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Here is The Best Advice I have received: Be Well Read, Well Spoken and Well Cultured.
Everyone has some golden nugget that they have been given in life. Whether it be from your mother, father or mentor. Something that you have taken with you that has helped shape who you are. For me, that something was a soundbite from my father. He said when you grow up strive for three things; be well read, well-spoken and well cultured.
First, be well read. My father told me he was not a genius, and chances are neither was I … but ( he told me) I have read the works of geniuses. I have been inside their minds and I have seen their perspectives. Be well read and you will be more interesting. Second, be well spoken. Being well spoken is not just having a large vocabulary, that’s part of it so that you can properly express yourself, but keep in mind language is a dance and it’s important to be mindful of your cadence. He explained to me that if I can get you going to the rhythm of my voice you hear the word yes, a lot more. Be well spoken and you will get what you want more often. Lastly, be well cultured. Sometimes people don’t want to disagree with you, sometimes they simply can’t relate to you. Travel new places, meet new people, and try new things. Be well cultured and you will find that you will understand more and be understood more often.
To be honest, like most advice one receives, when he gave it to me, I wasn’t ready to receive it. It wasn’t until years after he passed that my father began to haunt me in the best way possible. As I succeeded in life and at work, I would remember him fondly. I started reading veraciously. I learned perspectives I could not have gotten on my own as well as strengthened and built some of my own convictions in the work place. I began to be more mindful at work. Rather than striving to be the smartest person in the room, I focused on filling the room with smart people. In strategy sessions, I now focus my teams’ efforts on healthy conflict. I want my teams to argue. Multiple view points flush out details and concepts better than what I, or any one individual’s perspective is capable of. I would rather be right than happy the group told me I was right. Making sure that before we go to market with a strategy, I encourage my people to challenge our ideas passionately. Lastly, I refuse to acknowledge that the default way of doing things as the best way of doing things. My experience is that doing something because it is the way it has always been done is a tactic that brings you diminishing returns. I have been a victim and have seen companies become victim to unconscious management. Figuring out new solutions to problems that maintain the integrity of your companies’ mission, vision and core values is an essential evolution every company needs to be continuously engaged in. Looking for some starting off points on these concepts? Take some time to read “Originals, how non-conformists move the world” The book discusses the fault in defaults and the concept of argue like your right and listen like your wrong that speak eloquently to this point.
What better way to close my point than to take one of my favorite authors points of view to sum up how I got started down the path of this advice… “What is a child’s obligation to his parent? I took my father’s presence for granted for as long as he was alive and when he died, the first shocking realization was that I had to find a way to keep him alive in my heart, to honor his memory. How do we do that? Not by honoring our parents’ beliefs; we are different people than they are, born in different eras, shaped by different forces. What we are obliged to honor in our parents is their principles, the rules by which they lived their lives. There is something impossibly beautiful about that act. In my grief it has given me solace” – Malcolm Gladwell
Below I have listed a couple of business books that have helped shape some of my own thoughts. I hope it brings you a similar experience.
“Understanding Michael Porter” – Joan Magretta. In this book the author does a fantastic job summing up some of Michael Porter’s key ideas on competitive strategy. Michael Porter who was a Professor at Harvard and a thought leader on this topic wrote in great detail about what it takes to win in a competitive space.
“Playing to Win”- AG Lafley and Roger Martin. In this book the authors take time to dissect the fact that strategy is a choice. Defines winning, discusses thinking through where to play and how to win, discusses managing what matters and then touches on the endless pursuit of wining. This is a great read from any emerging strategist as a starting off point.
“Blue Ocean Strategy” W.Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne. In this book the authors sum up how going left when your competition is going right has some big upside. Thinking through who your company is and how you want to go to market in a different way than your competition enables the ability to make them irrelevant.