How many times have you finished a book or an article and said to yourself, "Well, I wish I knew that 25 years ago!" I think that might be the reaction of many mid-career professionals on reading a manga (sort of a Japanese comic book, or graphic novel) entitled The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need.
The book is written by Daniel Pink, and illustrated by Rob Ten Pas.
Johnny is a young man who has done all the right things. Followed his father's advice. Went to the right schools. Chose the right major (accounting). Got a job at the right company. He followed the "plan." Now, though, he finds himself stuck in a dead-end job and suspects he is doing everything wrong. Suddenly there appears in his life Diana — a spirit, an elf, a sprite — there to help guide Johnny by teaching him the six lessons. Here are a few of the lessons (not in order) that struck a chord with me:
Lesson One: There is no plan. Diana teaches Johnny that careers (and lives) do not usually grow in a logical progression: "What that means," Diana tells him, "is that
you can't sit there at age 21 — or even 31 or 41 or 51 — and map it all out. You might think that X will lead to Y and Y will lead to Z…but it never works that way. Life isn't an algebra problem. Well, actually it's like an algebra problem by Salvator Dali. X might lead to W and W might lead to the color blue. And the color blue might lead to chicken quesadilla."
So true, is it not? Von Clauswitz said about war, "all plans are useless."
Lesson Four: Persistence trumps talent. Most people quit on their goals and dreams far too early. There is a famous quote from President Calvin Coolidge that sums up Diana's message to Johnny: "Nothing
in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not;
nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will
not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the
world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination
alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will
solve the problems of the human race."
Lesson Two: Think strengths, not weaknesses. Young people are often given the advice to work on their weaknesses. Dan Sullivan of The Strategic Coach thinks that is nonsense: "What do you end up with? A bunch of strong weaknesses." Diana the genie agrees. "Successful people don't try to hard to improve what they are bad at. They capitalize on what they're good at."
There's more (for the record, the other three lessons are: it's not about you; make excellent mistakes; and leave an imprint.) In any case, I wish I had known all that when I started my professional career, instead of having to learn it. I gave the book to my 16-year-old son last night. He read it in one sitting. His comment? "Anyway, Dad, it's just that stuff you say all the time." Maybe now that he's read it in a manga, he'll believe it.