Doing What You’re Told

I’ve been working since the age of 12 when I became a busboy at an Italian restaurant in my hometown.  I still remember my dad dropping me off on my first night.  As I got out of the car, the last thing he said to me was a rather emphatic “Do what you’re told” (as though I’d had a history of not doing that with him).

Suddenly, at the ripe old age of 12, I was working for the man (even though the boss’s name was Betty).  My dad’s advice served me well, not only for that job, but for other jobs through college.

But once I got my first career job, it wasn’t such good advice.  Certainly doing what I was told would have been OK, but I wouldn’t have gotten far letting others think for me.  To be successful, you need to make decisions and decide for yourself what needs to be done.

One of my favorite Disney/Pixar movies is A Bug’s Life.  In this movie, one of the worker ants, Flik persistently thinks up new ideas and inventions and essentially goes against the ant colony’s accepted norms of following procedure and doing what they are told.  Meanwhile, the colony’s heir apparent, Princess Atta, makes all of her decisions based on what the colony would think of her.  She would ask Flik, “Why can’t you just be like everyone else?”

Are you a rule follower, going through the motions of mediocre obedience?  At some point you need to ask yourself, have I been hired to think or to do.

If you only do what you’re told, you are easily replaceable. What does your employer value most from you, taking direction, or solving problems?

About the author: Lew Sauder is the author of Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (  He has been a consultant with top-tier and boutique consulting firms for seventeen years.


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Filed under Accountability, Business, Consulting

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