Updated: Jul 5, 2021
By Nicole Alioto, Ph.D., Owner, Alla Breve Educational Consulting LLC
As a new business owner, I received a lot of advice during my first year about services I should offer, marketing strategies, and more. Often the advice is targeted, based on the present situation. On a recent shopping excursion, my teen suggested I brighten up my wardrobe a bit and go for a colorful dress. In the moment, you can take the advice or leave it, considering the source, the situation, and the suggestion. Other advice is general, applicable to multiple situations. Pearls of wisdom might pass from generation to generation, mentor to mentee, or even overheard in random places. In this blog, I’m sharing a few of the generalizable gems I have absorbed over the years that I have passed on to others.
Hope is for losers
As a presenter for sales training, I had the benefit of hearing a top-level executive set the context of the session. With 30 plus years of experience, she discussed sales goals and company expectations. Then, she informed the team that “hope is for losers” in the most matter-of-fact way. She told them not to hope for a certain outcome. Instead, she urged them to set a plan and execute it. Emphasizing active over passive engagement in their careers, she caught their attention and impacted me significantly.
Sure no one wants to be considered a “loser,” but how many times in life have I uttered, “I hope to…” or “I hope I can…” Upon reflection, how wishy-washy! Loser language. When I plan to accomplish something, I do it, so what am I “hoping for” if I am taking action to lead to an outcome I established? Better language would be “I expect to…” or “I know I can…”
This piece of wisdom also applies to non-work-related situations. Think about your new year’s resolutions. Do you hope to get in better shape? Hope to improve relationships? Hope to travel more? Don’t hope the year away; set a plan, and make it happen.
If it is free, take it
At the checkout of my college bookstore, there was a free sample of something, and I wasn’t planning to take one, then someone at the checkout said if it is free you should take it, especially when you are in college. Now that advice doesn’t apply to all aspects of life, but it is important to take advantage of opportunities when they are presented.
Open an account (you planned to open anyway) and get a free crock pot, attend a grand opening and get a water bottle, etc. Freebies from stores or other giveaways are helpful for times when life isn’t going according to plan. I worked at a restaurant and was thankful for free staff meals when I was starting out on my career path. If things are going your way, those freebies can be collected for others who are in need within your community or sent to military members overseas.
A few years back, I attended a conference and obtained a free notepad/pen combo set. I didn’t really need it, but I took one anyway – had the company logo on it and was free. On the plane ride home, a little boy around 3 years old sat in the middle seat next to me while his mom sat near the window and listened to her music on her headphones the whole flight, never speaking to the boy. He didn’t have anything to do and kept trying to get her attention, much to her dismay. I remembered the notepad and asked his mother if he could have it. She nodded, and when the boy got the pen and paper, his face lit up. For the remainder of the flight, he scribbled and smiled, showing me his creations with pride. Even if he doesn’t become a famous artist or writer, I’d like to think that the kindness of strangers, thanks to a conference freebie, will make a difference in his life.
And free advice is terrific because even if you don’t want it or need to use it immediately, you have new knowledge that may come in handy later.
If you overprepare, you aren’t prepared
The phrase wasn’t presented verbally in that manner, but the sentiment was expressed during my preparation to present my doctoral thesis. The entire process leading up to the final defense added significant anxiety so I felt it was important to be prepared to give my oral defense. My advisor listened to my run-through which consisted of very thorough overhead slides (pre-presentation software!) and very detailed notes. I didn’t want to forget important parts of the research, and as I presented, I spent much of my time reading my notes (written in complete sentences), struggling to make sure I shared each element, in detail, as written. Before I could complete the first dry run, my advisor stopped me. He told me to put my notes down. Clearly, I messed up. He told me to start again without looking at my notes and just use the slides. No notes?! He reminded me that I knew what I was doing, I did the research, I was prepared, and I just needed to reference the slides to stay on track. My next run-through was a thousand times better than my note-reading first take. When I presented my research the next day for the full committee, I felt confident and prepared; and it was a success!
Since that day, I use that advice for my own presentations and have shared it with others on numerous occasions. I didn’t need to overprepare with a detailed script, I already was prepared. Similarly, if one feels the requirement to cram for a test or an interview, that person likely isn’t prepared. Do the work and prepare, but at some point, put down your notes and do your thing.