Funny how things change. You can be so sure of something, and over time, your views can be changed to something vastly different. It’s crazy. Like shifting sand.
When I was young and just entering college, I was convinced that the secret to success was knowledge. If I could just absorb a vast amount of information, I would be valuable and successful. Smart people will always be in the lead, right?
I was sure that the key was- What you know!
So I studied hard, made good grades, and soaked up as much information as possible. You see, I wanted to know everything. I wanted to be equipped to join every conversation and have the ability to contribute a practical solution to any problem. I wanted to be the man with the answers! This would be my path the success.
As I progressed in my career, I watched others in my field advance due to networking and through connecting with groups and organizations. I observed that if you knew the right person, it would be a huge career accelerator. Just knowing that person was a door opener.
I was sure that the key was- Who you know!
So I worked hard to join groups and organizations in my industry. If my name is plastered everywhere, then I will have a great chance to be included in a new project or opportunity. I increased my address book to several thousand persons. I wanted to be a person that was known. I was sure that this was the key to being successful.
As I have gained years, I have realized that, while both of these items are very important, I believe there is something that is even more critical. And this truth cuts through everything we do in life. It is the connector. The glue that makes things work. It holds everything together.
The key is- How you know someone!
This may sound a bit awkward, but here is the truth: Your relationships will be your mark of success. How you have connected with people on a deeper level. How you have loved and how you are loved. How you are able to meet someone where they are. How you can communicate how you feel about what you are trying to accomplish. How you make the other person feel.
I have watched and admired people through the years that truly get this. They have a way to quickly engage. You want to be around them. They may not have the knowledge or the network, yet they touch you in a deep way. They inspire. They lift you up. They make you feel valuable.
So how do you get there? Some ways to strengthen these skills:
Be Positive- Always, always, always stay positive. If life is beating you up, find your strength to get through it. Showing you pain and frustration will not help the situation. Dwell in the positive! Find the silver lining, there is always something good if you look hard enough.
Smile- Use your greatest tool to engage with others, your smile. Smile often and to everyone. A sincere smile melts away insecurities and breaks down barriers.
Serve- Serve others. Put others first. Be sensitive to what is going on around you and take advantage of opportunities to help others. Get your focus off of yourself.
Communication Skills- Take every opportunity to increase your skills as a speaker, writer, and instructor. Life is about getting your point across to others. In order to engage and inspire, you must have the skills to present your idea in a clear and compelling way.
Eye Contact- Make sure that your eyes connect in conversation. If you have a habit of looking away practice until this habit goes away. Looking away makes the other person feel like you are not being genuine and honest.
Ask Questions- Ask questions to show interest in the other person’s life. Questions are the secret to unlocking someone’s true identity. Through questions, you will find out what they are really about and you will be able to connect with them in a deeper way. This is also a skill that needs to be practiced and learned.
So graduate, if you are thinking that the general education classes are a waste, I am telling you that you are dead wrong. The liberal arts, communication, and writing classes are essential. Don’t take them lightly. Learn and practice these skills! Learn to really connect with others. Learn to be persuasive and inspiring. This is where you will find success. This will make all the difference.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou