Annie Leibovitz Ignored Rule No. 1 of Success, So Don't You
Those such as John Gapper of Financial Times who explore reasons why some talented people snatch failure from success conclude that it's imperative to play by the rules of the game. The trick, of course, is to have the experience and gut instinct to determine whose game or work sandbox you should be playing in. That's the only game that should matter to you. Let others play their games. You only have to be good at your game.
Once you find your game, then how do you figure out the rules you have to pay attention to? Fortunately, there are many role models for that. Identify several persons in your field of choice who are very successful. Analyze what they routinely do and don't do. The rules they obey are as important to notice as the rules they choose to bypass or even make fun of.
Then, apply that kind of reasoning to your own specific situation. If you are beginning a career in loss prevention in a big box store, initially you will have down cold the rules that align with what your direct supervisor, the next layer, and the store manager assume you'll play by.
Most of that will change as you progress in your career. As you move up the ladder, you want to identify the levers of power at that store, in the region, and at headquarters. What are their rules for you? When there is a conflict in the rules set by different powers that be, then you probably have to take a risk. You might have to bet your future on the right horse, in terms of who's going to stay in the race and end up winning promotions as well as access to resources.
Suppose you make a mistake? Analyze the moves by those such as Bill Clinton who put together big comebacks. Incidentally, the rules of the road when you're bouncing back from defeat are different than the rules of upward mobility.
Jane Genova, coach, book author, and lecturer on careers, specializes in transitions. Her talk on professional shifts at the New York State Bar Association has been published in VITAL SPEECHES OF THE DAY. Her latest book is OVER-50: HOW WE KEEP WORKING. She blogs on the subject at http://janegenova.com, http://lawandmore.typepad.com, http://careertransitions.typepad.com and http://over-50.typepad.com.more...