Seth Kahan
Author, consultant

Seth Kahan

Change expert and author who has advised executives in 50-plus organizations, including Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps and NASA. He can be reached at


The wrong horse

Q: In South Korea, parents are so certain that height is crucial to success that they are taking their children to growth clinics. Do certain physical attributes give people an advantage as they strive for success in the workplace? Are short people at a disadvantage in business or politics or other endeavors?

Sure, there are statistics that show that tall people, or good-looking people, or people with a certain color of hair are treated better than others and have more opportunities. But anyone who is pursuing the physical traits associated with success has chosen the wrong horse to follow and their children will ultimately lose the race.

What's at stake is value: Can this person actually create something that is worthy? That's where the action is.

I remember when I was a manager at the World Bank, running a small IT shop in the early 90s and we needed someone who could: (1) design enticing, interactive web pages; (2) create and set up the web pages on a server; and (3) had the smarts to understand the content so they would make the right decisions without too much oversight.

After a short interview process, I found my man. He did not have a college degree, but boy was he good. I hired him instantly. I had a need, and he filled it. He earned his pay and I was happy to give it to him. I held onto him as long as I could until he was offered a sum I could not match to go and work for USA Today. They snatched him up.

His career took one great stride after another without a college degree. Why? Because he could consistently, systematically produce great results in a field that was in high demand and short on exceptional talent.

If you want your children to get ahead, give them experiences where they learn to listen and understand the needs of those they are serving, anticipate challenges and take them on proactively, and create positive results that are understood and appreciated.

Want to give them an intensive course in creating client satisfaction? Have them run their own business where profit and loss provide their feedback.

Short people, green people, or anyone who has a particular physical characteristic will never be at a disadvantage in business or politics or other endeavors if they can perform and achieve. They will be in demand.

By Seth Kahan  |  January 5, 2010; 11:01 AM ET  | Category:  physical appearance Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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