Hail to Thee, Future Rich Person Some things you should know upon your graduation from business school.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Parents, teachers, and graduates of the class of 1999 from Wharton, Harvard, Kellogg, and (your B-school here):

Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to address you on this fine and sweltering June day, as you stow for the last time your books and casual clothing and head off to a world where books are read only on beaches and casual clothing is as expensive and carefully considered as the finest formal wear.

I thought for just this once I would cast off my merry, ostensibly frivolous demeanor and offer some straight advice on how to get ahead and stay there. If what I tell you in this regard seems absurd, stupid, and brutal, good. The road to where you're going is littered with the bodies of those who believed that business was a rational occupation subject to normal human laws. Do not, young people, be one of those! Beyond that:

Eat a good breakfast. Follow that with an excellent lunch and dinner. It is often impossible to eat meat at every meal. But try to do so. Lacking that, try fish, particularly smoked fish, which is delicious.

Drinking should take place only after 6 P.M., this being a somewhat more sober decade than the eight that preceded it. If the rules change to permit drinking at lunch again, try to do so. The great booms took place in the eras in which people were basically bombed nonstop--the Roaring '20s, the greedy '80s. Sobriety and big business do not mix.

Work out three or four times a week. You gotta be buff. If you can't be buff, achieve some level of sub-buffness but under no circumstances veer so far from buffity that you no longer look good in business attire.

Speaking of which, dear grads, dress better than you can afford, but not a whole lot better. The clothing we garb ourselves in is a costume. Observe your culture. Arrive each day dressed one discernible level above your status, not two or three. People will then perceive you as worthy of promotion to a status that is just conceivable for you. And men, keep your shirt tucked in!

Learn to fire people. It is, perhaps, the most difficult thing that you will have to do. The person comes in. They are always unsuspecting, no matter how many clues you have laid down. You cast the line. They are hooked. They thrash. They groan. They die. No matter how much they roll their eyes at you, you do not throw them back. For a while, you may consider yourself a terrible person. Then you realize: of course you are! You're a boss!

When you can, however, be kind. Be kind to yourself, when no one else will. Later, when others are kind to you because of your stature, be kind to your subordinates. In this way you may avoid becoming a jerk for, perhaps, decades, before turning into a loathsome approximation of your former self with nothing but the faintest echo of your true humanity left inside the crusted husk you present to the outside world.

Read a book now and then, stupid. Not big tomes of history, in which your fantasies about yourself and your greatness are played out on another person's stage. Not the third thriller from the same guy who brought you the 900-page techno-induced end of Saddam Hussein last time. And certainly not business books designed to scratch all the places you itch--except your brain. Read some fiction, why don't you? Dickens is good. He understood lawyers. Dostoyevsky had a real handle on the amoral psychopaths you'll be reporting to every day. Do yourself some good, for Christ's sake. You didn't get 20 years of schooling to watch your intelligence go swirling down the drain, loaded with nothing but the daily dreck from the Wall Street Journal.

If you have any desire to make the world a better place, nurture it within yourself, but do not speak of it. Others will try to dissuade you from it. But keep your flame alive, by all means. It would be a tragedy if you became powerful enough to do the right thing and then for the life of you couldn't remember what that was.

Don't be bad on the road. It won't be easy. Things you might never have considered become not only conceivable but seductive. This is true not only socially, where the mistakes can be terrible, but in business situations as well, where your status is unclear and your sense of daily accountability is gone. Be careful. And if you feel drawn to the dark side, get too drunk to do anything about it. Then go home, Sparky.

There isn't much time now. I can see those headhunters already knocking down your door, greedy to introduce you to hungry corporations that can get you for 20% of what they would pay a real executive. So I'll be brief.

Bend your plastic, but do not break it.

Employ as much high technology as you care to, but unless you are an engineer, do not become a geek. There are few geeks in senior management. Try to become a nerd instead. Nerds do better.

Love your company. Off that path lies nothing but boredom, a sense of superfluity, and ultimately a career in consulting. Love the people you work with too. Love them with a fierce and sad love, because they'll be gone soon, or you will, and your memory of your friendship with them will fade as the remembrance of passion withers after romantic love has expired.

If you feel yourself losing your mind, do not worry. View it as a natural outcome of life in business and as an asset to be used. Night sweats. Inchoate rage. Fantasies of persecution and grandiosity. They're all to be expected as you enter the ranks of management. Used correctly, madness is your friend. The bigger the better, too.

Finally, young people, let me leave you with this: fear golf. Golf as a lifestyle is about as worthwhile as time spent with crack and a bong. I have seen the best minds of my generation, tanned and mumbling down the busy midtown streets, gibbering about lies and wedges and drives into a wind long gone, a wind that blows only for them. They are lost to us now, the golfers, in their 50s, at the height of their powers.

Instead, try work. Work hard. Work every day. And never, ever retire. Hold on to your life force until they come to your house in the middle of the night to wrest it from you. The business life is not the only one that has meaning. But it does have meaning. And it pays pretty well, too. Go out and do good and have fun for as long as you can, and when something bigger comes, always grab it. While at the same time staying the hell away from my job, by the way. If you get anywhere near me with that greedy, needy look in your eye, I'll rip out your ventricle.

Now get out of here! And good luck!

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real fortune 500 company he'd rather not name.