Waking Up In Corporate America: Interview, Part 3

By Scot Herrick | Book Reviews

Feb 06

I’ve been a long-time subscriber to Epic Living, by Eric Pennington, with his writing about the crossroads of life and work. I was really satisfied to learn that Eric recently published his book, Waking Up in Corporate America: The Seven Secrets That Opened My Eyes, and was eager to hear from Eric himself about the book.

This week, I’ll be interviewing Eric with a question a day — kicking off this past Monday with Part 1. It’s all about career management and personal growth, something near and dear to my heart. We’ll have the question, the answer, and some commentary as it relates to our work in cubes.

Question: In your book, Waking Up in Corporate America, you provide readers seven secret principles that helped you navigate and survive in corporate America. Many books offer principles for success, and yet, few people follow the principles. How do you think people will find your principles practical and something that they can accomplish?

Eric Pennington: The principles are not heavily weighted in theory. Theory is OK, but there is no substitute for experience — authentic experience. I also kept things simple and to the point so that people would not get lost — again in theory.

Another way the book speaks to practical is through getting it right the right way.

For example, the first chapter of the book is titled “Be Authentic.” It’s pretty simple and most everyone knows being authentic means being who you really are. OK, that’s practical.

But what I also tell people is that it will not be easy to live it out. Why? Sit in a meeting with most executive leaders and tell them you disagree (not in a belligerent way) with their ideas. Many people wouldn’t want to live that out. Fear would just overrun them, and going back to being political or counter genuine (as I call it in the book) seems like the better way to go. The book says you’ve got to get through the up front pain to get to the breakthrough…in other words, changed behavior.


Eric’s right: being authentic is critical. And he’s also right that it is very difficult to live out, especially in corporations.

Corporate practice actually makes it difficult to be authentic. Think of the inability of managers — as well as team members — to actively listen to the different viewpoints presented in the cause to make things better. And, if they are constantly on their Crackberry, whether they even listen at all to what is being said.

Without critical input from all viewpoints, people will have a difficult time supporting whatever initiative is being worked. Going from active participant to simply going along with what a manager wants takes about five meetings before getting to “it doesn’t matter anyway; I’m not going to fight it.”

The emotional aspects of change — the ability to be authentic and contribute — is deferred by many companies for the sake of the technical aspects of change. But living authenticity is not about technical change, it is engaging in the human exchange and having that exchange valued by the team.


Eric Pennington is a passionate thought leader who has helped organizations capitalize on the power within their people through sales growth, leadership training/development and Epic conversations. Eric is the author of “Waking Up In Corporate America” and a member of National Speakers Association and Leader to Leader Institute. Read more of Eric’s bio here.