Set Aside Time ‘Off the Top’ for Learning

 By Jeff Beals

Days were growing longer, temperatures were warming, and the flowering trees of late April were in full bloom across the campus.  The spring semester was nearing its end, and even as a part-time faculty member, who only taught one course, the end of the school year always brought a sense of excitement.

For seven years, I taught juniors and seniors in the business college at my local university.  I used to get a kick out of the things students would say in our after-class discussions especially as the spring semester waned.

“I can’t wait for graduation,” said one burned-out senior, “so I never have to study again.”

I chuckled a little to myself when I heard that comment.  Not wanting to burst her bubble, I said nothing, allowing her to enjoy the excitement of her approaching graduation.  It wasn’t the right time to tell her that her education was actually just beginning.

In order to succeed nowadays, learning never ends.  You must be a lifelong learner.  High-achieving professionals are students until they die or are so incapacitated they are no longer capable of doing much of anything. 

Your continual learning is both formal and informal.  If you have a deficiency in your formal education, now is the time to correct it.  If you are no longer interested in pursuing degrees, you should still find yourself in a classroom periodically just to keep up with the fast-moving, über competitive economy in which you work.

Lifelong learning prepares you for unanticipated happenings.  We never know what business or career opportunity might come our way.  By learning all you possibly can now, you set yourself up for unforeseen opportunities and increase the likelihood that you will respond appropriately to those opportunities.

If you are an entrepreneur, lifelong learning allows you to continually hone your craft.  You will become better at operationalizing new innovations.  You will be a better manager, more innovative and more likely to be on the cutting edge.  You will learn more effective ways to sell your products and services.

Lifelong learning allows you to prepare for a polarized reality of today’s workplace.  On one hand, you need to have a specialty – something that you do very well that few others can.  On the other hand, you need to be a generalist – someone with a diversity of professional skills and experiences.  Shape your educational and intellectual pursuits in such a way as to pursue both of these seemingly dichotomous realities.

Regardless of your line of work, it is healthy to assume that all your competitors are vigorously trying to improve themselves.  You need to continue educating yourself just to keep up, let alone to get ahead.  Carve out time for your own self development. 

Continuing education is like investing.  Just as you should set aside investment money before you pay bills and spend on entertainment, you need to set aside time “off the top” for learning.  No matter how successful you are or may someday become, you can always go further if you make a commitment to never stop learning.

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You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to friends, colleagues, clients or anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 

  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: Sales, Marketing & Personal Branding Lessons from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Who Protects Your Greatest Vulnerability?

 By Jeff Beals

Have you ever seen The Blind Side?  It’s an acclaimed movie based on a true story first described in a best-selling book by Michael Lewis.  It’s quite an inspiring story.  

The Blind Side introduces us to Michael Oher, one of 13 children born to a mother addicted to crack cocaine living in a Memphis housing project.  When the story begins, the teenage Oher doesn’t know his father, his birthday or even his true last name.  His reading and writing skills are almost non-existent.  A victim of utter neglect, he spends his days and nights unsupervised, wandering the crime-ridden, inner-city streets.

Through a twist of fate – or perhaps divine intervention – Oher finds himself enrolled in an upscale, suburban prep school where he meets an affluent family that eventually adopts him.  With this new love and support, he overcomes culture shock, catches up academically and discovers the game of football.

He not only discovers football, he turns out to be darned good at it, and receives a full-ride athletic scholarship to the University of Mississippi.  Today, Oher is a star offensive lineman for the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens and consequently a very wealthy man.

While the compelling story behind The Blind Side is the amazing metamorphosis of a young man, there’s a second story line: the evolution of the game of football.  You see, there’s a reason why Oher is such a wealthy player today.  He plays a position that is critically important and perhaps the most difficult one for a coach to staff: left tackle.  There is a scarcity of truly great left-tackle talent.  That makes Oher unbelievably valuable to coaches and team owners.

Why is the left tackle so important?  Because he protects the quarterback’s blind side.  Most quarterbacks are right handed, so when they drop back to pass, they can’t see pass rushers coming from their left sides.  Given that, defensive coordinators usually line up their most ferocious athletes on the quarterback’s left side.

As the highest paid and typically most valuable player on the team, the quarterback must be protected at all costs.  But it’s not enough for a left tackle to be big and strong.  He must possess the rare combination of size, strength, speed, balance and agility.  In other words, a left tackle must be a huge guy with the agility of a little guy.  Very few human beings possess this priceless combination of abilities.  Michael Oher is one of them. 

As a quarterback, you need a world-class left tackle covering your blind side, your greatest vulnerability.  If you get blindsided too much, you not only lose the game, you might lose your career.

