Two accomplished lawyers are sitting at an A-list bar in New York. One is my friend’s lawyer, Tom, the other is Tom’s law partner, Kevin.
They’re having a leisurely drink, waiting for their table. A-list superstar US attorney David Boies, who argued the US government’s case against Microsoft, makes a beeline to the bar to greet Kevin, whom he knows from previous cases.
Boies joins Tom and Kevin for a drink. A few minutes later, Kevin gets up to make a phone call outside.
Boies remains at the bar, talking to Tom for 30 minutes. “I’d never met Boies before,” Tom said to me later.
“He didn’t have to talk to me. I wasn’t bowled over by his intelligence, or his piercing questions, or his anecdotes. What impressed me was that when he asked a question, he waited for the answer. He not only listened, he made me feel like I was the only person in the room.”
Tom’s words describe a single skill that separates the great from the near great. When Kevin disappeared, Boies stuck around and made a lasting positive impression on Tom. Boies wasn’t looking to score points.
In showing interest, asking questions, and listening for the answers without distraction, Boies was simply practising the one skill that has made him great at relating to people.
Learn to listen
I’m not sure why all of us don’t execute this interpersonal manoeuvre all the time. We’re certainly capable of doing so when it really matters to us.
If we’re on a sales call with a prospect who could make or break our year, we prepare by knowing something personal about the prospect. We ask questions designed to reveal his inclinations, and we scan his face for clues. The only difference between us and the super-successful is that they do this all the time.
It’s automatic. There’s no on-off switch for caring, empathy, and showing respect. It’s always on. So why don’t we do it? We forget. We get distracted. We don’t have the mental discipline to make it automatic.
90% of this skill is listening, which requires the discipline to concentrate. I’ve developed a simple exercise to test my clients’ listening skills. Close your eyes. Count slowly to 50 with one simple goal: Don’t let another thought intrude. Concentrate on maintaining the count.
Sounds simple, but more than half of my clients can’t do it. Somewhere around 20 or 30, nagging thoughts invade their brain. This may sound like a concentration test, but it’s really a listening exercise.
After all, if you can’t listen to yourself (someone you presumably like) as you count to 50, how will you ever be able to listen to another person?
Like any exercise, this drill exposes a weakness and helps us get stronger.
Test your new skill
Once you can complete the exercise without interruption, you’re ready for a test drive. Make your next interpersonal encounter – whether it’s with your spouse or a colleague or a stranger – an exercise in treating them like a million bucks.
Listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t finish the other person’s sentences. Don’t say, “I knew that.” Don’t even agree with the other person. If he praises you, just say thank you. Don’t use the words “no,” “but,” and “however.”
Don’t let your eyes wander elsewhere while the other person is talking. Maintain your end of the dialogue by asking questions that show you’re paying attention, move the conversation forward, and require the person to talk (while you listen).
Your only aim is to let the other person feel that they are important. If you can do that, you’ll uncover a glaring paradox: The more you subsume your desire to shine, the more you will shine in the other person’s eyes.
You may feel dull as you listen quietly, but the other person will say, “What a great guy!” just as you would of anyone who made you feel like the most important person in the room.
In the spotlight
Are you merely mediocre or a business leader others want to emulate?
Listening To These 8 Audiobooks On Success Is A Better Use Of Your Long Commute
Commuting is mostly just unpaid work, unless you make an effort to learn something along the way.
Commutes are getting longer, and in some cities they’re up to two hours each way. I have a friend in Los Angeles who does this. He passes the time with audiobooks. Now that’s still a lot of time to be stuck in transit, but he doesn’t view it that way. He says it allows him plenty of time to feed his personal and professional goals.
I’ve spent years listening to literature in the car while commuting, but somewhere along the line I switched over to books on business and personal improvement. I mostly gravitated toward amazing people who built their success from scratch and who experienced tremendous hardship. It stands to reason that if you’re dealing with hardships like a long commute, it’s important to hear motivational words that can help you transcend the difficulties.
Here are eight audiobooks that will help grow your success, both personal and professional, on your next commute:
3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018
Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.
Goal setting as a concept makes perfect sense. At the most basic level you decide on the destination and then plot the way to get there. But as with many things, we like to overcomplicate that which should be simple.
Before you know it, you end up with 2 big goals in 15 different areas of your life and 100 micro goals that will help you reach your 30 big goals.
Complicating something simple. Some of the biggest obstacles to people in reaching their goals are:
- The overestimate the effort it will take to achieve those goals
- They want to go from 0-100km/h in the blink of an eye
- Life is dynamic and static goals often do not make sense
- They get so entrenched in the day to day running of things that goals get pushed aside.
What if instead of goals, we just focused on giving our best every day?
Of course, you still want to have an indication of where you are going.
But, if you are giving your 100% every day then you can forego the micro goals for a better way of calibrating your compass… using questions.
Related: Goal Setting Guide
I suggest you ask yourself these three questions regularly:
1. What does better look like?
The question at the heart of development and incremental improvement. This question allows you some creative space in which you can imagine a better future.
- What does better health look like?
- What does a better business look like?
- What does better customer service look like?
- What does better leadership look like?
By reflecting on this question, you materialise the gap between where you are and where you could be. Now, the only thing that is left is to align your daily actions with the better future you imagined.
2. What can I control?
Borrowed from Stoicism this question highlights the power of decision in your life. Epictetus said we should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”
Once you ask this of yourself regularly you will feel more in control of your life and more in control of your business.
Because your focus is solely on the things that you can influence. It restores the belief that you can actually impact the world around you in a meaningful way.
