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3 Things Wharton’s Adam Grant Says You Should Do to Be Truly Successful

Who knew that asking your boss for advice on how to get promoted might actually get you promoted?

Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images
Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant, the best-selling author of Give and Take and Originals, and host of the TED WorkLife podcast, recently shared three success lessons on a Mic video intended for a Millennial audience.

But after watching the clip, quite honestly (as a Gen-Xer myself), his success hacks are just as easily adaptable for Boomers and Gen-Xers looking for strategies to get ahead in life. But it’s intriguing to note his slant on generational differences. Grant sets the record straight:

We hear Boomers and Gen-Xers complain about this all the time: “Oh, Millennials want to be promoted on day two of their job, and they have no sense of gratitude and loyalty, and their timelines are unrealistic.” And if you look at the data, this is not mostly a generation effect. It’s actually mostly an age effect.

He adds, “Boomers and Gen-Xers were just as entitled as any other generation was when they were 23 years old too.”

Grant proceeds to impart some useful success tips founded on empirical evidence that any person of any generation can apply. Specifically, he shares three things you can do to move up in life.

1. When seeking a promotion, ask for advice … from your boss.

If your goal is to jump on the fast track to upward mobility, Grant advises not to make a case for all the reasons you should get promoted right away. Instead, the best way to influence a boss is to ask for advice on how to go about getting promoted. Grant says, “What’s much more effective is to say, ‘You know, I’d really love to get this promotion. And I’d value your guidance about how to pursue that.'”

When that happens, Grant says, you flatter the person whom you’re approaching and put them in a really good mood. You also force perspective-taking, because the boss has to look at the problem from the employee’s vantage point.

Because of the flattery and perspective-taking, states Grant, the boss is significantly more likely to become your advocate, step up, and try to help you.

2. Change your perspective around work-life balance.

Grant calls work-life balance a myth and stresses hard work — even long hours — as keys to the success of others. “It’s not to say you have to be a workaholic in order to be successful, although the evidence is strong that one of the ways that people become successful is they just work more hours. Or they work with more intense focus than their peers,” states Grant.

He adds, “But I don’t think that means you can’t have a life. The idea that work-life balance means ‘I show up at 10:00 a.m. and I’m done by 3:00 p.m.’ is ridiculous. The successful people I know don’t tend to have very balanced days. They will have a whole day where all they do is work. But then the next day, all they do is spend time with their families.”

3. Build a great network.

Networking is important, sure, but introverts will breathe a sigh of relief. Grant says that you don’t have to be a schmoozer and hit all the networking events in town to meet as many people as you can. Citing the data, he says that the people who end up building the best networks are often the people who did the best work early on by focusing on producing something of value.

The data shows that accomplishing great things and producing something of value will yield greater returns and enlarge your network. And that, in turn, will capture people’s attention.

Simply stated, to achieve success is to have something to show for yourself. “If you’ve created a product, even if you’ve been able to demonstrate your work ethic or your commitment to others through the work that you’ve done, then interesting people are a lot more likely to spend time with you,” says Grant.

Originally published at

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