Just like a professional quarterback, you are incredibly valuable.  You are valuable to your company, your colleagues, your staff, your family, your friends, your community, and just as important, to yourself.  Like a quarterback, you have a blind side that must be protected at all costs. 

In today’s competitive, high-stakes economy, you can’t afford to be blindsided.  You need protection.  You need your own Michael Oher, so to speak.

So, who or what protects your blind side?

Your left tackle could be a trusted colleague, who keeps you informed, covers for you and stands with you when the going gets tough.  Perhaps you serve as his or her left tackle when that person is distressed.

Your left tackle could be a staff with which you have built great synergy or a boss with whom you have developed a symbiotic working relationship.

Actually, your left tackle does not necessarily have to be a person.  Your protector could be a carefully designed management system with checks and balances designed into it.  It could be a strategic plan with contingencies built in. 

Whatever or whoever you choose to be your left tackle, you need one. There’s no need to go through life paranoid, but take some time to develop your own left tackle.  When your blind side is protected, you have a foundation to stand upon.  You have the liberty and security necessary to take risks and chase your dreams.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to friends, colleagues, clients or anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 

  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: Sales, Marketing & Personal Branding Lessons from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You Never Know Who Could Be Your Client Someday

By Jeff Beals

Back in the 19th Century, the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle told us, “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.”

Aside from simply being the right thing to do, following Carlyle’s advice serves your best interest.

To get ahead in business and in life, you certainly must build relationships with the “right” people, but you have to be careful. If you become too obsessed with impressing the rich and powerful, you might miss out on the many other people who have wonderful things to offer you. After all, those who are tiny in their professions today can grow to become monsters in the future.

So, as Carlyle recommended, if you want be truly great, start by taking time for all the people around you even those who seemingly can do nothing for you.

The seemingly non-powerful people in your life may have great influence over powerful decision makers. Administrative assistants come to mind. Oftentimes, a salesperson could be so focused on impressing the decision maker in the corner office that he or she brushes past the administrative assistant with barely an acknowledgment. A job candidate could be so focused on impressing the hiring manager in an interview that he or she does the same thing. Both are big mistakes.

As any savvy professional knows, decision makers tend to be very dependent upon their administrative assistants as well as their direct professional reports. If a staff member feels disrespected by a prospective vendor, the staff member will probably sabotage the would-be vendor’s chances of getting the business.

As an outsider, you don’t know the hidden relationships that may exist between the powerful person you want to impress and the staff members surrounding him or her. Treat all people like gold, because your success depends on it.

Even when you’re not in “sales mode” or “job-seeking mode,” it’s worth your while to take a little time for everyone. You never know who could be your boss someday. You never know what person at your neighbor’s cocktail party could hook you up with your biggest client ever. Constantly build relationships now to sow the seeds of future opportunity. Any relationship has the potential to bear fruit if you simply tend to it.

Finally, when thinking about building relationships for your professional benefit, don’t forget the people right in your own backyard. Too many times we are tempted to focus solely on those who are far away from us, the hard-to-reach people who we dream of doing business with. In pursuing them, it’s easy to forget about the people already around you. They might know more and could be accomplishing more than you think.

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You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to friends, colleagues, clients or anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 

  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Be Famous for Steady Achievement

By Jeff Beals

“A culture that fixates on celebrities is a culture that is cannibalizing itself. Embracing the base while rejecting the noble will produce more of one and less of the other.”

So said the venerable newspaper columnist Cal Thomas awhile back in one of his columns.

Thomas went on to quote a magazine article published in the early 1980s that lamented, “there are almost no famous people anymore; only celebrities. That’s because fame is too suggestive of steady achievement.” If that was a problem 30 years ago, it’s an epidemic now.

You may be surprised that I, as author of a book on self marketing, completely agree with Cal Thomas. I agree despite the fact that I advise professionals to become “a celebrity in your own sphere of interest.”

But I think of “celebrity in your own sphere of interest” the way Thomas defines fame – being known for an on-going series of respected achievements.

Living as a “celebrity in your own sphere of interest” requires the virtue of humility. After all, there is a fine line between good, healthy self marketing and egotistical boasting. Without question, you need to stand out in today’s ultra competitive marketplace. The key is to promote yourself while making it look like you’re not trying. Let people know what you’re doing without being obnoxious. Above all, make sure you have real accomplishments to promote.

Thomas wraps up his column by saying, “The list of celebrities whose lives turned into train wrecks is long and lengthening. Why would so many want to follow these people and their broken relationships, drug use and plastic surgeries, especially when we see where it leads for so many of them?”

Don’t be like THOSE celebrities.

Instead, be a “celebrity in your own sphere of interest” and make sure you are famous for something that provides economic, social or cultural value to society.

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You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to friends, colleagues, clients or anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 

  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.