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Work Potion #9: Michael Strahan on How to Succeed in Business

 

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(c) @prez13 Instagram, Salesforce Small Business Basecamp, Michael Strahan

 

 

Earlier this week I attended Salesforce’s Small Business Basecamp, a half-day conference offering hands-on advice on how to grow and launch your business. In addition to Salesforce, there were many leading brands represented including Amazon Business, Squarespace, WeWork, Yelp, Zenefits, RingCentral, and others. The agenda featured a fireside chat with media personality and SuperBowl Champion, Michael Strahan. Below are excerpts of Strahan candidly sharing lessons from his experience in business and as an entrepreneur:

  • When presented with a new opportunity: Do it for yourself. You have to take a chance on yourself.
  • On what moves him forward: I try not to be scared. I’m scared every day. I’m scared right now. With football, I was driven by fear more than I was driven by success.
  • On transitioning from sports to Live! I had already convinced myself that it was too hard for people to see you outside of what you already normally did, and that was a roadblock I had for myself. (When trying something new) you almost feel that most people don’t want to see you succeed at more than one thing. I had to get over that.
  • On making the most of the journey: Go on and have fun with it. I had fun with it, I enjoyed myself. And that’s not something you can mask, I was genuinely enjoying myself (on Live!).
  • On imperfection: We’re all human. I didn’t want to be perfect. Nobody wants to be perfect. I don’t want to be perfect, it’s too hard to try.
  • On his reaction to GMA’s job offer: (At first) I said no because I was scared to death, it was so far out of my wheelhouse of what I did. It was one thing to jump from sports to daytime morning television, but it’s another thing to jump to a news division. Then I realized am I not trying it because I don’t think I can do it, or am I not trying it because I’m scared. There is a difference, (and) when I really thought about it, it was because I was scared. And so I gave it a shot.
  • On his role at GMA: I’ve learned something throughout every journey. And I feel like GMA is so different from anything I’ve ever done. It’s the most difficult TV thing I’ve ever done. It requires a muscle that I’ve never had to exercise, and so it makes every day interesting for me.
  • On teamwork: You have to know everybody on your team. You have to know how to inspire certain people, because everybody’s not the same. You need to know how to push each and every individual.
  • On leading a business: When I was on the field I was representing them (everyone). And that’s how I look at our company now, everybody is working for us, everybody feels valuable no matter what their role is because we all work for each other.

Driven to distraction: every single day

How many times have you had a great idea and filled with inspiration and momentum switched over to a productivity app or a post-it to jot it down only to be distracted mid-thought? This happens to me every single day.

I troll the Internet for advice on how to thwart distractions and sharpen my focus. The last time I Googled there were 25,000,000 search results to scroll through. 25 million! On just as many pages, I might add. Even Siri couldn’t provide an adequate estimate of time on how long it would take me to read all of it. Although there was a really great article on how to measure the distance of a light-year, but I digress.

And, has this ever happened to you? You’re in the middle of writing this amazing blog piece (literally, this one) and the processing unit on your Macbook starts to kvetch. You know what I’m talking about, the little rainbow pinwheel that seems to spin into infinity as all these thoughts run through your mind like a conveyor belt on overdrive. All the while you’re thumb typing a note on your phone as quickly as possible hoping to not miss a synapse of intelligence as you wait for the disk utility to run a diagnostic test. And you know it’s really bad when Force Quit is frozen.

“You can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one.” — Tom Kite

Then finally, you’re back to it…uhm, if only you could remember what IT was. Just kidding! But seriously speaking nothing is safe from the distractions of living in a technologically connected world. Even as I’m typing a friend is texting me sending a symphony of sounds through the apartment, because although I muted my computer, all my devices are connected and well, you can figure out the rest.

The only time I can truly focus is when I’m on the mat. There is something soothing in the voice of the instructor, in the repetition of breath and movement, and yes, even in the ambient noises of my fellow yogis grunting and sighing through the poses.

