“A WORD OF CAUTION!
This book will be beneficial only to those who bring to it purity of thought. It is designed solely to show you how to succeed in business and to make money and will be effective only to those who read it with these aims in mind. Those who bring with them selfish motives will receive small comfort and scant benefit.”
— Introduction to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Shepherd Mead (1914-1994) was one of those men dogged by success. At 22, the quiet Phi Beta Kappa from Washington University left his native St. Louis for New York and joined the mailroom of a large corporation, the ad agency, Benton and Bowles…Like J.P. Finch, Mead rose to the top, and became head of radio copy at the company and, eventually, Vice President. While there, inhabiting a huge office with four windows, he wrote How to Succeed in Business. It remained 12 weeks on the bestseller list and was followed by several novels on big business, one of which, The Admen, sold more than two million copies. He wrote a variety of other satirical ‘how to’ books, including How to Stay Medium-Young Practically Forever without Really Trying, How to Live Like a Lord Without Really Trying, and How to Succeed with Women Without Really Trying: The Dastard’s Guide to the Birds and the Bees. In 1958, Mead moved his family to England where he lived until his death on August 15, 1994 at the age of 80.
Mead’s most famous book, of course, is How to Succeed. Written in the guise of a self-help guide, the short book—just over 150 pages—provides step-by-step instructions on how to climb from the mailroom to a junior executive office, and eventually, the very top of big business. Notable chapter titles include: How to Delegate Responsibility; How to Write Memos; How to Make More Money; How to Keep Money; How to Play Company Politics; and SEX in Businesses, its Uses and Abuses. Although the book has no plot, it uses the character of Pierrepont Finch as a shining example of how the rulebook may be used successfully. Mead notes in the introduction that, although a character, “there will be few among you who won’t break into a sly smile of recognition as his career is unfolded,” and that “these illustrative bits were taken from life, indeed form the career of a man who was living monument to the precepts of this work”; in other words, Finch’s climb up the corporate ladder is not all that different from the author’s own.