The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle is the invisible virus that permeates every business, industry, and institution in the world creating the mother of all identity crises along the way.

The Peter Principle states: In any hierarchy, an employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence and that’s where he stays.

The principle comes from Canadian scholar and sociologist, Dr. Laurence J Peter, in his book titled The Peter Principle, first published in 1968.

It’s not a condemnation of incompetence itself but rather the paradox of promotion in the workplace that surrounds it.

The general principle implies that the skill sets a person used to excel at his current position are not necessarily compatible with the ones needed in the newly promoted position.

I think The Peter Principle’s virus has mutated over time and is even more profound today as it relates to one’s ability to “self-promote” or “self-anoint” online in the new digital economy.

The result – lots of newbie “experts” on the web, shouting from website rooftops proclaiming whatever the hell they want.

“Expertism” is the new commodity in the golden age of Google.

But self-promotion is only the root of the potential problem here – the real danger lies in the ability to infinitely scale this virus online as the mass of experts unleash relentless messaging with limitless distribution capabilities.

This is powerful stuff folks!

Take, for instance, the voracious marketing buzzard – the opportunistic predator that has a large range and can take on a wide variety of prey.

The marketing buzzard knows no boundaries when it comes to playing the sage marketer, cleverly cloaked in meaningless marketing metrics, and perfectly perched upon its level of incompetence.

Fully immersed in its own disillusion, it adeptly avoids the pending identity crisis, which further perpetuates the problem.

It’s a virus that attacks the “nervous trust system” and if left unchecked, will be the decline of the Western marketing and advertising civilization as we know it.

This NEW Peter Principle is about marketing buzzards promoting their incompetence – a true theory of decline.

That’s why I profess unruliness for all…

… question the questions…

… seek to understand first, then be understood…

… where (real) knowledge becomes your only true source of income.

According to William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of the national bestseller “The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny,” – we’re currently in the Fourth Turning and we’re passing through a great and perilous gate in history – tread carefully my friends.

Seek wisdom in your life, and you’ll always have the wind in your sail.

Let your experience, intelligence, common sense, creativity, knowledge, and good judgment guide you…

… “For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.

Or was he joking?

Let me zag for a minute on my last zig, cool?

What if Dr. Laurence J Peter was the “Peter” himself – and the joke is on us?

Was it satire? A farce?

You can kinda see the humor in it…as Dr. Laurence Peter writes:

Look around you where you work and pick out the people who have reached their level of incompetence. You will see that in every hierarchy the cream rises until it sours.

As with every principle and theory – there will be supporters and detractors.

But if you think about it, there is something to this.

Allow me a metaphor:

Band wrote a hit record. Band stops writing hit music and gets promoted to run the record label. What happens to the label?


The lost and sad irony here is what happens to the “band.”

With any offer there are tradeoffs – you give me this, I’ll give you that.

“Promotions” are no different – if you take the offer, you agree to trade…

… more of your time…

… more of your mind…

… more of your soul!…

… for more of their currency.

It happened to me, so I know it’s real.

Back in my “career” days, I got promoted so often that I became the youngest CEO of one of the largest printing companies in the entire industry.

Little did I know at the time – what the real value of each “promotional” trade was – at first, they went unnoticed, invisible to the eye, blinded by the expanding pocketbook.

But like compound interest, they begin to add up, until one day you recognize and feel the soul-crushing weight that is upon you.

Eventually, just like all CEOs whose “cream rises” to the tippy top, the awakening happens as you walk down the plank – only one way to go, no turning back.

For me personally, when I hit the water, I was cleansed and renewed, sorta like a baptismal for the soul.

The flipside to The Peter Principle…be careful what you wish for

… as you may very well find it…

… souring the pure cream that is your soul…

… rendering your once fertile mind into a futile state of incompetence.

The eternally wise yet incompetent philosopher Socrates said it best:

I know only one thing: that I know nothing.

Accept that as your fundamental truth and you’ll be set free.

Free as a bird.

Just don’t fly with the buzzards who profess utmost competence, for they too, know nothing.

And don’t forget – your thirst for knowledge will quench your soul.

Onward and unruly you go!

You May Also Like