When I started work 35 years ago, there was a retirement concept called the three-legged stool. Essentially, it meant that a person could achieve retirement security by combining Social Security, a pension, and a 401k. That concept still applies today, except that most companies don’t provide a pension.
Employers back then similarly applied the concept of the three-legged stool to achieve company success. According to this thinking, a company would succeed if it took care of its customers, its employees, and its owners. That concept still applies today, except the components are called stakeholders.
Recently, I was thinking about giving some words of wisdom to my fourth son, who will graduate from college this spring and enter the work force. As I reflected on what to tell him about achieving career success, I realized that the concept of the three-legged stool was again appropriate.
Career success, in my opinion, depends on personal skills, hard work, and smarts. Depending on your job, any one of these three qualities might carry you, but success is much more likely if a person develop at least two and maybe even all three of the qualities.
So, even though kids often have successful pre-work lives based mostly on personal skills, having a successful career will probably require an adult to start focusing more on hard work and being smart – i.e., critical-thinking.
That’s what I’m going to tell Jimmy.