Four Career Lessons From Zombies

For the record, I’m not a zombie-lover. I’ve never read a zombie novel, I haven’t seen the classic George Romero movies in their entirety, nor do I dress up like them for Halloween.

I’m intrigued, however, by the hit TV show The Walking Dead because of the whole “how do people survive in the wake of a catastrophe” premise. I’ve watched almost every episode (as of this writing), and really don’t care about the zombie aspect; I love the interaction between the living characters.

But, having said that, I realized that those of us in the business world could learn a few things from the undead characters on the show. Four things jump to mind right away:

1.    They rise from the dead and power through with purpose

Hey, we all experience setbacks at work, but we can probably all agree there’s no bigger setback than death. Given that comparison, how bad can your boss really be, right? You’ve already heard the Abe Lincoln stories of failure by now, but the fact is that many (if not most) business champs have had their teeth kicked in, often more than once. If they cry about it, well, it’s not for long. They come back and kick ass.

2.    They’re relentless

If you’ve seen the show, you know what I’m talking about. Wave after wave of these walking corpses get their skulls bashed in, but it doesn’t slow the pace of the next wave at all. They keep pushing forward, showing no fear or hesitation, grinding ahead until they either lose their head or find the prize. We don’t seem to be wired that way; we’re way too intimidated by obstacles. Now look at the market leaders in your sector - chances are they’ve been relentless for success from the very beginning.

3.    They’re not distracted by competitors

I’m not sure the zombies ever even see their fellow dead. Whether traveling alone or in packs, they seem focused on just one thing: Get The Meat. They don’t shove each other out of the way, they don’t fight amongst themselves, and they don’t plot to undermine a fellow stiff. They have a goal and they pursue it, regardless of who or what stands in the way. I’ve worked for companies that spend more time fretting over what the other guys are doing instead of driving ahead. Are you worried about your competitors to the point that you’ve lost your way? A zombie doesn’t.

4.    They finish what they start

Unless it makes you queasy, check out the remains of a zombie’s fresh kill. It’s picked to the bone, man, and nothing goes to waste. Set a flesh-eating freak on a cow or a rabbit or a human and it’ll go downright phrenetic on your ass. Characters on the show often toss a sacrificial animal in the path of a zombie bum-rush because they know it’ll keep the dead single-mindedly busy for a while, long enough for the living to sneak out the back. Are you that way with your projects? Or do you start and stop, check your phone, start again, wander through the office, and generally putz around until you’ve completely lost the thread of what you’re doing? Quit it.

It’s a dude-eat-dude world out there, and there’s no shame in taking tips from a few rotting remains. They must know what they’re doing - they’ve lasted six seasons.

Photo courtesy Shawn Perez / Hypnotica Studios

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