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4 Proven Examples of Career Success

Celebrate sun  “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life”. – Steve Jobs

Career success is such an overused term because too many people magnify one factor to define success. Here are 4 career success factors – and pay special attention to fate.


Even Steve Jobs got kicked out of his own company. We will all experience career failure at one point or another. It’s how we dust ourselves off and get back on the horse that counts. Early on, Steve jobs recruited John Scully as the new CEO of Apple and eventually Steve was fired by his own Board of Directors and John Scully. So Steve went on to tinker with some new companies and Apple eventually fired 3 CEO’s – Scully, Micheal Spindler, and Gil Amelio . Gil Amelio had hired back Steve to Apple and in a ruthless move Steve secretly sold 1.5 million shares sending Apple stocks to a 12 year low. That weekend Steve managed to convince Apple to make him CEO and Gil Amelio didn’t know what hit him. Karma is a bitch. The rest is history.

I’ve experienced the same type of failure but I worked hard to create a reasonably successful career, including side gigs such as speaking at large IT conferences, called by LinkedIn for my opinion on a design change and asked by Harvard Business Review to publish a comment I wrote. One of my most interesting mandates was helping the US Navy reduce costs while being provided documents from the White House. Failure only makes your career stronger if you accept the challenge.  Fail fast and try a new approach.


In an opinion article in the New York Times, Gina Abercrombie Winstanley writes about a 30-year career in the Foreign Service including being an Ambassador. Then her dream job opened up in the Office of Global Women’s Issues but fate and Donald Trump stepped in and the position was cancelled. Hundreds of well-educated and hardworking people have had their government jobs and dreams squashed due to a change in leadership. This isn’t about failure. This is about not even being given a chance. Success is also determined by fate.

Fate includes health problems (The world’s best goalie, Carey Price, was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome earlier this year). Steve Jobs elevated Apple to the top of the business world and then died of neuroendocrine cancer of the pancreas. Fate can be positive too. Fate intervened when Sara Blakely, the current billionaire of Spanx had Oprah Winfrey name Spanx her favorite product in 2000 sending sales to $4 million dollars in its first year. If fate deals your career a bad hand, I hope you have the strength to fight it.

Hard Work, Passion and No Compromising

Elon Musk is driven by a dream to colonize mars. This is after he was CEO of PayPal. He has Mars posters in his office and he makes it clear that it drives his passion.  People respect that and work hard for him. I think he should concentrate on earth, but ironically he now owns the two most successful clean-tech companies in the U.S. He has also built a rocket factory in the middle of Los Angeles. Musk respects people that continue on after being told no. His companies were branded as potential failures dozens of times by “experts” and he would not say no.

What separates the successful team at Tesla to the competition is their unrelenting charge after its vision without compromise, a 100% percent commitment to Musk’s standards. In meetings, Musk has zero tolerance for excuses or lack of clear plan of attack. I’ve worked with extremely successful people with the same personality traits. You may not be an Elon Musk but there are plenty of career lessons to learn from him.


If you think the New England Patriots are successful because of Tom Brady you are wrong.  The Patriots are successful because of team work. Bill Belichick, their coach, is the ultimate leader in that regard.  Belichick had to learn from his own failures, bouncing around 6 teams before sticking with the Patriots. He demands that his team know their plays and will spot-grill a player in the hallway at any time.  He does not favor players including Brady. In the last 17 NFL seasons the Patriots have finished first in the East 15 times and won the Super Bowl 5 times. This isn’t due to any one player excelling. This purely a team effort.

Career success isn’t about going it alone.  To create or turn around a successful company or career it requires a team effort. I led a great team on a memorable government project last year. Your success rides on your ability to build and inspire a team.

In conclusion, there is no one magic pill for career success. Fail fast, don’t let fate get you down, do not accept “not possible” and teach and inspire to build a great team.

“Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

Terry Vermeylen is a Next Generation Project Manager, a former top level IBM Consultant, founder of  and and President of Terry Vermeylen Enterprises Inc.

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