From Business to Politics -- Why It's Not a Fluid Career Transition

AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 23:  Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump watches as a protester is ejected on August 23, 2016 in
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 23: Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump watches as a protester is ejected on August 23, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Thousands of attended Trump's address in Austin, traditionally a a progressive bastion in conservative Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

When you hear the phrase: "Put a dent in the Universe", you automatically think of Steve Jobs. Not only because he once said those words, but because if anyone put a dent in the Universe, he was certainly one of them.

Steve Jobs had great intuition for what worked in software and hardware, and he always followed that gut instinct and saw tremendous success in his lifetime. - However, he was not always right.

In the book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World, Adam Grant tells the story of how Jobs met with the inventor of the Segway, Dean Kamen, in early 2000, and upon seeing the product, - a self-balancing transporter - Jobs thought the invention was genius, and said it was: "as big a deal as the PC".

The Segway today is a 3rd generation, so it has evolved since it was first designed. And although we occasionally see people using it, originally, it was thought to be as common as the bicycle.

Steve Jobs, (and Jeff Bezos), intelligent, successful, accomplished men were enamored with the product, and were even willing to invest their time and money in it, but the Segway did not meet the demands of the market; their intuition failed them, and the product did not become a hit.

As Grant explains in his book: "Three major forces left him [Steve Jobs] over-confident about the Segway's potential: domain inexperience, hubris, and enthusiasm."

Grant adds:

"The more successful people have been in the past, the worse they perform when they enter a new environment. They become overconfident, and they're less likely to seek critical feedback even though the context is radically different."


But upon reading that last paragraph, it automatically led my thoughts to one specific person - Donald J. Trump.

Trump, love or hate him, think he's smart or a cheat, let's agree that he has seen success many times over; whether it's in real estate or having his own reality TV show, or being the brand that he is which led him to become a presidential nominee.

Trump won over the Republican candidates expected to win the nomination, so obviously he has had an impact on the country. However, as the race intensifies, followers of the election are starting to see that he often lacks judgment, and diplomacy, shows inexperience, doesn't have concrete answers to domestic and foreign issues - and he is just not good with critical feedback.

To go back to Grant's words about successful people not performing well in new environments, and in the context of Trump's journey in this campaign, see a parallel?

Objectively, logically speaking, can the intelligence required to be highly successful in an industry within the business arena, and all its qualifications, from being an expert in a niche market, to people skills (deal making/negotiations), from honing the skills of branding, to spreading successfully to other markets, - as commendable as all that is, - can that skill-set really be transferred to politics; to being the leader of a whole nation, with no experience relating to policies and governing?

"Whatever you are, be a good one." --Abraham Lincoln

In his 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner writes about his theory that intelligence is not defined as having the highest IQ necessarily (and consequently, being the most successful or richest).

Instead, intelligence comes in many forms, and one can be a genius in one thing, and not able to perform as well at something else.

The eight types of intelligence are:

  • Visual - spatial
  • Linguistic - verbal
  • Naturalist
  • Bodily - kinesthetic
  • Musical - rhythmic
  • Intrapersonal
  • Logical - mathematical
  • Interpersonal

(Later, a ninth type of intelligence was added: Existential.)

A person can have several intelligences, according to this theory. But there is usually one type that stands out, and up to two others that can score high. This basically represents a person's strengths, talents, and natural gifts. (I'll leave it to you to figure out where Trumps stands in this.)

With that theory, or generally speaking, the question remains, as much as Trump succeeded with all his "intelligences" required for the business industry, can a transition to the political arena - and the highest office in politics, no less!, - be a realistic one?

Being smart (as in successful in your domain) does not mean you can just switch from one career to another, especially when they differ so much.

As much as I think a PhD professor in physics is extremely intelligent, doesn't mean I'll go to him or her for a toothache, and vice versa.

Sure, the above example may be silly and extreme. But business and politics are very much different, from how leadership is performed, to every other aspect in their respective domains.

For example, job creation. In business, you only hire when the company expands, or when you and your current employees can no longer function without additional help. You never hire more than needed - why would you do that? Not only is that senseless, but every additional salary affects your company's overall net income, profits and earnings. You won't hire if it puts you in the red at the end of the fiscal year.

In government, the more jobs created, the more the economy thrives. That in itself is a huge contrast.

In government, the process is done through policies, regulations, and watching over markets' shifts. While in business, it's through a recruitment process.

The two scenarios could not be more extreme.

Steve Jobs put a dent in the Universe with the technology we continue to use today, when he stuck to what he was an expert at; when he did what he loved most, and by using his unique gifts and talents.

Donald Trump has also worked passionately in his own specific industry and built his empire.

But it was not in politics.

"Domain inexperience, hubris, and enthusiasm" - is that really the ideal profile for a presidential candidate?