How to apply blackjack strategy to maximize career winnings?

Background Info:

  • Laurence J. Peter, an education professor at the University of Southern California, found in a study that companies often “fast track” or have an accelerated evaluation and promotion path for people who have been designated as stars early in their careers. The study further reveals the presence of the “Peter Principle,” which says that workers rise to the level of their incompetence and then stall (Knowledge@Wharton, 2015).
  • Recent research findings show that men are not better risk-takers or more prone to take risks than women (WSJ, 2015; Forbes, 2016). Women-led private technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieve 35 percent higher return on investment, and, when venture-backed, bring in 12 percent higher revenue than male-owned tech companies (Bloomberg, 2013).
  • A Gallup study revealed that of the country’s approximately 100 million full-time employees, 51 percent aren’t engaged at work — meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs, and thus they tend to do the bare minimum. Another 16 percent are “actively disengaged” — they resent their jobs, tend to gripe to co-workers and drag down office morale as a result (CBS MoneyWatch, 2017).


Dr. Jul’s Insights:

I was sitting in a senior executive’s office the other day when the topic of gambling came up. I mentioned that I’m a card player. His response was, “Let me guess. You play blackjack.” I asked him why he picked blackjack. He smiled and said, “You strike me as someone who would choose the casino game with the best odds.” He’s right on the money! I love the game of blackjack and have been playing ever since I reached the minimum gambling age. To win at blackjack, you have to apply the proper strategy. As I left work that day, it struck me how blackjack strategy can guide us in making winning career choices.

Strategy 1: Double down on the right opportunity. In the game of blackjack, you will encounter opportunities to double down, thus allowing you to increase winnings quickly. What does it mean to double down at work? When great opportunities present themselves, you have to be alert and ready to act. Early on in my career, I remember an instance where my boss booked a last minute consulting engagement in Japan. Times were tough and that revenue would greatly impact our team’s quarterly numbers. I was asked to fly out the same week. I remember driving up to the Japanese Consulate in SF the next day to apply for a visa so that I could hop on a plane that weekend to Yokohama. The trip required me to drop all of my personal plans for a month. When I was promoted shortly thereafter, I was informed that along with being a great team player, my flexibility and adaptability made me an asset to the organization. Over the years, others have shared with me their own double down stories such as relocating for career advancement or taking on big projects where they didn’t feel quite ready. When opportunities present themselves, seize them!

Strategy 2: Know when to hit or stand. Do you know how often I’ll see a player sit on 16 when the dealer is showing a face card? As hard as it is to hit on 16 for fear of busting, I’ve learned to do so when required because if you don’t, I can guarantee that you will lose majority of the time. The odds of 16 being a winning hand when the dealer is showing a face card is low. This same rule applies in the work setting. There will be instances where your colleagues do not align with your thinking, but you mustn’t let them deter you from speaking up and taking risks. If you have a great idea, convince them using strong arguments and solid evidence. Yes, moments will arise where you stand instead. However, my rule of thumb is as long as you’re aware of the rules of engagement at work and don’t overstep those boundaries, be brave enough to put your ideas out there. You may just have a winning idea!

Strategy 3: Surrender and walk away when appropriate. There may come a point in your current job where it makes sense to walk away. If you’re sitting at a table where people are splitting 20s and sitting on 13 against a face card, it’s time to leave. To me, those situations are equivalent to working in a highly dysfunctional environment where poor decisions are being made. Another instance to consider leaving is when the House is no longer taking care of you. When you’re playing smart but your chips are dwindling quickly, it’s time to leave the table. I equate this to being in a setting where you feel like you’ve been stripped of everything that matters to you. We should all feel challenged and valued at work. Your company should provide you with opportunities for growth. While it may be difficult, sometimes moving to a different table where there are bigger and better things waiting for you may be the better choice. Life is too short to feel uninspired every day!


Take Action:

  1. Assess how you currently feel at work. If you’re disengaged or unhappy, ask yourself if it’s time to walk away. However, don’t leave without first making an attempt to improve the situation. There are no perfect jobs, but we should all be in an environment where we’re excited and enjoy the work and people. Find a place where you’re able to thrive.
  2. Double down when a great opportunity comes along. Be on the lookout for opportunities to make high impact wherever you’re at. Remember, a person doesn’t become a leader because he or she was promoted; a promotion occurs because the individual is a leader. Put yourself ahead of the pack by consistently demonstrating high performance.
  3. Learn to hit and keep playing. We all have examples where we’ve lost because we stayed too long at a table. Regardless of your prior experiences, you have to keep playing. It may be at your next place where you find your winnings. To quote Bill Gates, “To win big, you sometimes have to take big risks.” The key is to play smart!



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