Speaking of tough, creative, and loved, working with and for Calvin Klein was the highlight of my four-decade-long career in the fashion world. It was, I believe, no accident or twist of fate that my career led me to work with the most brilliant, talented, devoted, and beloved creative geniuses of our time. Every step I took in my career, every lesson learned, and every person I met along the way helped me get there.
Working at Calvin Klein exposed me not only to the glitz and glamour you could imagine it would, but it afforded me countless life-changing opportunities. I didn’t just travel the world, thanks to Calvin Klein, I did it in style. I rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s most iconic figures—Calvin Klein himself, who transformed the fashion world as we know it; Anna Wintour, who needs no introduction—her style, elegance, and razor-sharp intuition precede her wherever she goes (and the legacy she has created in the fashion world with Vogue Magazine will never be surpassed); countless titans of the fashion industry; world leaders; golfers; actors; models; and many other celebrities. In fact, there are so many, I could fill pages with the names alone, but that would bore both you and me.
But mostly, I worked with some of the most talented and dedicated business men and women in the design world—Zach Carr, Kevin Carrigan, Malcom Carfrae, Ulrich Grimm, Manny Chirico, Fabio Fusco, Elie Tahari. While working with each of them, I learned valuable lessons about business, merchandising, leadership, and the human condition and what makes people succeed. I learned so much, in fact, that I decided I should write a book about it. I couldn’t imagine keeping all these insights to myself. So many people helped me get to the top, and I want to help as many people as I can, for however long I can, wherever I can, to achieve their own dreams in life and the workplace, just as I was able to achieve mine.
For me, the most essential part of becoming successful is finding not only the right fit, but a great fit. For me the right fit is finding a job you enjoy and that you’re good at. I was grateful to work in places where it was the right fit for me at the right time. But finding a great fit is something altogether different. A great fit goes beyond liking your job or being competent at it. When you find a great fit, you find a place where you belong, where your talents are both fully expressed and needed, and where you can serve the greatest number of people and help as many others find their great fit, too. I can’t think of any greater feeling in life than finding a career that makes you happy and excited to get up every day.
I liken this feeling to wearing a Black Label Collection Calvin Klein suit. Pure perfection. As soon as you put it on, you instantly feel smart, confident, bold, creative, and ready to take on anything that comes your way. That’s exactly how I felt serving as the CEO of Calvin Klein. From the moment I set foot in the building, I never wanted to work anywhere else, let alone be anywhere else. I had the world’s best job. I found not just the right fit, but a great fit. And I know that if it’s possible for me—just a kid from Oklahoma who loved clothes and running businesses—to make it to the top, then anyone can do it.
In this book, I’ll share some of the things I learned along the way and some of the things that I found helpful to success, but that I can’t take much credit for possessing (like taste and charisma). I owe those traits to my incredible paternal grandmother, Nana, who helped raise me after my father died in Korea when I was only two years old. Although I feel like I absorbed these traits by osmosis of sorts, I believe anyone can witness and emulate them, with practice (and maybe by reading this book).
I’ll also share some of my beliefs on life, work, and education—and what it took for me to break into the business world. I’ll then share some of my best advice on how to find the perfect place to grow your career, how to excel at the job you love and eventually rise to the top—and even how and when to leave, in order to find a better fit for your ever-growing skills and talents.
Along the way, I learned from as many missteps as right ones, and I’ll share some of those, too. Throughout the book, I’ll be sharing what I believe are the fundamentals to business success and practices that every successful leader needs to know. As someone who helped facilitate the purchase of Calvin Klein by Phillips Van Heusen (PVH) and who watched Calvin Klein’s net worth almost triple in ten years, I can say with some confidence that I know a thing or two about cutting deals. Finally, I’ll share my insights about creating a work-life balance and leveraging all your successes to help others succeed as well.
If you’re serious about finding a career that makes you jump out of bed each morning with enthusiasm and joy, working with people you really enjoy and care about, and dedicating your life to excellence, then this book is for you. I wrote it for you. Like I wanted for all those years at Calvin Klein, I want nothing more than to help everyone find A Great Fit.
"If you’re serious about finding a career that makes you jump out of bed each morning with enthusiasm and joy, working with people you really enjoy and care about, and dedicating your life to excellence, then this book is for you."
5. When you’re happy, when you enjoy what you do, and you do what ultimately drives you, you bring that to every aspect of your work and life. You bring your enthusiasm and creativity to meetings. You bring your belief and trust in others. You bring your hope and positive attitude to every tough problem that needs a solution. When you operate from a place that drives you, your success is almost guaranteed.
6. Money is a great by-product of great choices.
7. No matter what you have or where you are in your career, find something to be grateful and appreciative for. That feeling of gratitude is an intensely motivating feeling, and it brings so much good not only in the workplace, but in the world.
8. You have to be willing to play the long game. Hang in there when the going gets tough. Take the hits and punches when they come, and power through until you got it. Great achievements don’t happen overnight.
9. Rules are there for a reason. We may not understand them. We may not see their value at first glance, but chances are, someone older and wiser came up with them, because they know better; they’ve seen a thing or two.
10.If you want to try something new or you want something—a raise, a promotion, a gig with a client, or even a higher price—you can’t be afraid to ask. You have to stick your neck out, and even risk hearing the word no if you truly want to do something.
11. At the end of the day, all you have is your character, your integrity, and what you believe in. If you give up all that, to make a buck or please an organization that you don’t share values with, then you’re essentially giving up control of the trajectory of your own life.
12. Your personal brand precedes you everywhere you go. How you look, what you say, what you do, where you work, who you are friends with, and what you believe in speak volumes. Your personal brand tells everyone what they need to know before you even open your mouth.
13. Admitting you don’t know what you’re doing, or that you need help, takes courage. It also requires that you relinquish your ego for a bit and admit you don’t have it all figured out.
14. You want to be in “flow” when you’re working. That’s how you know you’ve found a good fit. That doesn’t mean you’re “in flow” all the time. You have to manage your expectations and be realistic. There are always going to be tasks that need to be done, but not every task you do should feel like an absolute burden. The key is to find a job where time flies—and most of the time, it doesn’t feel like work.
15. Work isn’t a prison or death sentence. It is supposed to be a place where you can use your talents to contribute to making something better. If you feel you’re not doing that or that your work isn’t valued, then you should start looking for a new place. Your life is so short, and the years where you can make a meaningful contribution at work are even more limited, so don’t waste your time somewhere that is robbing your mental or physical health.
16. There is truly no skill you can develop that is more important than building meaningful relationships—both personally and professionally.
17. Get to know people. Ask them questions. Listen more than you talk, and try to understand what motivates them. Chances are, it’s not that complicated. They may need more approval. They may need more assurance. They may need someone to talk to. They may need to feel in control. Once you find out what someone needs or desires, it’s easier to work with that person.
18. Find a mentor. Identify someone you want to learn from, and then follow that person’s career path, ask questions, and do everything you can to learn as much as you can from that person. Then when you feel you know something, turn around and help bring others up behind you. It’s the best and only way to ensure that knowledge is handed down. When others succeed, especially in your own company, you succeed, too.
19. If you’re not showing up every day to win, to do your best, to succeed, and to come out more profitable or ahead, then you’re wasting your time and everyone else’s. The workplace is not a place for mediocrity or settling.
20. Bottom Line: Never stop looking for A Great Fit. When you or your life changes, it’s time to find something that fits those changes.