5 Marbles

Did a corporate dinner with the team in Monterrey last year and it was a pretty standard event till about 3/4 through. Two of our executives were having a conversation and inadvertently drew the attention of the rest of of the group. Our CTO decided to open up to everyone what they were discussing and it turned out to be a nice little nugget of wisdom so I thought I would share it here.

The Analogy

When you take a role at a company you can think of it as starting with "5 marbles."

Every time you take some action such as: speaking out against your boss or taking on a high profile project that doesn't go flawlessly (but not a complete failure) you lose 1 marble.

Every time you get promoted you reset back to 5 marbles.

Now lots of people may think that the way to "win" is to keep your all of your marbles safe and never lose any. Protect them. Well, that is also a bad thing. Roughly, it means that you aren't taking any risks, which means you shouldn't be promoted, and maybe shouldn't be trusted with important, strategic activities.

Some Thoughts

I really like this analogy. It's simple, but also leaves some room for various interpretation.

We all have our own journeys but there's some parameters you should be mindful of when you choose your path. It should also serve as a reminder that failure is not fatal but inaction may leave you in a no-man's land career wise. You also can't be so miserable or aggressive to work with that you piss everyone off around you.

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