(This post takes about three minutes to read) 

Sometimes we need to relearn simple lessons.

I am working with a young man, Marcus Graham ( ) on developing his business plan. We have been working together for about three months. Recently Marcus presented his 15 minute sales pitch to a few, select people. We were looking for business connections and feedback on the presentation.

We got a LOT of feedback.

The feedback was clear. Our pitch was NOT clear.

What was really cool about that was neither of us was disappointed or particularly dispirited by what we learned. It was clear – our message was mixed.

This drove home three great lessons for anyone endeavoring to do something new or different.

1.Be willing to ask for feedback

First, be willing to ask for feedback. When you work alone or in your small team, it is so easy to get concurrence and start down a path. Your thinking becomes very insular, often without you recognizing it. People all start thinking in a certain way, simply swept along because the energy feels good. But feedback from an outsider can often poke holes in your thinking.  That is when a big improvement might occur. For Marcus and I, we had been so wrapped up in creating a smooth-flowing presentation that we failed to truly scrutinize the content. The feedback got us back on track.

2. Be open

Second, be willing to take in the feedback without any defensiveness. If you listen to learn, you will. Ask questions to clarify. Don’t make statements to justify what you were trying to do. Open yourself up as you hear contradictory words from others. In the end, you get to decide what feedback to use and what to discard. But first, you have to open up to all of it. If a 25 year old can do that, anyone can do that.

If you listen TO LEARN, you will

3. Focus

Third, there are always only a few lessons to remember when you are presenting to others. One, keep your story clear and compelling. Two, focus. Three, always leave them coming back for more.  Four, where your energy is, the audience will feel it. Go there. Five, what is the essence of your message you want to leave everyone with? Anything outside of that core message (while it may be accurate, interesting and informative) is distracting. When those points were driven home to us, it seemed so compelling – and simple.

You can have an idea that is good. What Marcus presented showed his passion for his work and his direction. It was professional. It was ambitious. It showed he had been planning for the future. He has a compelling story to tell. That was all good.

But often, good is not enough.

Marcus and I are going back to the drawing board. But the pieces of the picture are much clearer. We know what to focus on. And we both learned a great reminder, once again.

The Three Lessons and Careers

For any of us thinking about our jobs and careers, the lessons learned apply. We don’t want to ask for advice so often about what we should do with our careers. Networking sounds exhausting, ridiculous or too time consuming. But who else can give us feedback than other people? Second, too often we start off with all of the reasons why we can’t look at changing jobs or careers (I am too busy right now, I can’t afford to lose medical insurance, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to start). Maybe being open to the possibilities, rather than closed to them, might offer a way forward. Third, focus on a few things to start. What do I really like? What would make me more energized? What is missing in my career? Then work outwards from that focus point.

Why not try?


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