F. U. The initials of one Francis Underwood – so fitting for a man who generally does not take no for an answer and takes control of a situation like no other. I’ve been Netflix binge-watching “House of Cards’ to catch up to Season Three (I’m on the 3rd episode of Season Two now), and I’ve been enamored by the Southern Democrat from Gaffney, South Carolina and his ability to bend the world to his beck and call. (Spoiler alert: I won’t tell all the juicy details, but will use examples from the series in this blog, so you may want to be careful if you’re not pass episode 3 of Season 2 and plan on watching it). And while I don’t condone ALL of Frank’s “Ruthless Pragmatism” to get what he wants, there are some poignant lessons that one could implement in life to help climb the “life” ladder of success.
Be a Victor, Not a VictimFrom the very first episode, we get a sense of who Frank Underwood is. Once he learns he is not going to be tapped for the Secretary of State position, as he was promised, he begins to formulate what his next steps are. Admittingly, he initially folded and ran to Claire sulking about how they played him and unfair this was, but he quickly gathered himself and began to formulate a plan on how he would use this setback to help put him in a better situation in the future. Victors are individuals who take lemons and make lemonade. They look at the set of circumstances that they’ve been given and then immediately begin to look for the silver lining that could lead to a better outcome than they originally hoped. They are glass-half-full type of people who understand that sulking and blaming others isn’t going to truly improve the situation, and the only sensible thing to do from there is to begin executing plan B, or C, or D for that matter. They also look at what they could’ve done differently and why they are to blame for the current outcome of their situation. When Francis’ attempt to have Peter Russo’s water bill act failed, he recognized he was partially to blame because he had not done a good enough job helping Claire feel empowered enough that she wouldn’t defy him in such a manner. Had he done a better job of giving her more earlier, she wouldn’t had felt the need to jeopardize something he had on the table because she was left no choice. He felt the onus still came back to him and his ability to strategize accordingly.
Plan, Plan Again, and Then Plan Some MoreFrank is by all intents and purpose a planner. He doesn’t just leave things to “chance” or have a sense of what is “supposed” to happen. He is actively engaged in MAKING things happen. He puts a plan in place that enacts specific actions on the situation to encourage a definitive outcome. When he approaches a situation he thinks about it from as many angles as possible and then makes the best decision given the current set of circumstances. When trying to figure out how to get the Vice President to resign, he knew that he had to approach Matthew’s first before going to Walker so Matthews would feel that he wasn’t being pushed out. Yet, he understood that he had to approach Walker in a manner that made it seem like it was something that was the only obvious course of action considering the circumstances – not an easy balance to create. He did so with careful planning of what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to make sure he had just the perfect pitch to ensure everyone reacted as expected. Since one of Frank’s favorite games, beside Playstation’s Killzone 3, is chess, it makes sense that he plays life in a chess-like manner by thinking numerous steps ahead of his opponents at all times. Strategy is about considering what your opponent may do and then preempting them with moves that will negate anything they may do to hurt your endeavors. This takes a lot of brain power and will require one to think through all the different scenarios to make sure a key piece of information is not missing. The important thing to remember also is that Frank always has a backup plan of some kind in the event that his original plan goes astray – always a good practice to keep oneself ahead of the curve.
Don’t Underestimate Others
While this goes without saying, this is one of Frank’s strongest attributes. He is consistently sizing people up and is not one who always believes what he sees is reality when it comes to various people. He made the mistake initially with Raymond Tusk and a little with Linda and learned from his mistake quickly. Using himself as the example of “what you see is not what you always get”, Frank does not underestimate what others may be capable of and treats them as such. One of the main reasons Frank has been so successful in his endeavors for so long is that people consistently underestimate him. Often when people don’t think much of their competition, they tend to get a sense of arrogance and lose their drive to consistently get better at their craft. When this happens, you put yourself at risk of losing a promotion or client because your competition kept working to get better while you rested on your laurels. Competition is healthy for any economy because it ensures that all businesses will continually improve their services to win the loyalty of the consumer. In life, consistently measuring oneself against what others may bring to the table keeps us working to improve our game, and by not underestimating anyone, we stay proficiently motivated to bring our A game every day.
Politics. If they are anything like House of Cards, I can truly see why our government is so dysfunctional at times. Luckily, we have the world of Netflix to preoccupy us as we spend entire weekends locked in our homes only to come out for sunlight and fresh air from time to time. While Frank Underwood is no role model by any stretch of the imagination, there are a number of lessons one can learn from this sleek talking country boy that could help one’s career trajectory immensely. And while I doubt that they will ever lead you to become the President of the United States, you never know…