David Maister - Professional Business, Professional Life
David’s ResourcesAbout David
NEW! Browse my materials by topic of interest:StrategyManagingClient RelationsCareersGeneral

Passion, People and Principles

My Way

post # 95 — June 2, 2006 — a Careers post

Another post from the archives. This question was originally posed in October, 2002, but I still get asked it again and again.

You have created what I believe is a high level of credibility and a brand. Have you ever been tempted to become David Maister and Associates? What factors would you consider in making this type of decision?

My (updated) reply is this: I am defiantly solo, and have never been tempted to build a firm. This has nothing to do with any business theory, but is just a reflection of my tastes and (eccentric?) personality.

If there’s a general theory behind it, it’s simply that you must know and accept yourself and try to arrange your life around what you want to do and what your goals are, never accepting other people’s views on what you “should” do.

I believe the goal of life is to maximize happiness and fulfilment as you yourself define it it.

You must never accept other people’s definition of success or happiness. There are too many ways to live life, and you’re allowed (maybe even required) to choose your own, without living up to other people’s views and beliefs. Assuming, of course, that you’re prepared to accept the consequences of what you have chosen.

My primary goal has never been to maximize income or net worth – it’s not my definition of happiness. So, building a firm to get rich never appealed.

Actually, building a firm at all never appealed. The legacy I wanted (and still want) to leave was not an institution, but to be remembered as someone who, as an author, made a difference by contributing sensible ideas clearly expressed; and, as a consultant, helped other people achieve more of their goals.

I understand and admire, tremendously, those who have built firms: many are my clients, and I am in awe of what the best among them have accomplished in creating firms.

But I don’t want to do what they do. I understand enough about what it takes to be an effective manager to know that I don’t want to spend my days doing it. I’ve seen enough partnerships in twenty years to know that partnership is not for me.

I LOVE the freedom that comes from having no colleagues, no bosses, no subordinates. I can and do collaborate (8 of the 12 books I have written, including those done in academia, were coauthored, joint projects.) But I love the freedom of choosing when I want to collaborate and when I don’t.

If all that means that I have to work a little harder and shoulder the full, personal responsibility for building my reputation and creating my own individual success, well, that’s fine with me.

I don’t say it’s right for others, just that it’s a perfect fit with who I am. And, done right, it pays well enough to keep my wife and I more than contented! (English understatement.)

Here’s the challenge for each of you out there: are you enthusiastically, deliriously, delightfully pleased with the career choices you made? Are you doing what YOU wanted and chose? I hope so!


Bruce Lewin said:

A very passionate and powerful post!

posted on June 3, 2006

Tim Griffin said:

David, your material (books/blog) is great stuff. However, I find it difficult to get peers and bosses to implement. Was curious at your success rate. When companies hire you to provide direct consulting, what percentage effectively implements your advice and sees signficant results, versus listens but not willing to make the disciplined changes required?

posted on June 5, 2006

Bill Peper said:

I am not sure I have ever been “enthusiastically, deliriously, and delightfully” happy with my career choices—despite holding a handful of great jobs (including my current one.) While work is an important part of my life, it cannot bring true happiness.

I am confident that I get my “dream job” one day, but the pay cannot support my family very well

posted on June 6, 2006

Bruce Lewin said:

Hi Bill, I think its a shame that work can’t bring true happiness – I’m sure it has for some?!?

posted on June 6, 2006

Bill Peper said:


Perhaps I was not as clear as I intended in my previous post.

I have had the privilege of meeting and working with many “highly successful” (in a business sense) people. My twin brother is the General Manager of Chevrolet.

While work can provide financial security, opportunities, and tremendous satisfaction, its benefits can become hollow very quickly—when health deteriorates, a loved one dies, or a marriage falls apart. Money, prestige and work are incapable of meeting our deepest needs as humans. Even the best job will cease to provide intense satisfaction at some point, however remote that time is. I think one can be set up disaster if we look to work to provide true hapiness, although many try to do exactly that.

Admittedly, my life perspective reflects my Christian faith. I have worked primarily in the non-profit world as a result, and my “dream job” is to teach Catholic theology in a Catholic high school.

posted on June 7, 2006

Bill Peper said:

Here is a link to the forward of an interesting book that I plan to read in the near future, Stumbling on Happiness by Harvard professor, Daniel Gilbert. It does seem to me to bear directly on this thread.


posted on June 7, 2006

Bruce Lewin said:

Hi Bill,

Yes, I think you’re right, its one of a number of things we have to look at…


Money, prestige and work are incapable of meeting our deepest needs as humans. Even the best job will cease to provide intense satisfaction at some point, however remote that time is. I think one can be set up disaster if we look to work to provide true hapiness, although many try to do exactly that.

< <<

This struck a chord too :-)


posted on June 7, 2006

Eric Boehme said:

I am in pursuit of what makes me enthusiastically, deliriously, delightfully pleased with the way I live my life. It was not until last year that this became something that I was actively seeking.

I was caught up in a successful business career and after the failure of my first company, I had to think about what I was passionate about.

Thanks for the words of wisdom. It was encouragement for today.

posted on June 7, 2006