Nearly a quarter century ago Carter Cast seemed to have it all together: he had a first-class education, an all-American athletic career, and was a very bright and energetic rising star on the fast track at a Fortune 100 company, PepsiCo. But blissfully unaware of how negative perceptions were shaped, he was stunned when called into his boss’s office, and told he was “unpromotable” because he was “obstinate,” “resistant,” and “insubordinate.”
Baffled, scared, and embarrassed, that defining moment led to Cast’s years-long effort to try to understand why he came so close to going off track, discovering that what he saw as idiosyncratic was actually widespread. His research shows that 98 percent of people have at least one derailment risk factor and that half to two-thirds actually go off the rails. More often than not, people get fired, demoted, or plateau not because they lack the “right stuff,” but because they let the “wrong stuff” act out. Derailment often afflicts talented people who are either unaware of a debilitating weakness or an interpersonal blind spot, or are arrogant enough to believe that feedback doesn’t apply to them.
Cast’s experiences and research led to five defining archetypes—Captain Fantastic, the One-Trick Pony, the Solo Flyer, Version 1.0, and the Whirling Dervish—that express traits that cut across gender and every level of seniority and that play out everywhere, from big corporations to small law firms, from education institutions to raw start-ups. He shows how these archetypes fail and succeed, and how to recognize blind spots that can lead to downfall. He provides ways to improve self-understanding—digging into topics like values, needs, and motives—and provides the reader with new ways to take charge of his or her career.