It’s winter and the snow is piling up outside. What better time to catch up on my reading (and a little music). Maybe spend some quality time letting the brain work its magic.
I found the following articles to be very insightful and decided to pass them on. Both of the writers are top executives and they offer a unique bit of advice.
The first excerpt is by Richard Branson – The founder of Virgin Group. I thought writers might find the concept useful and the practice of it, a great way to find all kinds of story ideas.
“Listen More Than You Talk”
“…Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak. Wherever I go, I try to spend as much time as possible listening to the people I meet. I am fortunate to travel widely and come across fascinating characters from all walks of life. While I am always happy to share my own experiences with them, it would be foolish if I didn’t listen back.
It is one of the reasons why I always carry a pen and notebook, not to mention an iPad, to note my thoughts. You never know what you might learn from simply listening to the people around you. Whether it is an attendant on a train, an engineer beneath a spaceship of a customer service rep at a computer, I am endlessly surprised by what new and useful information I can gather just by keeping my ears open.
I sometimes come across people in business, especially if they have been fortunate enough to have some success, that are very fond of their own voices. After saying their piece, they visibly switch off from what others are saying, offering a perfunctory nod or fiddling with their phone, rather than making eye contact and really engaging.
Conversely, the most successful entrepreneurs I know all have excellent listening skills in common…”
Thank you Richard – great advice!
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The second excerpt deals with an attitude many people suffer. Accepting second best, lacking self-confidence, and never challenging the status quo, will never make you a success.
Michael Powell, son of Colin Powell, and President and CEO of National Cable & Telecommunications Association, expresses the wisdom passed to him by his father. Although he references some race issues, this article is an important message for everyone. Every writer needs to decide if they really are going for the gold, or just going along for the ride.
“Don’t Play in the Baby Pool”
“…In competitive environments — the workplace, a football field, and a university campus, for example — it is the nature of competitors to seek advantage. And one approach to gaining advantage is to sow seeds of doubt in others. Have them carry the yoke of inferiority. It is a subtle dark art and its practitioners are masterful.
As the generation of African Americans, late joining the ranks of the accomplished, we harbor at times a deep-seated fear that maybe we are not up to the task. We worry privately that we will be exposed as unqualified to play on the same field with those who have sat comfortably in halls of power, money and influence for generations. The wolves can smell that fear and frequently play to it with carefully laid hints and traps. I have seen many talented African American professionals eaten by this game, or seen them migrate to “safer” more comfortable jobs. It is a game designed to put you in a non-threatening role…
I heard my father say it first: “Refuse to play in the baby pool.” … he counsels, “I do not worry about my race. I make race the other guy’s problem. I have no interest in playing on the minor league field. I want to play on center court. If you are going to win, you are going to have to beat me there.”
This is more than bravado. It is a challenge to others to treat you fairly and let them know you are wise to the inferiority game. It is also a challenge to yourself to be excellent and not to allow others to move you to perform off Broadway, or accept comfortable consolation prizes. In life it is easiest to beat yourself. One cannot allow others to quietly escort you to the practice squad by playing on your insecurities and personal doubts. You may feel more cozy and safe there, but you will be denied your full potential and your chance at doing great things. Games are won and lost, but demand to test against the very best…”
I’m very impressed with Michael (and his father’s) advice on challenges. Does this apply to writers? Absolutely! When the critics put you down – decide where the issue really is – with your writing or with them.
Believe in yourself and take on the difficult part of writing – the hard lonely work. You can reach your full potential and hit that best seller list sooner rather than later.