Punxsutawney Phil Gives the Blueprint for Success in Corporate America
Another year, another 6 more weeks of winter according to the god known as Punxsutawney Phil.
Say what you want about the overgrown rat, but he is absolutely crushing life in the best way possible. Sidenote – how famous is Punxsutawney Phil in the groundhog community? Do you think the other groundhogs know that he holds the fate of the world in his hands or do they just think he’s a normal dude like them who sometimes hangs out with like a shitload of humans once a year or so?
Regardless of his stature in the groundhog community, it’s unquestionable that there’s a lot we can learn from Phil, particularly when it comes to our professional lives.
Here are some key lessons from Phil, a simple groundhog who has climbed his way to the top of the weather prediction industry in just 119 short years.
Corporate Lessons to Learn from Punxsutawney Phil
1. Develop a minor skill. Convince people that only you are capable of it. Gate-keep it like crazy.
Fuck meteorologists, the Farmer’s Almanac, or thousands of years of science and weather pattern study. The only way to truly know when the monster known as winter will leave our wretched planet is by determining the presence of shadow from a specific woodchuck in central Pennsylvania.
Phil has become an expert in extracting the one piece of information we all desperately crave and luckily for him, he’s the only motherfucker around who knows how to get it. What are you gonna do, fire him? You’ll have absolutely no idea when winter will be over! Which, when you think about it, is an incredibly useless piece of information that somehow we’ve been convinced is important. Which, coincidentally, is another way to describe about 90% of most people’s work tasks.
In your 9-5 work life, here are few tasks that you can create to make yourself absolutely essential.
1. Start sending out a report that no one asked for and takes you 3 minutes to create.
2. Hard-code your Excel files so no one else can use them.
3. Pretend your Sharepoint or Google Drive is broken, so there’s no way to share any important files.
4. Cling to a relationship with an important client or vendor and make sure no one else is allowed to talk to them.
5. Refuse to share the one account information for an analytics dashboard so you’re the only person who can pull the information.
Your goal is to make sure people think that the company collapses if you ever get fired.
2. Make Your Performance Hard to Measure
Another key aspect of Phil’s success is that we have no idea just how successful he is.
Let’s consider what his prediction is really saying. If he sees his shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter.
The phrasing here is important. 6 more weeks of winter. Does that mean 6 weeks from February 2nd (putting us at mid March?) Or 6 more weeks of winter than we (or he) originally expected? If all of a sudden, spring rolls around on March 1st, Phil can cover his ass and say “ok well I originally thought spring would happen in mid-January so this was technically 6 more weeks than I anticipated.”
Most importantly, it’s not clear at all how we are defining “winter” or an “early spring.” Like if it’s 50 one day, does that mean it’s spring? Does it have to be 3 days in a row like that? 3 out of 5? What if it’s nice for a week and then snows? HAS SPRING SPRUNG THEN???
Why is this important? When it comes to Phil’s performance review each year, he can talk his way out of any situation. Technically, no matter what he says, he can reasonably convince you that he’s right, which is the ideal situation for every corporate employee. This is also basically the way Jim Cramer, McKinsey consultants and Mel Kiper Jr. approach their jobs.
This is an important callback to our guidance on SMART goal-setting, which we’re sharing below:
S – Slightly Vague
M – Makes You Hirable to Other Jobs
A – Actually Impossible Not to Achieve
R – Right in Your Job Description
T – Totally Open Ended
3. Longevity is Your Most Important Skill
There is nothing more powerful in Corporate America than the phrase is ‘this is just how we’ve always done it.’ It can be frustrating if you’re a new person and want to make change, but as a seasoned vet, it’s music to your ears. If you can just stick around for long enough, you never truly have to make a change or grow in any sort of way.
Take Phil. He has been around for 120 years (!!!) and guess how many times he has predicted an early spring? 17. 17!!!!
He has openly just stopped trying at this point and no one cares. He made a name for himself at the beginning of his career and now he’s just mailing it in, predicting 6 more weeks of winter year in and year out with no repercussions. Otherwise known as the dream.
4. Pick Your Moments
Perhaps the biggest key to Phil’s success is that he knows how to bring his A game for the most important situations. Based on 6 minutes of Wikipedia research, I’ve gathered that Phil spends 364 days of the year sleeping, eating, or doing general groundhog tasks (grounding, hogging, etc.) He’s a slacker in the truest sense. He’s probably be fired on the spot if he didn’t know just how necessary it is to shine brightly on the biggest stage.
Once a year, he comes from his hole with the fate of the world’s climate in his hands. And every year, that motherfucker delivers. And that’s all you can ask.
In your corporate life, it’s important to pick and choose these big moments. 80% of your tasks don’t need to be done at ALL, but the 20% that matter? That’s when you over-deliver.
Some criteria for determining the work you should actually do.
- Did An Important Person Ask You to Do It?
- Depending on your position, this is really just your boss or maybe some sort of VP in another department. Sorry coworker who needs a favor, but I’m not your guy. Try the new hire whose still sucking up to everyone.
- Will an Important Person Eventually See it?
- Usually slides for a QBR deck or an email to a large group of stakeholders, the goal here is to not fuck it up. The last thing you want is a Director asking ‘wait why are there typos on this slide’ in the middle of a presentation or your boss’s boss telling you that your numbers are wrong for a monthly report.
- Is it Something You Can Do Well With No Effort?
- Even if important people won’t see it, this is your chance to convince people you’re good at your job. This is most effective when you’ve been at a company for a few years and can just use slides from a deck you made 18 months ago that they haven’t seen or forgot about.
5. Surround Yourself with Yes Men.
Within the weather community, there is an incredible range of opinions on the relative accuracy of Phil’s predictions, mainly due to point #2 and the vague nature of his predictions. If left unaddressed, this kind of unbiased and scientific analysis could ruin our good king’s credibility.
HOWEVER, Phil is armed with one thing that every corporate employee needs. An army of blind followers who refuse to question anything he does, known globally as the Inner Circle.
The Inner Circle claims a 100% accuracy rate, and an approximately 80% accuracy rate in recorded predictions. Most importantly, they claim that whenever a prediction is wrong, the person in charge of transmitting the message, must have made a mistake in their interpretation, NOT Phil. If you don’t believe me, read this Wikipedia entry that I just copy and pasted.
This groundhog is basically the Kim Jon Un of weather picking rodents and gives in an important lesson in career management. There are 3 qualities that matter in a corporate ally
1) blind loyalty
2) intelligence that is slightly lower than yours.
Find your dream team of Yes Men and rise to the top of middle management in no time.