Starting today, you’ve got to figure out what exceptional expertise you’re going to master that will provide real value to your network and your company.
Here are ten tips on helping you on your way toward becoming an expert:
1. Get out in front and analyze the trends and opportunities on the cutting edge. Foresight gives you and your company the flexibility to adapt to change. Creativity allows you to take advantage of it.
Identify the people in your industries who always seem to be out in front, and use all the relationship skills you’ve acquired to connect with them.
2. Ask seemingly stupid questions. If you ask questions that are like no other, you get results that are unlike any that the world has seen. How many people have the courage to ask those questions? The answer: all the people responsible for the greatest innovations.
3. Know yourself and your talents. I had no chance competing with the science geeks at ICI. In developing an expertise that highlighted my strengths, I was able to overcome my weaknesses. The trick is not to work obsessively on the skills and talents you lack, but to focus and cultivate your strengths so that your weaknesses matter less. I’d apply the 80/20 rule in that you should spend some time getting better at your weaknesses but really focus on building your strengths.
4. Always learn. You have to learn more to earn more. All content-creators are readers or at least deep questioners or conversationalists. They’re also sticklers when it comes to self-development. Your program of self-development should include reading books and magazines, listening to educational tapes, attending three to five conferences a year, taking a course or two, and developing relationships with the leaders in your field.
5. Stay healthy. Research has discovered that at midafternoon, due to sleep deprivation, the average corporate executive today has the alertness level of a seventy-year-old. You think that executive is being creative or connecting the dots? Not a chance. Sounds hokey, but you have to take care of yourself—your body, mind, and spirit—to be at your best. As hectic as my schedule can get, I never miss a workout (five times a week). I try to take a five-day vacation every other month (I do check e-mails and catch up on reading).
6. Expose yourself to unusual experiences. When management guru Peter Drucker was asked for one thing that would make a person better in business, he responded, “Learn to play the violin.” Different experiences give rise to different tools. Find out what your kids are interested in and why. Stimulate your creativity. Learn about things that are out of the mainstream. Travel to weird and exotic places. Knowing one’s own industry and one’s native markets is not enough to compete in the future. Take a deep and boundless curiosity about things outside your own profession and comfort zone.
7. Don’t get discouraged. My first e-mail to the CEO of ICI regarding TQM was never returned. To this day, I face rejection on a regular basis. If you’re going to be creative, cutting edge, out of the mainstream, you’d better get used to rockin’ the boat. And guess what—when you’re rockin’ the boat, there will always be people who will try and push you off.
8. Know the new technology. No industry moves quicker or places more emphasis on innovation. You don’t need to be a “techno geek,” but you do need to understand the impact of technology on your business and be able to leverage it to your benefit. Adopt a techno geek, or at least hire or sire one.
9. Develop a niche. Successful small businesses that gain renown establish themselves within a carefully selected market niche that they can realistically hope to dominate. Individuals can do the same thing. Think of several areas where your company underperforms and choose to focus on the one area that is least attended to.
10. Follow the money. Creativity is worthless if it can’t be applied. The bottom line for your content has to be: This will make us more money. The lifeblood of any company is sales and cash flow. All great ideas are meaningless in business until someone pays for it.
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi, Tahl Raz