Success Made Sleazy

Molloy's Live for Success By John T. Molloy Bantam Books, 242 pp., $7.95

"MONEY, POWER, STATUS--They can be yours!" the book cover beckons. Yes, the man who taught three million men and millions more women to "Dress for Success" now tells Americans how to perform in every facet of their lives, from choosing a mate to eating string beans. All in pinstripe perfection.

This is no mere book of dress or etiquette--it is a systematic program to change one's person and lifestyle, to the ways of the winners. Of course, before embarking on this crusade of conformity, one must make the unstated leap and accept Molloy's assumption that the successful life is one devoted to "Money, Power and Status." Those with artistic or humanitarian goals need not apply.

Also cast aside at the outset are those of little faith. With no little irony, since this is a book purporting to teach success, Molloy warns solemnly. "This book is not going to help failures, because it requires action. For those with guts and energy, read on." (One wonders how many readers stop here, exclaiming, "By golly, I lack guts and energy.")

The gutsy and energetic who read on are given Witnesses and Proof, a litany of the most pitiful cases the faith-heater has cured. One witness it seems, was constantly passed over for membership in an Exclusive Social Club. After just weeks of training under Molloy's program, which seemed to center chiefly on looking, "haughty and distant," in front of a mirror several hours a day, the young man achieves what Molloy calls "his new upper-socioeconomic face" and yes, membership in the in the afore-mentioned Exclusive Social Club.

For those not won over by mere anecdote. Molloy offers Facts and Statistics. Even the most vague and subjective qualities are magically quantified. "You must remember that at least '70 percent of our nonverbal message-sending is done with our facial muscle." On "our testing indicates that less than 20 percent of the male and 30 percent of the female population create a positive impression." How, precisely, does one measure quantitatively what portion of nonverbal communications come from a particular body part of any thing so vague as "positive impression." You shouldn't ask.


Perhaps, he would have been better off without revealing his methods. To prove a point that successful people use every moment to the optimum. Molloy randomly walked down a few airplane aisles. He found that 32.6 percent of the people in first class, but only 12 percent of those in coach, were working during the flight. "The relationship obvious," he says with triumph. Of course it is nothing of the sort. First class, because it is more expensive, arguably draws more people on business, who will have specific paperwork to hand in at the other in at the other one of the flight. Coach arguably draws more people on violation, and blue-collar workers, and children, who simply have no work to do. That Molloy did not think of controlling for these factors says a good deal about his reliability. Incredibly, the entirely of his "evidence" that people who dress better are given better tables at fancy, presumably American, restaurants, comes from a "small experiment" he and some cohorts conducted on the island of Maui.

The book might be dismissed as a redundant exercise in convoluting logic, if it weren't for the market it seems to have found Dress for Success sold more than three million copies, and Molloy says he has served, incredibly, as consultant to 380 of the Fortune 500. If this book equally successful, this may be the decade of the social ubermensch, the lies of which will make Bill Buckley look like a country hick.

THE FIRST STEP to joining this social elite, apparently, is to emulate the fellow who made it into the Exclusive Social Club and adopt the so-called "Molloy's Class Mask." The key to becoming so facially favored apparently, is to spend hours before a mirror aping the book's clearly-labeled diagrams, which show an upper-class executive type holding his head up, and an average slouch, well, slouching. This modern Pygmalion proceeds to offer up a self-graded speech test that seems to miss some of the subtleties of poor speech--one is downgraded for pronouncing "boil" "berle" and "left" "weft."

Thus transformed. Molloy takes his liver for success through the employment process, and a short resume workshop of which Machiavelli himself might prove jealous. Dishonesty is the best policy. "If you have an extended unexplainable gap in your resume, you are frankly going to have to fudge. There are several ways you can go about this. You can take the job you had prior to your gap in time and extend it to cover the gap..."

Job in hand, the next task is to strive to Molloy's ideal of the "power-user." These are real sweet guys. They strut about all day stressing their high rank. When they get a promotion, they immediately stop eating lunch with the guys they've been eating with for years ("Not doing this is one of the main mistakes women make"). They assert their power by going up to secretaries' desks and reading things from the desk without asking.

Indeed, Molloy makes no bones about instructing his reader to become a basic sleaze. Find out who's rising, and do everything you can to ingratiate yourself with him. "One of the best ways to do this is to listen to the office gossip. Get to know the office gossips and pump them. Find out who knows whom, who is related to whom, who's been sleeping with whom."

Finally, Molloy maps out a role for executive wives, so that they too can live for success, albeit their husband's. Molloy regales the reader with parables of careers fallen victim to poor marriages, later-day. Eves whose slight inebriations at social functions and general lower-class habits have expelled their husbands from their professional paradises. His tone concerning one wife who publicly gulped a martini is solemn: "It so happened that his wife was a surgeon, and may have had a very good reason for wanting that martini, but it killed his career nevertheless."

That wives may amend their lives properly. Molloy offers a quiz for executive wives, including such vital points as: "6 I shop for my clothing at the same stores as the wives of my husband's co-workers,"..."11 I immediately spot someone with poor table manners,"..."12 Although most of the homes in my area are in the same price category. I can immediately tell when I walk in the door whether the people who live there are professionals and executives." Molloy tells women who answered all 16 questions in the affirmative to congratulate themselves, and all who answered more than half in the negative to examine their lives and "see if anything needs correcting. It is likely that something does."

Essential to the game, of course, is not challenging its values. The corporate ladder is such that if one lifts one's gaze to get any kind of perspective, one risks losing one's footing entirely. One of the charms of corporate hierarchy is that the path to success is so clearly charted that one need scarcely ask what success means--it means moving up a notch.

The book's cover boasts a huge picture of an impeccably clad, somewhat arrogant-looking executive, presumably Molloy himself. If the book does anything, it portrays the vapidness of the "success" for which this man lives. Dickinson said, "Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed." Perhaps this explains Molloy's peculiar fascination with the subject.