3. Was I impeccable with my actions today?
One inherent flaw with goal setting is that the goal setter often feels judged. As if we need more of that. In addition to the constant negative self-talk we have to endure we now have an additional source of judgement – whether we reached our goals or not.
As we discovered in question #2 We cannot control everything. Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.
So, instead of judging yourself, commit to giving your best every single day.
What I love most about these questions is that they provide a built-in layer of accountability. Use them every day.
To Be Successful Stay Far Away From These 7 Types of Toxic People
You need a network of talented people, not toxic personalities who undermine you.
Surrounding yourself with prospective mentors is an excellent way to build lifelong success. When Steve Jobs founded Apple, he learned from colleagues like Steve Wozniak about what it took to build computer hardware. And he learned from early investors like Mike Markkula about what it took to build a successful company and market a product. Now imagine if Jobs had surrounded himself with toxic personalities instead. It is likely that he would not have been able to create a company that is on course to be valued at $1 trillion.
If you interact with people who demonstrate questionable behaviour, you’re more likely to model that behaviour yourself or to become stressed as a result. At the very least, you will be missing out on the opportunity to network with more successful and inspiring individuals.
This article will review seven personality types that should be eliminated from your life in order to build your most successful self. Once these people are gone, you can work on building a network of people who influence you positively.
According to a report by NPR, micromanagement is one of the biggest factors associated with employee dissatisfaction, lowered motivation and lack of professional creativity. To be successful, you must learn to solve problems independently. Micromanaging can make it difficult to develop these skills.
Related: Keep An Eye Out For Toxic Employees
2. Short-term thinkers
If you surround yourself with short-term thinkers, it will be difficult to know if an idea is destined for long-term success. Those who are narrow-minded may be more likely to dismiss one of your ideas because it will take time to develop into a meaningful success.
Take the creation of Airbnb as an example. The company was founded in 2008. At the time the “sharing economy” did not exist, and hotel chains like Starwood and Hilton dominated the lodging market. A short-term thinker would have criticised an idea like Airbnb.
In order for the company to be successful, Airbnb would need to change people’s attitudes and expectations about travel. They would need to encourage people to be comfortable staying with strangers, and they would need to find ways to mitigate possible liability should something tragic happen during a customer’s stay.
Well-respected venture capitalists decided to pass on Airbnb because of these short-term concerns. The Airbnb founders were only able to find success once they connected with people who were comfortable thinking long term.
Pessimism is not always a bad trait; at times it can help entrepreneurs to recognize certain pitfalls that might otherwise be overlooked. However, a steady diet of pessimism is toxic when it comes to taking big professional risks.
As David Armor, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, says, “An entrepreneur starting up a company, for example, might drive himself to work 18-hour days for months and even years because he optimistically believes that there will be a big payoff for him at the end.” Conversely, a pessimistic attitude would make it difficult to tolerate such a prolonged stressful situation.
For those interested in taking on stressful professional situations, pessimistic people should be avoided in most cases.
4. Selfish people
Relationships that contribute to success are mutually beneficial. This dynamic cannot exist when dealing with selfish people. As a result, it is best to eliminate selfish people from your life in order to make room for more giving relationships.
A recent study found that a job applicant who is referred by an existing employee is 15 times more likely to be hired than someone who applies via a job board. If you befriend a selfish person, you probably can’t rely on them to introduce you to new career opportunities. However, forming connections with someone who is altruistic could give you a professional leg up.
5. Risk-averse personalities
Business success is about making informed decisions by weighing risks and rewards. If you are surrounded by people who over-index on possible risks while ignoring the possible rewards, it will be challenging to identify good business opportunities.
Take Amazon as an example. In 2014 Amazon launched a smartphone called the Fire Phone. In the end, the phone was not successful. Following the unsuccessful launch of the Fire Phone, risk-averse people might have avoided developing another piece of computer hardware.
But instead, Amazon correctly assessed the opportunity for an in-home smart speaker, and launched the Amazon Echo just one year later. Today, Echo has 75 percent of the smart-speaker market in the United States.
6. Unmotivated individuals
People who lack motivation or work ethic set a bad example for those interested in working diligently to become a professional success. There is no worse colleague than someone who simply does the bare minimum to get by.
Rather than associate yourself with people who cut corners or avoid hard work, try to surround yourself with people who are motivated to succeed. Collaborating with people who have a healthy drive for success can instill an extra dose of motivation in you.
Financial responsibility is a critically important quality to develop if you want to become successful. Warren Buffet is perhaps the supreme example of a financially responsible and successful person.
Buffet is the third wealthiest person in the world, worth nearly $80 billion. But despite his professional success, Buffet does not spend his money on flashy cars or large homes. In fact, Buffet still lives in the modest home in Omaha, Nebraska, that he purchased in 1958.
Those who associate with spendthrifts may be more motivated to make irresponsible financial decisions in order to fit in. At the very least, it will be harder to associate with people who make good financial choices, as these personalities are frequently diametrically opposed.
Business is all about who you know. From landing a new job to launching a new company, your network will enable or prevent future professional success. When developing a network of talented people, it is best to avoid toxic personalities who could set a bad example or demotivate you.
Be sure to avoid people who are micromanagers and short-term thinkers, as they can make it difficult to think autonomously. Risk-averse individuals or pessimists may cause you to think twice about great business ideas, and spendthrifts or selfish people may hamper your ability to grow. Last but not least, stay away from unmotivated individuals, as your success is dependent on your willingness to work diligently in order to succeed.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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