Photo credit: Shutterstock/Ruslan Grumble

My 500th column: Advice fundamental to your personal success

Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on April 7, 2024.

This is an important milestone for me—my 500th column published by the Philadelphia Business Journal. My first column was published nearly 10 years ago.

I have been asked many times why I write. I am a former CEO of a global enterprise and corporate director with no formal training as a writer. I write to impart my knowledge and experience gained over a decades-long career “serving in the trenches” to help others be successful in their careers.

My Jan.7 column lists 38 elements of effective leadership. You can view all my columns on my website.

In this column, I share advice that I believe is fundamental to our personal success.

Take advantage of opportunities that come your way and create your own opportunities

After the company where I served as CEO was sold 19 years ago, I had no idea where the future would take me. I took advantage of professional opportunities that came my way and created my own opportunities.

I have served as a director on public company, private company, private equity company and non-profit boards. In July 2014, I began as a weekly guest columnist at the Philadelphia Business Journal writing commentary on leadership principles and how to apply those principles to actual business situations. Except for the week between Christmas and the New Year’s holidays each year, I have not missed a week since I started writing for the Business Journal.

In November 2019, my book titled, “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success” was published. In this book, I share my many decades of experience on how every business can differentiate itself from its competitors to become the preferred provider of product or service to its marketplace. I also share how each of us can be different from our peers to get that next promotion or job.

Always take advantage of opportunities that come your way and create your own opportunities. You never know where the future will take you.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Ruslan Grumble

Get out of your comfort zone

As a 33-year old business manager, on behalf of my company, I initiated a suit against a large French multinational chemical company, accusing them of dumping a chemical product in the U.S. at below their home market price, taking market share away from the business I managed. The attorney retained by our company’s general counsel insisted that, with his guidance, my product manager and I would be the public face of our company’s case.

Our attorney wanted the optics of a small, privately-owned, domestic company dedicated to serving the market against a foreign company many times our size competing illegally through low product pricing that met the criteria of dumping.

The hearing in front of the International Trade Commission was held in a chamber very similar to that of the Supreme Court. It was very intimidating. We were business guys, not attorneys. We were way outside our comfort zone.

At the ITC hearing, my product manager and I were well-prepared to give testimony as the plaintiffs. I recalled the advice that Capt. Boyle, my ROTC instructor, drilled into us in our freshman year at Drexel University: Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. I never thought I would be so thankful for his advice.

When the five ITC commissioners announced their decision, they unanimously voted in favor of my company. They assessed the highest dumping duty on any chemical imported into the U.S. to date. My product manager and I felt as if we had won gold medals at the Olympics.

We learned to operate under intense pressure and to get out of our comfort zone. It built confidence to tackle future challenges. Be sure you get out of your comfort zone. It will help you develop.

Your personal integrity and reputation are everything

Rex Tillerson, former chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil and former secretary of state under President Donald Trump, in his departure comments from the U.S. State Department said, “Never lose sight of your most valuable asset, the most valuable asset that you possess: your personal integrity.”

The most admired leaders are those who have a personal reputation for acting ethically and with integrity, and establishing a culture in which their employees do the same. The organizations with these types of leaders are the ones people want to work for and that flourish over the long term.

“Where does the power come from to see the race to its end? From within”

These are the words spoken by the actor who played Eric Liddell, a 1924 Olympic runner and gold medal winner in the film, “Chariots of Fire.” These words have helped me overcome many challenges over the years. They will help you too whenever you face what seems to be insurmountable barriers to success.

Many thanks to my readers and their feedback. Many thanks to my editors Sanju Ramanathan, Caroline Pereira and my son Rob for editing what I write. My thanks to Jon Shettsline at Argyle Interactive for posting my columns on my website and sending out the weekly emails with my column. Finally, my thanks to Sandy Smith, publisher, Ryan Sharrow, editor in chief and Mike Potter, managing editor of the Philadelphia Business Journal for their advice and guidance over the years.

Stan Silverman is founder of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read columnist on leadership. He can be reached at

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