Anne and Maggie grew up in the same Chicago suburb, went to the same high school, and then went to the same junior college. They also went to work for the same insurance company, and both were hired to work in its billing department.
Although the two women had similar socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, there was an obvious difference, which affected their careers. Anne was extroverted and friendly, while Maggie was introverted and reserved. In the company cafeteria, for example, Anne would always talk to the people who shared their table, while Maggie would read the newspaper or poke the food around her plate.
Since the company was huge, most people were strangers. Anne made many new friends. Maggie made only a few. Anne enjoyed talking to strangers and finding out about their lives. She also enjoyed exchanging ideas. Humanity fascinated her. Maggie seldom joined the conversation unless an attractive man joined their table. Usually
Maggie sat quietly, frequently bored, while her friend, gesturing animatedly next to her, engaged in conversations.
One day Anne chatted with an old man who worked in the personnel department. The conversation turned to women’s careers. She confessed that she had long since learned the skills needed to do her job and hoped for more challenges.
A few days after this conversation, the old man stopped Anne in the corridor. He mentioned a job opening in the personnel department and he offered to help her transfer if she were interested.
Although the new job was another secretarial job, requiring a low amount of skill, and paying as little as the previous job, Anne enjoyed it – because part of her responsibility was to interview people who resigned. Anne tried to find out the reasons for their leaving. She learned how their job could have been more attractive.
Meanwhile, Maggie stayed on at Accounts Receivable.
After two years, Anne became a full-time interviewer, and now spoke to those who wanted to join as well as those who wanted to leave. One outgoing employee was her friend Maggie, who had found a better paying secretarial job. She was leaving, she said, because no special opportunities had come her way.
Two more years were to pass before Anne became the Assistant Personnel Director. Her main responsibility was to assess and address the main career problems of women employees.
One day an executive recruiter called her on behalf of a bank. The bank had been experiencing costly difficulties over sex discrimination among employees. They were prepared to pay a handsome salary to a Personnel Director who knew about women’s job rights.
“How did you hear about me?” asked Anne, curious.
The executive recruiter confessed that it had been in an extraordinary way. He had initially contacted a woman college professor who had written about gender problems in a labor-relations journal. The professor had recalled Anne, who had attended one of her seminars. She recalled that Anne had spoken to many participants and had suggested numerous ideas to them. She had also spoken to the professor about some innovative job ideas when the two of them had accidentally met on campus. The professor had been impressed by Anne’s friendliness.
Anne joined the bank, becoming its Personnel Director. She doubled her salary and improved her career profile.
Maggie, meanwhile, had married and quit her previous job. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last and she returned to secretarial work..
The Success Principle
Anne and Maggie both shared many things in common – except for personality. Anne was curious about people and life, Maggie was indifferent and withdrawn.
Anne, consequently, attracted opportunity and gathered ideas and skills wherever she went. She made an impression on the old man she met in the company cafeteria and on the professor whose seminar she had attended. Both recommended her for advancement.
Between these events, however, Anne developed a knack for interviewing people. This gave her enough information and experience to leverage the prestigious bank job.
Maggie, unfortunately, never developed any skills in relationships. Consequently, on the job and in marriage, she did not find a way to learn how to express herself.
In your own life, you can create your own luck by learning to become more open and curious about people and life. In the long run, the gregarious person attracts more opportunity than the reserved person. Try this small experiment. Spend one day being reserved. Then spend the next day being gregarious. Note the difference. Which was more fun? Which attracted more “luck?” Which brought out more of the best in you?