Posts Tagged “Underearning”

Written in 2007, Barbara Stanny’s book,  Overcoming Underearning, has been getting a lot of attention lately.

So has the nascent organization, Underearners Anonymous.

Stanny’s plan of action to combat this recently identified malady features a 5-step program that will lead to ‘a richer life.’   The UA version uses the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous model to help people uncover and conquer the blocks to living a full and prosperous life.

So why do we need yet another ‘step’ program and what exactly is ‘underearning?’

Turns out that the crux of the problem is that many of us simply don’t know how to take care of ourselves.

We give away our time.  We let fear or feelings of inferiority run us away from opportunities. We refuse to identify our big dreams because… well, why bother? … they’ll never materialize anyway.

Furthermore, we make ourselves small or hideout entirely, make trouble where there was none, drive ourselves (and others) crazy trying to prove what we should already know. That we are largely competent, accomplished, talented and quite nice people.

We simply get in our own way.  So noted. 

Now what?

Well, whether we turn to Stanny’s remedy or go the powerful 12-step route, we can start by viewing ‘underearning’ as having to do with far more than a  money-making problem.  That it has to do with an ‘under-living’ problem.  A way of neglecting ourselves, self-sabotaging and, generally, living below the radar of our own enormous potential. And by admitting we might be among a surprising number of people who  secretly suffer from these symptoms.

By examining this issue, even those who – on the surface – have status, earn nice salaries, enjoy lots of successful looking stuff and seem to have nothing to complain about can weed out the undercurrents of ‘underearning’ and begin to live an even richer life.

Piques my interest.  Yours?

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ceoa.jpgRegarding CEOs who might quit their posts if their pay was capped, management expert Tom Peters asked, “Who cares?”  He went on to say, “…if all the top executives of the Fortune 500 companies were exiled to Elba, ‘performance of their companies would not on average deteriorate.’”

So – without getting into the ‘who cares’ and ‘if all’ of it – what about the money? Is that the ONLY thing that most CEOs care about?

In a late 2004 study of two hundred and eight Fortune 1000 CEOs, a mere 7% indicated that money was their top motivating factor. A near majority – 43% – said they were largely motivated by fear (most likely of losing their jobs!) and another 22% indicated that their top motivator was power.

Five critical years have passed since NY-based Jericho Communications revealed this study, so we might want to ask – could things have changed that much? For all the recent and very bad press, it’s a fair question.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but in the nearly fifteen years I’ve been Coaching CEOs (among others), I have not encountered one such executive who didn’t care more about the culture, well-being, intellect and overall profitability of their organizations than about their own income.


Does that mean there isn’t a class of CEOs who thinks only of their own wealth?  Absoutely not.


And we don’t even have to rely on the fictional Gordon Gekko to prove the point.  There’s the now-deceased Ken Lay followed by John Thain, Patrick Soon-Shiong, Richard Baker and so many others who are pocketing millions – even billions – while workers are being laid off.


But, there’s also a long list of admirable CEOs that includes people like Genentech’s Art Levinson, Eric E. Schmidt of Google, and Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen.


Bottom line?  It’s not always about the CEO’s personal bottom line and it’s unfair to negatively brand the whole category.

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