How to climb in a company one photocopy at a time, or the legend of the drummer cat


We were 33 in an auditorium for a thousand people.

The president of the largest financial group in Europe, on a two-day trip to Latin America, fulfilled his rigorous routine of dedicating an hour to the members of the “Talent Project”. The format of the meeting was familiar and unchanging: 20 minutes of speech and 40 of questions, in which we all strive to be memorable. It was not easy. Although we came from different countries, we had very similar profiles. We were all between 25 and 30 years old, with good academic background, better professional performance and the illusory conviction that we were the future of the organization. Our characteristics were equally homogeneous: zero humility, high motivation and endless rivalry.

The “Old Man” speech was extraordinary, as always. With his inexhaustible passion and singular lucidity, he infected us with his enthusiasm and optimism. It had also ended five minutes earlier, so the question session was longer than usual. I’m sure all the answers you gave us that day were equally brilliant. But I only remember the last one with complete accuracy.

A Mexican woman asked him: “What is the right way to make the organization realize that we are ready for bigger challenges?” The question was excellent.

First, it was clear self-promotion. You just had to change “we’re ready” to “I’m ready”. Second, he showed the maturity to understand that there are culturally correct and incorrect ways of showing ambition, and he asked the top leader what they were. The Old Man liked the question, and looking at us he replied: “The way to show that one is ready for greater challenges is to superlatively do the tasks that are theoretically small.” He paused for a long time and continued, “It is very unlikely to think that someone is ready to handle the merger of two banks if when they send them to make a photocopy, it comes out crooked. You have to make the best photocopies in the world before you can say that photocopying is a waste of your talent. ” Twenty years later I still remember this anecdote many times.

The last one was when I discovered this video, which in its most extended version has 30 million views.

Although I know it is not true, I like to imagine that the story behind is this: A drummer asks his agent to get him auditions with famous rock bands. The agent tells him “the only thing I could get you today is to go play a children’s show, disguised as a Japanese cat.”

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