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3 traps to avoid for success in all career stages

March 28, 2022

Don't let unnecessary comparison, competition and conflict create career pitfalls

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the spring 2022 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.

Written by May Busch, executive coach, speaker, adviser, author and executive-in-residence in ASU’s Office of the President.

When I was about to leave home for college, my mother gave me this pearl of wisdom: “Remember to avoid the three C’s.”

She explained that I must avoid unnecessary comparison, competition and conflict and that this would help me to be happier and more successful in my college experience.

What I didn’t realize then is that this advice would continue to serve me throughout my 24-year corporate career as well as my personal life. Whatever your career stage, avoiding the potential pitfalls of the three C’s will serve you well. 

Avoiding comparison: The thief of joy

Comparing yourself to others is such a common trap, especially these days with social media offering everyone’s highlight reel.  

It’s all too easy to compare yourself to the best in each category of your work and life. Like being the best mother and the best candidate for the job and having the cleanest house and being the fittest person in the gym and …  the list goes on.

This sets an impossibly high standard because you’re comparing yourself to the best qualities in others.

Instead, practice gratitude and appreciate yourself. Compare your work against itself. As long as you’re learning and growing, that’s what matters. 

Which brings us to the second C …

Competition: breeding a scarcity mindset

Healthy competition can be good, but unnecessary competition can be damaging to your career. Especially when it breeds a “zero-sum” mentality where either you win or they win. Like having to win an argument, even if it’s with your boss or your client.

Competing with others makes it harder to see people as potential partners. And instead of teaming up to rise higher together, you might waste mental energy trying to outdo your colleagues. You might even make enemies without needing to. 

Instead, adopt an abundance mindset. Rather than fight over how many slices of pie you can have, or how much of a portfolio you own, look at how to grow the pie and portfolio so everyone has more. 

And this leads to the third C …

Conflict: the kind that doesn’t make you stronger

Unnecessary conflict often stems from the need to be right. You’ve done all the research and thought things through. You’re an expert in the area and you expect to be right. So any challenge to your views can feel personal. Like someone’s challenging your identity.

So you get into a debate and sound defensive. You might even say things you regret later. This is the crux of unnecessary conflict. It wasn’t useful, it didn’t resolve anything. In fact it created more problems.

The more senior you become, the more your success comes from working with people. Which means ongoing conflicts will be a distraction to building the kind of trusted relationships you need to achieve greater results than you can alone. Instead of engaging in unnecessary conflict, learn to disagree without becoming disagreeable.

But how do you tell when the three C’s are unnecessary?

The litmus test is whether it contributes to your sense of well-being or detracts from it. 

If saying, “Why can’t I be more like Susan?” is creating a comparison that makes you feel bad, that’s unnecessary. On the other hand, if comparing your situation to the worst-case scenario which thankfully didn’t happen brings up gratitude, that’s a good thing.

Similarly, competing with a peer to see who gets to the corner office first could fuel your motivation, or it could lead to desperate behavior that derails your career. 

Allowing tensions to build up inside you in the form of internal conflict will eat away at you and serve no good purpose. Whereas working through a conflict to find a resolution could strengthen your relationship and build trust. 

Everything in moderation. Live consciously and remember to check in with yourself about the three C’s. 

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Hungry to learn — 5 keys to success

March 28, 2022

Popular YouTuber foodie shares how he made a career shift

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the spring 2022 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.

During the early days of the pandemic, Arizona State University alumnus Max Miller, '06 Bachelor of Music Performance (voice), was furloughed from Disney. He made a career pivot to create the popular YouTube food and history show, "Tasting History," which boasts more than 1 million subscribers and channel views at 82 million, as of April 2022

During the show Miller showcases historic recipes with a history lesson — all during entertaining, well-produced videos. He shares how he made his career change and success tips for any endeavor.

1. Be curious. “Never be done learning. When you graduate from college, that's the beginning,” Miller says.

2. Learn as much as you can in all your jobs and experiences. “I loved working for Disney. While I was there, I learned a lot of different skills that I didn't expect to ever learn, things like editing and storytelling,” he says as an example.

3. Study your craft. Miller had a performer background and then learned many additional technical and storytelling skills from Disney. He then added onto that before launching the YouTube channel. “I watched hundreds of hours of other YouTubers talking about how they make their videos, how they've created a channel, how to do storytelling.” He continues to build upon his skills.

4. If you fail, try again. “Every single failure gave me another tool in my toolbox,” Miller says. “That's especially the thing with YouTube, it can take a long time to learn the skills. It's not just being on camera, it's having the camera presence, having the editing skills, having the timing, storytelling, being able to come up with ideas.”

5. Communicate well. “When you have an idea in your head, being able to get someone else to picture that idea,” Miller says. “It’s very important. Not just with Tasting History, but in the corporate world too.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had outdated subscriber and channel view totals.

Top photo: Max Miller’s Youtube show "Tasting History" has recently been profiled in America's Test Kitchen, Chowhound, Digital Trends, KTLA Morning News, Phoenix New Times,, Foodsided, New York Post, LA Weekly,, UPROXX, among others and he has been tapped for a recurring segment on Arizona Midday.