Your Corporate Career Is Making You Less Great

Your Corporate Career Is Making You Less Great
Corporate life


I am going to sound opinionated and biased in this issue and that's because I have lived the corporate life for 20+ years.

Before we dive into that, here are 3 random and fun things I would like to share with you:

  1. If you are into woo woo things such as mindfulness practices, meaning in life, flow state, etc., give this interview between Lex Fridman and John Vervaeke a listen. Warning: it's dense and invaluable.
  2. I have found myself getting "news" from Hacker News. It's just a great place to find all kinds of odd and useful news. I also subscribe to its newsletter, which is a wonderful curation of its content.  
  3. I also visit Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen regularly. Cowen is an Econ professor and he writes daily. The range of his interests is broad and that's what makes his blog entertaining.  


You are kind of ok but not great. That's a bad position to be in.

It's especially bad if you are a "kind of ok" employee in a large company.

If you are in a start up, if you are not generating great output but you are taking up resources disproportionally, you will be replaced soon. That's a good thing because the lesson of being kind of ok is bestowed upon you.

But if you work in larger companies, you can get by by being "not great." You get things done. You get meet expectation ratings during your performance reviews. You get pay raises. You might even get a promotion every now and then.

And that's bad.

Being kind of ok but not great is a bad habit. Most people don't just become kind of ok in an instant. Most people don't choose to be kind of ok. Instead, they slowly become kind of ok. You start with cutting a few corners here and there. You figure out how to do just enough to get by. You perfect saying just enough in meetings. You don't take up more than you should. You invest only in relationships you have to have. You start being stingy about your output. You start counting the returns of your effort. You have perfected the craft of being kind of ok.

On the flip side, being great is a muscle. If you don't use it, not work on it, it shrinks, it atrophies. You can't see the process of atrophy. You will only know it when you need to use it.

And that's crux of the issue - we just don't realize how risky being kind of ok is.

I've spent 20+ years in the corporate world and I have seen a lot of kind of ok teammates. I was one of them too. I won't blame us for losing our "being great" muscles, because the corporate environment primes us to be kind of ok. Big companies are big because they have systems, process, and people to prop things up. They have to ensure no single person is too critical. Therefore it's almost by design that the corporate environment nurtures us to become kind of ok. You would be going against the current if you try to be great.

And it's kind of ok to remaining kind of ok. I can probably half arse my way through my corporate career, hop from corporate job to corporate job, and cruise towards sunset peacefully. But if for whatever reason, I want to be great again (aka mid life crisis). I want to start a business, join a startup, do my own thing, make my own mark. Or if one day shit hits the fan, the economy tanks, your company fires you, and you need to be great again, then, only then, you will realize your being great muscles are long gone.

I have tried to rant about this  to folks many times and I've learned two things. First, most folks ignored me because I could not tell a compelling story. My rants about just kind of ok were just kind of ok. I need to work on being great at ranting about being great.

Second, this issue of being kind of ok manifests in the future. It's like climate change. It's hard to understand future risks. It's harder to take action against future risks.


Reply to this and chat with me! Tell me what you think of this. Or whatever is on your mind. I will always reply, I guarantee it.

And if I fail to keep my promise? Email me and let me know at 🙃

Share this with someone whom you think wants to sound smarter, and or anyone who deserves something light and fun.  (Plus, they trust your recommendations more than my LinkedIn ads.)

Thank you for reading this. I think about leadership & psychology in the showers. I know it's odd, but these topics are important and fun. I hope you find them useful too.

Work diligently. You are bound to be successful.