REVIEW: Alan M. Patterson — Burn Ladders, Build Bridges (BOOK)

Colin Jordan
3 min readMay 12, 2022

Alan M. Patterson’s new book is a new kind of leadership advice tutorial. It eschews the typical, cold, brutish nature of many of its thematic predecessors — as its title would suggest. With Burn Ladders, Build Bridges: Pursuing Work with Meaning + Purpose, Patterson advocates for a more holistic, dynamic approach to looking at the world of work, industry, and corporations. But the traditions Patterson questions in the typical, career trajectory he argues stretch far beyond just said trajectory itself. It goes back to the foundational models of the very concepts applicable themselves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: https://www.ladderburners.com/alan-patterson/

A great example is in the book’s second chapter, where Patterson details the prospect of Achieve + Advance, a mentality that’s ingrained during childhood education. Said mentality promotes the concepts of winners and losers, right and wrong answers, and the necessary steps to pursuing said winners, and said right answers. In short, Patterson believes this is inherently flawed, and in a postmodernist workplace is something to wipe away. “Motivation is not the problem.

It’s how the game is played and how players accept defeat and deal with success and failure,” he writes. “…Postsecondary education creates a hotly debated topic among parents, employers, colleges, and students: What is the purpose of a college degree? Is it to broaden knowledge, or to get a job? Is it wide and theoretical, or focused and practical? Do you major in liberal arts or a vocational specialty? Should you plan to be a generalist or specialist? Humanist or expert? Do you see college as a long-term investment, or are you looking for an immediate return?”

He then ties these kinds of inquiries to the book’s central, topical theme. “People begin their professional careers by looking up at a ladder, hoping to see endless possibilities. Some people like the chase for more money, bigger titles, more territory, and the status and prestige that come with it. But it’s not uncommon that, sooner or later, people begin to question what they’re doing and why they’re doing it…People (can) get stuck,” Patterson states.

This is shortly before he introduces the concept of so-called ‘Ladderburning’ — a rearranging of core tenets and concepts making up the traditional climbing up of the corporate ladder. “Unlike the games of (Achieve and Advance) and (Climb the Ladder), Ladderburning destroys the concept of climbing the corporate ladder and focuses on building relationships instead,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what the structure of any organization is because Ladderburners create their own paths and deal with structures no matter what they are or where they lead. Winning is measured by the ability to create meaning for yourself and those around you. Ladderburners are not motivated by the rewards of pay, promotion, prestige, and status. They are motivated by something deeper and more personal.”

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Burn-Ladders-Build-Bridges-Pursuing/dp/163742213X

It’s one of the things I liked most about the read. Patterson isn’t afraid to boldly state the old ways in which many traditionalist aspects don’t work. Plus, he advocates the reader embrace the new kinds of trends implemented by Generation Y and Z-era businesses, rather than eschewing them or dismissing their validity as ‘woke’…

Colin Jordan

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Colin Jordan

Graduate: McNeese State University, Avid Beekeeper, Deep Sea Diver & Fisherman, Horrible Golfer