How do I Become a General?


By John Riley

This commentary is for the young businessman or woman starting a career. It is an attempt to answer the foremost question in his or her mind, “what is the secret to success?”  I offer it here because it is so profound and  so true.

 Former Secretary of State and four-star general Colin Power recently related a story he learned while a young infantry officer at Ft. Benning in an interview by Fortune Magazine July 6:

 “There was a brand new second lieutenant who  was very ambitious and wanted to be a general. One night at the officer’s club, the young officer spotted this old general sitting at the bar, and he went up and said, ‘How do I become a general?’  And the general Answered, ‘Son, you’ve got to work like a dog. You’ve got to have moral and physical courage. There may be days when you’re tired, but you must never show fatigue. You’ll be afraid, but you can never show fear. You must always be the leader.’

 “The young officer was so excited by this advice.  ‘Thank you, sir,’ he said. ‘So this is how I become a general?’  ‘No,’ said the general, ‘that’s how you become a first-lieutenant, and then you keep doing it over and over.’

 After telling the story, General Powell added, “Doing your best in the present has to be the rule. You won’t become a general unless you become a good first-lieutenant.”

 For anyone entering the job market in today’s business environment, this is sound advice.

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