Because you won’t be able to keep up with “the brighter bulbs” you’ll meet along your career path. Also, your pants will fall down.

If you find networking difficult, the author recommends Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone.” I am writing a networking book myself that should really suit your personal style. It’s called, “Never Eat Alone and Never Pick Up a Check, Either.”

Despite my genetic aversion for “supporting management through thick and thin,” and apothems like “If cut at work, bleed the company’s blood,” it’s difficult to disagree with many of Hurzeler’s ideas. He was a successful insurance executive for many years. Yet, I do have to admit, when I spy a successful insurance executive in my cubicle periscope, there’s only one way for me to go. I’m doing a deep dive under my desk.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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