At some point during the weekend, it dawned on me: we're all reasonably happy and successful guys, and we've managed to notch our personal and professional achievements without mistreating others or selling out (wow, I just shredded a rotator cuff patting myself on the back. Did I mention that I'm short and gassy?). So a magazine like Success, which is one part motivational tract and one part Billy's-first-business primer, doesn't have a ton of appeal to my crew or, in all likelihood, to the Fortune/Forbes set. The mag's stories concentrate more on mindset than methodology, prioritizing feel-good affirmation (you can do it! go, you!) over actionable business information.
For fledgling sales-focused entrepreneurs, however, Success delivers one thing that most other titles don't: a plan of attack. By sitting down with a range of successful biz folks and asking them what works and what doesn't, Success outlines a career-development/sustenance trajectory in a way that's both intelligent and replicable. It doesn't traffic in fancy terminology or obscure theories, nor does it propose grandiose solutions to simple problems. Rather, it lays out what has worked for others in comparable situations and tells readers to make of it what they will.
Tonally, with its platitudes and randomly interspersed quotes from many a Bob (Hope and Dylan, natch), Success gives me the type of headache that usually follows massive sugar intake. The March/April issue serves up section titles that could have been poached from a Denise Austin video ("Motivate!") and rarely dwells on the negative. I'm curious: Have any of the mag's "Can This Business Succeed?" evaluations arrived at the conclusion of "hell, no"?
I also question whether its two "coaches" should be in the business of dishing out advice. Maybe I caught them during an off month, but Michael Shevak's response to a reader question decompensates into New-age prattle ("Everyone puts the work-life conflict in their [sic] own way: Hinduism speaks of 'working with detachment from fruits of your labor'"), while Ruben Gonzalez's spiel veers towards the comically obvious ("Focus on whether you are getting results. If not, change approaches. Be open to new ideas and information").
Still, I think the touchy-feely tone and power-o'-positive-thinkin' approach is appropriate for the material at hand. After all, the title isn't Succeed Unless You Encounter An Unexpected Obstacle, Like An Ill-Tempered Panda; it's Succeed, with the unspoken subtext of "unequivocally and on your own damn terms."
Keeping that in mind, the "Your Money & Your Life" series of stories that headline the March/April issue tackle a range of oft-discussed topics (efficiency, planning for the future) with how-to gusto, rather than anecdotal monotony. Equally didactic are the profiles of sports legends Larry Bird and Roger Staubach, both of whom know a thing or two about teamwork and sportsmanship and those other find-your-winner-within things. The Q&A with supposed "Bad Boy of Banking" and ING Direct prexy Arkadi Kuhlmann loses credibility owing to its "portions of this interview were reprinted" disclaimer (uh, OK -- which portions?), but it still relates more useful information about customer service than anything Entrepreneur has run in recent months.
I have a few other quibbles, like the overabundance of generic suited-guy-in-work-environment photos, but mostly Success succeeds successily, or something. Not that it faces particularly daunting competition, but it's the best magazine of its kind.
Published by: Success Magazine
Frequency: Bimonthly (frequency increases to 10 issues in 2008 and 12 in 2009)
Advertising information (note: the promo video alone is worth the click, especially for the faux-reggae soundtrack)