Citrix’s CEO Mark Templeton: Personal And Professional Success Secrets

This article previously appeared in Forbes.

Citrix's CEO, Mark Templeton, recently shared his insights regarding achieving personal and professional success as part of UC Santa Barbara’s Distinguished Lecture Series. The underlying theme of Mark's talk was: "Success Isn't What Happens To Other People - It Can Happen To You."

Mark knows a bit about success and what it takes to reach the top of one's industry. Mark began his career at Citrix as a middle manager in its Marketing Department, eventually rising to the ranks of CEO. He was later fired from this role, only to be re-hired as CEO a couple years later. During Mark's tenure, Citrix has grown from 50 employees and few million dollars of revenue to a company 7,000 employees strong, generating revenue in excess of $2.4 billion.


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You can watch a thirteen-minute excerpt from Mark’s talk below or view it directly on YouTube here:

Success Is (Mostly) In Your Hands

Mark began by stating that success is not entirely in your hands. He then went on to identify four approaches entrepreneurs can take to enhance their chances of achieving success.

1. Make A Difference - Not A Fortune

Mark explains that, “If you set out to make a fortune, you probably won't. If you set out to make a difference in the world, you will and you might make a fortune.”

2. Connect The Dots Or Paint By Numbers - Know What's Right For You

Mark encourages emerging entrepreneurs to become self-aware. The earlier they define their strengths and weaknesses, the sooner they can begin to leverage their attributes and shore up their shortcomings. One step in this process is identifying a strategy for conducting your life that is based on your proclivity to either connect the dots or paint by numbers.

Mark explains that, “There are two fundamental strategies... connecting dots and paint by numbers. You have to be realistic about who you are. Once you have this model in your head, it sets you free. It's a strategy.

(With) paint by numbers... if I follow a prescribed course, I'm going to get a good picture. That's the picture of your life... the picture you're trying to create in your life. Scientists, professionals like doctors, lawyers, this is the core strategy in a life like that... matching the numbers with the colors.

The other one is connecting the dots. Starting in a place and getting to the next place and then figuring out what the next place is (after that). To do this, you have to do a lot of things that are not digital, they are analog.”

Because of its relevance to entrepreneurs, Mark outlined several tactics required to successfully execute the connect-the-dots strategy.

Choose Well - Which dot should you connect next? See the next tactic...

Passion & Principles - Follow your passion when looking for the next dot, bridled by a consistent set of principles. In Mark's words, "the only way to make good, sequential decisions is to have a common set of principles you're always going back to."

Persistence & Practice - When it comes to gaining the skills required for success, Mark makes it clear that, "there is no shortcut, (success requires) thousands of hours" of practice. He also notes that if you choose the next dot based on your passions, it will be relatively easy for you to maintain the persistence required to gain the expertise required to achieve success.

Family & Mentors - "A family is the people who believe in you... and make it easier (for you) to be persistent. Mentors are the people you are copying. Mentors and role models are a shortcut to become something you believe in."

Most parents hate this (the connect-the-dot approach) because it's ambiguous. 'Hey, I didn't pay all this money for you to go to college, to get out there and wander around. What are you going to be?' Often, parents want you to be a paint-by-numbers person because its less ambiguous, seems more certain... and therefore lower risk." However, the risk of failure of either strategy is almost guaranteed if it is incongruent with your personality.

3. Good Fortune Matters

Mark reinforces that entrepreneurs should acknowledge when good fortune shines upon them and not internalize all of their successes. “Blessings... are things you cannot control. I can be persistent. I can be curious. But I can't possibly control blessings and good fortune. If you attribute over 50% of the outcome that you will see in your life to good fortune... it will keep you humble and it will help you focus on the things you can control. When you focus on the things you can control, it’s amazing how much good fortune you will have.”

4. Always Be A Student - Success Is A Work In Process

Mark notes that a precursor to success is to, “Always see yourself as a student and always understand that success is a work in process, always." Curious students remain grounded, never take their successes for granted and are always learning.

I'm Still The Same Guy I Was In College

During one of my first meetings with Mark, when Citrix was courting Expertcity (creator of GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting), he showed me a photo of himself in college and said, "I am still that person." This same photo is shown at the outset of this article.

This sentiment stayed with me for years, as it reinforced that despite his success, Mark had remained grounded. At heart, he was still a state college kid who grew up in a lower-middle class home, the son of an electrician.

At my request, Mark incorporated the college photo in his UC Santa Barbara talk, telling the students that although his body had aged, he still had the same passion, optimism and propensity to smile that allowed young Mark Templeton to ascend to the helm of one of the most successful software companies on the planet.

Success may not happen to everyone, but it sure is gratifying to see it happen to an authentically good person like Mark.

Follow my startup-oriented Twitter feed here: @johngreathouse. I promise I will never tweet you about rainbows, unicorns or tell you about that killer burrito I just ate.

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John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara's Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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