I remember the good old days (I really shouldn’t be using that phrase, I’m way to young), when I’d scavenge campus seminars for free pizza, free pop and the occasional free t-shirt. Back in Waterloo, the first few weeks of every term was filled with co-op employer information sessions. This meant, every day, you could get campus pizza, pop and cookies for free! If you were lucky, you went to one of the good info sessions, like Google or Amazon, where they’d give out pens, t-shirts and even Nalgene water bottles (although I guess those aren’t so popular now).
Although I’d like to think I’ve outgrown those days, one thing I like about still being in school is having access to all these free seminars. Occasionally you come across a seminar where the free pizza and pop isn’t the best thing about it. I happened to be at an open house event organized by the University of Toronto Engineering Toastmasters (UTET). The event modeled a typical Toastmasters’ meeting except fancier. Everyone was more dressed up, roles were explained in more detail, and we had a guest speaker. This last point was the interesting part of the event.
The speaker was John Rich who, among other things, is a distinguished Toastmaster who does professional consulting work in sales and related areas. His book Beyond Relationship Selling was the topic of his presentation (I give him a plug here mainly because he gave me a free copy and I liked his presentation, although I haven’t read the book yet). His presentation was entertaining and the information was a good overview on the importance of relationships in sales. However, the most valuable part to me was the brief conversation I had with him afterward.
To preface this, John Rich has had a very successful career as a captain in the Canadian Armed Forces, started numerous companies and had accomplished many outstanding personal achievements such as completing several triathlons and marathons. I’ve always been interested in successful people. One thing I’m very interested in is how they became so successful — the formula that they use to create consistent positive outcomes. To summarize some of John Rich’s points:
- Keep learning. Every day should be spent learning something new lest you waste it.
- Look upon failures as learning opportunities. For each failure he encounters, he debriefs himself, examining what went wrong. Were the goals unrealistic? Was there a lack in preparation? How can this be corrected next time?
- Join Toastmasters.
I had a great suspicion that he would say the first two points. I’ve heard this by many other very successful people including Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger, so this was no surprise. The third was also expected since he is part of Toastmasters.
Even though I’ve heard these points said again and again, it’s important to keep hearing them. It’s too easy to get stuck in a rut and forget about these rules to success. They’re not hard, they just require being proactive. And there’s the rub. It’s so much easier to sit back and do nothing. That’s okay though, because while others are falling into this trap, it creates opportunities for people like me. These constant reminders keep me from falling back and keep me moving in the right direction. And in case I forget, let this be a reminder.