The very attributes that make you effective at your present level rule you out for the one to which you aspire. This means that when the time comes to move up, you’re going to have to shed your old carapace for a new one.

Here’s how to know when you’re ready:

Transformation 1


You’re an itty-bitty buglet, working on the hill with a lot of other busy creatures just your size. Every now and then you have a chance to rub antennae with one of those big, scary dudes with the huge, square heads and killer mandibles, and when you do, you are patient, humble, industrious and exquisitely aware that one bite could snap you in two.

When I was starting out, I was surrounded by men who made 20 times more than I did and didn’t mind telling me so. At staff meetings, when the discussion turned to bonuses and stock options, I was askedto leave. I minded, but I also appreciated the peek at what life was like higher on the hill.

At that time, all I wanted to be was a manager bug. I was an associate then, and the qualities that made me a good little player – humility, universal geniality, willingness to eat the crap handed to me – defi ned me as appropriate to the area of the colony I inhabited. I didn’t understand that then. I asked and asked and asked, and still they did not make me a manager bug.

Then, one day I found myself in my boss’s office, and this time I wasn’t nice. I told him I was pretty sick of the situation and just left it at that. I think he saw a certain steel in my eye. The following week I was promoted to manager. I was off the dung hill!

Transforming moment

The first move up comes when you’re willing to assert your personality over those more powerful than you. The capacity to be unpleasant about your own cause ruins you as a slave – and marks you as a manager.

Transformation 2

Manager To Senior Manager

Wow! Look at the view from up here! You can almost see the top of the mound! Whereas before you laboured away in a gaggle, now you’re taking orders directly from some big, crusty dude with a segmented shell who wants to stare upwards and twiddle his feelers. You revel in the capacity to inhale work and spit out a finished product.

If there is anything to be done, you stick up one of your hundred little legs and shout, “I’ll do it!”When you arrive at the office each morning, there’s a big list on your desk of items you need to do that nobody but you can accomplish. At noon, you grab a sandwich at your desk and keep digging through it.

By closing time, you’ve cleared away just about all the rubble and assembled a new list of stuff you’ll deal with tomorrow. After work, you have a couple of pops downstairs with a group of fellow bugs.

You hoist a cup of nectar and bitch and moan about working your tail off. But secretly, you’re very happy. You’re earning an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. This lasts for a while. But the drive – the compulsion – for more defines the senior life form. I have known big bugs who cry the blues that a portion of their R10-million bonus is in long-term options instead of cash. Doing things yourself… the simple pleasures of a task done well… all of these characteristics that drive the mid-level bugmust be shuffled off to make way for the newer, faster, sleeker model. When you’re disappointed with every raise that’s not a life changer, when you’re tired of being offered a polite five-figure bonus at year’send, when the nice, plush office down the hall from yours seems more appropriate to your self-image than the little corner you now occupy, you’re ready.

Transforming moment

You decide that young Bob can handle a few of the 12 things on your plate. When he’s almost done, you grab them back so you can take credit for them. Crack! You just earned your new skin.

Transformation 3

Senior Manager To Executive

You’re a big bug now. One of your shells costs more than you used to make in a week. Your jaws have grown, too, both in size and power. At the same time, your definition of work has changed.

Now you think of it as a series of tasks that need to be performed well – by somebody else. You’ll kick the ass, thank you. What’s really different are your levels of need, intensity and rage. There isn’t a circumstance that doesn’t aggravate you, no incident too small to set you off. You rampage from one end of the battlefield to the other, your troops trying to keep pace. But at times you feel like all that marching just leaves you in the same place. You long for wide open spaces where you can have time to think about strategy. Your shell is growing too tight in all the wrong places. You’re ready for the final step.

Transforming moment

You realise you care more about 2018 than you do about 2011.
You look in the mirror and see your father, or what he looked like when he dressed up for a big occasion.

Transformation 4

Executive To Regular Guy

Which brings us to this morning, when, as I told you, I’d awakened to find I’d transformed into a loathsome bug the size of a Porsche Boxster. I went to the offi ce and settled behind my desk with my muffin and coffee. My final corporate form was giving me a whole new way of looking at things.

I felt affection for all the little guys down in the trenches, carrying cubes of sugar and scraps of food onto the hill. I admired their industriousness, their willingness to give up their individuality for the good of the colony.

I admired the middle-sized people who helped organise the chaos of the enterprise, their eagerness to do the job themselves, and, on occasion, take the weight of their bosses on their backs and carry them.

I shook my head at the fellows just below me on the food chain. They were a talented, ambitious bunch. I liked the way they pushed the big pieces around.

Suddenly, all that stuff seemed far away. Up here at 35 000 feet, a lot of details had gone missing, and a bigger picture emerged. I liked what I saw. I also enjoyed being so very comfortable for, above all, life as a really big bug is very comfortable indeed.

I peered out the window, to the street far below. I noticed a large fellow about my size, with a huge shell and feelers as long as my arm. He was standing at a street corner, soaking in the morning sun. Then, in one giant, convulsive movement, he cracked wide open. His shell fell to the ground. And there stood a rather fit, good-looking middle-aged man who’d kept quite a bit of his hair, wearing comfortable slacks and an open collar shirt. He stretched and yawned, tossed his briefcase into a nearby trash can, and strode off into the newly minted day.

Final transforming moment

Who knows? But I’m certainly looking forward to it.