Trying to change a behavior that gets in your way rarely succeeds unless you understand the beliefs that inform it. Beliefs create the framework that shapes your actions. They provide rationales for how you behave and offer logical reasons for why you actually don’t need to change.
In What Got You Here, Marshall identifies several pervasive beliefs that keep successful people stuck. These beliefs may have enabled them to achieve wonderful things. But these same beliefs can get in their way as they try to reach the next level or move to Sally saw a similar reluctance when working with Nicki, a senior partner in one of the world’s largest law practices. Now in her early forties, Nicki had joined her firm immediately after graduating near the top of her class at Harvard Law School. She was named partner a bit later in her career than some of her cohorts, but thanks to strong mentors and outstanding performance, she rose quickly into the senior ranks.
Despite literally being one of the most successful female lawyers on the planet, Nicki informed Sally within minutes of their meeting that she does not consider herself ambitious. “I’m driven, yes,” she said, “but it’s not the same. I think of ambition as being like a politician who knows from the time he’s a kid what he wants to be, so he lives his entire life in that mold.” She named a well-known U.S. senator who was a member of her Harvard class. “He was super-ambitious and acted like a politician from the day he arrived at school. Every relationship, every course, was chosen for the purpose of promoting his future career.”
Nicki sees herself as very different. “I came to this firm because I thought it would be a great place to start my career, not because I saw myself as a partner. I ended up staying because I love the work and because I love the feedback I get for my work. I’ve always been motivated by good feedback. That’s why I got good grades in school. It’s the same here: I enjoy pleasing the client, the judge, or the partner in charge. That’s basically been my motivation.”
Clearly, Nicki views ambition through a negative lens. She doesn’t want to be associated with the word, even though one might think that climbing to the top of a major global law firm would both require and give proof of ambition.
beloved throughout her firm and industry. She was known among colleagues and clients as “the wonderful Lina.” Other firms had tried to hire her, but she refused to consider any offer because she did not want to break up her team. In part, this was savvy: she knew that she benefited from the work of those she had nurtured. She therefore did not imagine that what she had achieved could be duplicated in any circumstance simply because of her own brilliance, as many of her peers clearly believed about themselves.
Finally, a competing firm made an offer for Lina and her entire team, with a contract that gave her unprecedented latitude and support. She was thrilled, but when she approached her team, several members were reluctant to move for personal reasons. They also expressed disappointment that she would consider leaving a practice that had been so good to her.