Career Success — Are You a Player or a Pretender?

The new issue of SUCCESS Magazine arrived the other day.  As you probably know, I’m a big fan of SUCCESS.  Month after month, it has some of the best career advice around.  If you’re not already a subscriber I suggest you go to as soon as you finish reading this post and subscribe.  You’ll be glad you did as you move closer to the life and career success you want and deserve.

John Maxwell writes a monthly column in SUCCESS.  This month it was called “Players vs. Pretenders.”  According to John, Players get things done while “Pretenders would rather look the part than do their part.”  He lists five differences between Players and Pretenders…

  1. Players have a servant mindset.  Pretenders have a selfish mindset.
  2. Players are mission conscious.  Pretenders are position conscious.
  3. Players are job happy.  Pretenders are job hunters.
  4. Players deliver the goods.  Pretenders promise the goods.
  5. Players love to see others succeed.  Pretenders are only interested in their own success.

Let’s concentrate on number 5 – “Players love to see other succeed.  Pretenders are only interested in their own success.”  Tweet 131 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Be happy to see others succeed.  Use the success of others to motivate you to your greater career success.”

In one of my posts on optimism and self-confidence, I mentioned a quote by a guy named Ambrose Bierce who bashed optimism – and I am an incurable optimist.  You have to be optimistic if you want to create the life and career success you deserve.

Anyway, Ambrose defined optimism as, “The doctrine that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong… It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.”  That drove me crazy.

Then I came across another quote from Mr. Bierce.  Check out this one: “Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.”  Both of these quotes are really cynical.  I wondered what kind of guy would produce them.

So I decided to learn something about Ambrose Bierce.  As it turns out, he was called “Bitter Bierce” by his contemporaries.  And I can see why.  First he bashes optimism, then he suggests that human beings see the good fortune of others as a personal calamity.

Ambrose Bierce is an interesting character.  He was born in 1842, and served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  No one knows for sure, but it is thought that he died in 1914.  In 1913, he traveled to Mexico to get involved with the revolution going on there.

He joined Pancho Villa’s army in Juarez.  On December 26 1913, he posted a letter from Chihuahua.  That was his last correspondence.  Wikipedia says, “Several writers have speculated that he headed north to the Grand Canyon, found a remote spot there and shot himself, though no evidence exists to support this view.  All investigations into his fate have proved fruitless.  Despite an abundance of theories, his end remains shrouded in mystery.  The date of his death is generally cited as ‘1914?’.  His disappearance is one of the most famous in American literary history.”

In 1906, Ambrose Bierce published “The Cynic’s Word Book.”  The title was later changed to “The Devil’s Dictionary”.  It is a book of satirical definitions of English words.  Ambrose was clever, I’ll give him that.  I often see quotes from this book online, including the one that inspired today’s post: “Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.”

But I digress.  I wish he were around today, because I would like to ask him where he got his bleak view of human nature.  He defines politeness as, “The most acceptable hypocrisy;” and  perseverance as, “A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.”

Do you know any people like Ambrose Bierce?  If you do, hold them at arm’s length.  While you may find them to be witty and entertaining at first, they will drag you down in the long run.  In John Maxwell’s terms, they are pretenders, not players.

People like Ambrose Bierce may be clever, but their views are incompatible with becoming a life and career success.  Successful people look for, and usually find, the best in others.  They are polite because it is the best way to build strong relationships.  They are willing to extend themselves to help others, even when they can see no immediate return to them for so doing.

If you read this blog regularly, you know I am a big fan of The Optimist Creed.  Point 6 says,

“Promise yourself to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are of your own.”

This is 180 degrees from the Ambrose Bierce quote that I cited at the beginning of this post — and from his life view in general.  Successful, self-confident, optimistic people aren’t jealous or upset by the success of others.  They are genuinely pleased when they see others succeed.  They use others’ success as an inspiration.  They use it to motivate themselves to achieve their own life and career success.  That’s what John Maxwell means when he says, “Players love to see other succeed.  Pretenders are only interested in their own success.”

If you would like a copy of The Optimist Creed that you can frame and hang in your workspace, go to

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  Successful people are Players.  Players are self-confident, create positive personal impact, interpersonally competent and adept at building strong relationships with the people around them.  In part, they build these relationships by being genuinely pleased about the success of others.  They are neither jealous, nor petty.  They are happy to see others succeed.  They follow the career advice in Tweet 131 in Success Tweets.  “Be happy to see others succeed.  Use the success of others to motivate you to greater success.”  Successful, self-confident people use the success of others to motivate themselves to greater career success.  They are happy to see others succeed, if for no other reason than others’ career success can be a springboard for their own life and career success.

That’s the career advice I found in John Maxwell’s article about Players and Pretenders in the August 2011 issue of SUCCESS Magazine.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, you can download a free copy of my latest career success book Success Tweets Explained.  It’s a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.


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  1. Dries Smit says:

    I’m afraid Maxwell got it wrong on point 3. I’ve seen many, many player-types forced to leave companies or give up their missions after being bullied by pretenders that are far better at protecting their positions than the players can ever be. That’s the reason why pretenders are very position-conscious; it’s far easier to protect and keep a position through office politics than it is to actually deliver anything. People who deliver doesn’t fear walking into a new environment; pretenders do.

  2. Dries:
    Thanks for your comment.
    What you say makes sense. Bad bosses can cause problems for people trying to do a good job (players).
    Workplace politics can be difficult to manage.
    If I read the article correctly though, in point John Maxwell was saying that players are heppy doing their jobs “they love what they do and do it well.”
    He says that pretenders are always looking for the next job — “they think success is always somewhere else…that the grass is always greener.”
    So I agree with your comments about office politics, I don’t think that’s what John Maxwell was actually talking about in point 3.
    You bring up some great points. Would you like to do a guest post based on the ideas in your comment?
    Thanks again for this very thoughtful comment.

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