When I was in high school I had a huge crush on this girl with long black hair and freckles. Her name was Lynn.
I was shy and never the type who engaged with people, but it was different with her. When we met in the hallway we had developed this innocent little routine, mindless, flirty banter, really.
I thought she was mature for her age, and kind of “with it” if you know what I mean – not “popular” but well liked.
To this day I’m not sure if she was flirting with me, playing me, or simply being nice.
But I thought I had a “thing” going with the pretty, cool, freckle-faced girl.
I asked her out and was artfully rejected. In fact, she was so damned good at it, it almost blew me away.
This happened to me more than a few times, because I was a clumsy, stiff, and inept 17-year-old. I mistook any engagement with the opposite sex as flirting.
But here’s the thing: I gave up and ran away, like a frightened Chihuahua.
I was chicken-hearted at the time and particularly bad at misreading social queues… where sometimes a “no” means, um, “maybe.”
Taking an all or nothing approach, I gave up, quickly.
I was also not being honest with myself (or the other person). There were a thousand things I wanted to say, but never did – from “how I really feel about you” to “you led me on, you evil, soul-draining woman.”
I was a little more persistent with my wife, but that’s another story for another day.
Anyway, this high school crush reminds me of relationships in life and in business, and how I’ve conducted myself over the years. Things didn’t go well because I was …
1. Not confident.
2. Wasn’t honest enough.
3. Didn’t think it through.
4. And I gave up too easily.
Fact: In business there’s a ton of bullshit going around and every time I’ve participated in it, or let it get to me, or felt intimidated by it, I’ve left scarred in some way.
I’m still learning, so I haven’t completely honed the four items above, but feel I’ve experienced enough life to give you a few tidbits of advice on how to conduct your daily business.
Let’s reexamine the four practices that will help you in life and business…
1. Not Confident? Then Over-Prepare.
It you act like a nebbish, you’ll get treated like one. Play this role in business and they’ll rip your guts out, spit in your face, then fire you.
Attitude isn’t everything but it sure helps. Don’t be an asshole, just learn to master confidence through preparedness.
If you’re going into a meeting, be READY. Before the meeting study like your life depended on it. The only way to provide value, get nods and feel confident while doing it? Over preparing.
Over preparing IS confidence.
Are you ill at ease in meetings? Join Toastmasters.
Not confident dealing with others? Find a networking event. Any. Treat the event as a practice ground and have fun.
Feel like a mush mouth? Speak to one stranger each day. Don’t just say “hello” to the cashier, engage in conversation.
All three practices have helped me tremendously.
Whenever I’ve gone into a meeting or phone call unprepared I’ve regretted it.
Whenever I lapsed and didn’t bone up on my social skills, I reverted back to that insecure 17-year-old.
Be ready and be confident.
2. Not being honest? Stop it and be direct.
If someone asks you to do something you really, truly don’t want to do. Guess what? You don’t have to say “yes.”
If a client sets an unrealistic date for a deliverable, tell them it’s not feasible. Explain your process and why it will be better your way. Yes, go above and beyond and give them the best, because unrealistic is, well unrealistic.
If an assignment or job is going haywire, don’t ignore it. Try to figure out the bottleneck quickly, and tell your client things are not going as expected.
Don’t be silent Bob. Explain why with confidence and set up plan B, quickly.
Refuse to play the weak-kneed teenager.
Whenever I’ve tried to hide something it bit me hard and then some. Plus the stress almost killed me.
Honesty and directness. Sometimes it’s extremely hard, but you’ll be better for it.
3. Not thinking it through? Practice by acting it out.
If you don’t think it through you might come out looking like a pimply, adolescent boob in good need of a tighty-whitey wedgy.
Why? Because halfhearted measures deliver halfhearted results.
No duh, but are you thinking “it” through? Really!? From the rush project to the client meeting this afternoon? Playing out scenarios? Thinking about their questions? Tying to see things from another’s point of view?
People think I’m a crazy person, because I talk to myself all the time; in my car, walking down the street, wherever. I’m playing out scenarios.
I don’t care what they think ’cause this works for me. I don’t take notes, I just Rehearse with a capital “R!” It helps me prepare and actually retain what I’m going to say.
Don’t take notes, just master your delivery; in your car, on the street, in front of the mirror in your underwear. Think it all through and bone up on your speaking skills in the process.
4. Feel like you give up too easily? Well, don’t.
Remember the honey badger? There’s a ferociousness and tenacity to this cagey little bugger. Ounce for ounce this guy might be the most vicious animal on earth, but it’s the determination that helps him win in the end.
Like our happy narrator states, “Honey Badger don’t give a shit, it just takes what it wants.”
Yeah it does.
Okay, the honey badger isn’t the smartest animal on earth, and I’m not saying you should go take whatever you want. No, of course not, just try and inject a little badger tenacity into your interactions.
Be a determined, but smart badger.
Don’t fight back on every point or request, but don’t tuck tail too soon either.
Be cagey about your ferociousness and learn to let it show at just the right moment.
Don’t practice business as usual, add a little “fight-back” to your repertoire.
Trust me, for much of my life I gave in like the cowardly lion. This never ends well, especially in business.
You do want things to end well, right? Well, these four practices have sure helped me. I hope they do the same for you.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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