Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success is celebrated as one of the best motivational books on earth, despite the fact it is filled with nothing-advice, sweet-sounding anecdotes, poor logic, and a severe lack of critical thinking. It is filled with bad advice for people undertaking project management. Possibly the most damaging advice is that diligence and commitment are the keys to project management success. Here’s why this is not the case.
The Man Who Saw the Train Arrive
In Napoleon Hill’s book, there is a story about a man who was so passionate about getting his building projects completed on time that he would even supervise the arrival of the steel on the trains so that if there was a problem, he could be there to deal with it.
His story sounds so inspirational, until you give it a lick of thought. When Microsoft’s Zune was failing, do you think it would have made a difference if Bill Gates had stood by the Chinese factory waiting for the plastic deliveries? Do you know what type of project manager does things like supervise deliveries? A bad one! A good project manager would be busy tracking the cause of the delivery’s delays in their project management software and making whatever changes were necessary to fix the problem.
Project Managers from Outer Space
A project manager is either Captain Kirk, at the helm giving out orders, or he is Scotty in the engine room, holding it all together. You may be a Kirk or a Scotty, but the fact is your emotions have very little to do with your success (unless you frequently lose control of them). Diligence and commitments are emotions. They are not morals; they are not methods or techniques.
A person can turn up at work without any form of commitment and still do a fantastic job. A person can be as diligent as 12 million worker ants and still mess the entire process up. Perhaps the next time somebody tries to sell you advice based on emotions, you should question their critical thinking skills.
Project Management Skills Are Learned
You can learn project management skills in college, and you can certainly learn the required software in college, but most of your project management skills will be honed through experience. Nothing shows this better than those home and garden TV shows where couples fix up their house in order to sell it. The wife goes out and buys a $3,000 black bathtub, and the husband spackles the leaky basement, and the couple both go over budget and sell for a loss.
Experience doesn’t just help you grow your skills; it also grows your instincts (for want of a better word). There are some project managers who can take a look at a project’s parameters and anticipate every single problem that will occur over the next twelve months, including how long the problem will delay the project. It is not a premonition any more than people who predict rain when they look up and see storm clouds.
Do You Need a Burning Desire?
Probably the biggest lie that Napoleon Hill, and many other motivationalists, have sold is that you need a burning desire in order to see a project through. If this were true, then does that mean sewer workers have a burning desire to descale inner-city pipes?
A burning desire is the lie that is sold to people who cannot motivate themselves. As soon as they start to fail, they figure that they do not have a burning desire. There are coastguards right now who have just been through an excruciating divorce, or their loved ones have died, and they still go into work and smash head-first into 20-foot storm waves to save somebody in an overturned dingy. It is not about their burning desire, it is not about the way they feel, it is about what they do. What you do is all that matters, not your reasons (or your motivation) for doing it.
Conclusion – Project Managers Need Lots of Help
Project managers not only need tools, fixtures, and fittings, they need human help in the form of workers, associates, and even consultants. They also need the right software solutions, as well as mobile and desktop technology in order to make them work correctly. Diligence and commitment are nice things to have, but that is true of anything from driving a car to loving your spouse. Hacks like Napoleon Hill will sell you a hero complex, all decked out with 16 ways to burn out faster, and the fact is that life doesn’t accommodate the stoic hero who does it all himself/herself.