I have taught more than 10,000 students during my career as a college professor. If I was asked today to list the top ten students whom I predicted would succeed in business, surely Charles aka Chip would make the list of the 1 in 1,000. Chip was a bright student. But being bright alone will not qualify one for a job with a top corporation. Nor will it necessarily underlie a successful career in general.
I often wonder how those major corporations chose those 1 in 1,000 students of mine. How did they determine that people like Chip would flourish in their corporate environment? Obviously, they looked at more than transcripts and letters of recommendation. Perhaps they were impressed with Chip’s extracurricular activities in makeing their decision. Along these lines, consider Chip’s profile.
After class one day, Chip went out of his way to tell me that he was a painting contractor. I then asked, “Chip, how can you be a painting contractor? You’re only 21 years old.” He said that age was not a problem. You merely needed to have good help and to find people with painting needs. (University faculty were a big part of Chip’s customer base). He hired fellow students so that they could earn enough money to pay their rent in the small apartment house he co-owned. I said, “Good, Chip. I’m getting ready to sell my house. Why don’t you and your crew come and paint?”
One day while painting my garage Chip said,” I’ve got to leave now for a job interview with IBM.” He quickly changed out of his painter’s jumpsuit into a business suit. But he accidentally left his tie at my house. With paint in his hair and under his fingernails and without a tie, Chip got on his motorcycle and went to the interview. The interviewer said, “Charles, you have a lot of brass (courage) showing up for an interview without a tie.” And what was Chip’s response? “No problem. I would have to take a significant cut in salary to work for you. I would have to shut down my paint contracting company and give up my New York Times paper route of over 1,000 sales per day. But I would like to work for IBM. How about giving me a chance?” Only one of our students was hired by IBM that year. Whom did IBM hire? Chip, of course!
Why would a prestigious corporation want to hire this fellow? Obviously, because he had many fine traits, but also because one of those traits was courage. Within three years after Chip graduated, he was given a major role in encouraging a Fortune 500 company to change computer systems. It did so. Chip had enough courage to ask for the job of selling computers in the very big league to the officers very high up. Remember that courage is the fundamental characteristic of all highly compensated sales professionals as well as successful self employed business owners.