My yoga studio is a 2-minute walk from my apartment (and my home office). I make a conscious decision to leave my phone in its charger while I’m at class. This is my daily 90-minute technology-free zone. For some that may seem like a huge chunk of time, and for others it may not seem like much at all but any amount of time you consciously dedicate to yourself is a positive thing.

When you will yourself to focus, the things that matter most rise to the top of your priorities. When you will yourself to focus, you cultivate resistance to the distractions that may cross your path. When you will yourself to focus you realize you are the key to your own success.

It’s something I have to remind myself of every single day.

This piece originally posted on Medium. Photo Credit: (c) Andrea Preziotti, 2016.

#First7Jobs: A Career Blueprint

An Alaskan musician (who I’m sure has seen an uptick in her Twitter followers) asked the Twittersphere “What were your first 7 jobs?” and its hashtag #FirstSevenJobs blew up social media, as several celebrities and business moguls, including Lin-Manuel Miranda responded to the post.

So much of who we are today is shaped by the experiences of our past. When I think back to my own #first7jobs, I can see the blueprint of my career path taking shape.

#1: Scaturro Food Market, Cashier. I was a shy, gawky teenager and the summer before I started high school my mom gently suggested I look for a job to supplement expenses. I sat in the parking lot of the local Italian supermarket for hours, working up the nerve to go inside when one of their delivery drivers said hello. That hello led to a conversation that led to an introduction, and a trial run at being a cashier. My first success at networking.

#2: Brighton Beach Summer Camp, Counselor for Boys. I was in charge of two dozen mischievously, adorable 7-9-year-old boys. I spent the summer coaching them through softball, cornhole and potato bag races and corralling them on local outings to the New York Aquarium, Astroland and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. They kept me on my toes with real-time on-the-job problem-solving–foundational learning that has served me well throughout my career.

#3: Marist College, Leo Hall, Resident Assistant. Once in college, I accessed that quick problem-solving camp experience and applied it to the supervision of a floor of coeds. Age nineteen and nurturing women as they started their academic, social and personal growth. It was my responsibility to foster an inclusive and inspiring community that offered guidance and support to 48 young adults, most of whom were away from home for the first time. Being an RA helped develop my management and team building skills; it also forced me to find my footing and my voice.

#4: Varied Temp Agencies & Assignments. My mom started her secretarial career as a clerk at the library reference at CBS. (An experience that led to her first brush with celebrity when Katherine Hepburn stopped by to chat while researching for her role in Desk Set.) Temping provides an opportunity for a hands-on experience unlike any other: from data entry to project management, word processing, and legal proofreading. It was also a great way to meet new people. I temped every school break through graduation and during stretches of unemployment, where I soon learned temporary work isn’t always temporary. Two assignments led to permanent roles at NBC and Conde Nast.

#5: Marist College Campus Security, Overnight Dispatcher. The shifts varied and included the graveyard–that time of night where anything can happen. As the dispatcher, I recorded emergency calls in the logbook, monitored the fire alarm system, and issued parking permits. In emergency situations that involved local law enforcement, it was imperative to communicate events clearly and capture all details accurately. It also helped to have good penmanship.

#6: Abercrombie & Fitch, Customer Sales. The summer after graduation, I crossed over to the dark side, working my first-ever retail job. It was the late 90s, and it was practically a rites of passage for fresh college grads. At the time both The Limited Co. and The Gap were well-known for working their retail staff to the bone, and Abercrombie was no exception. It was a crash course in round-the-clock customer service, and my first foray into the global market: The flagship store at the South Street Seaport was a magnet for foreign tourists.

#7: Random House/Ballantine Books, Freelance Proofreader. Working retail was unfulfilling, and it wasn’t until I started taking classes toward a Book Publishing Certificate from NYU that I met Nancy Inglis. Nancy, Copy Chief for Ballantine, also taught a course in Copyediting & Proofreading. She later hired me as a freelancer for the imprint. Over the course of four years, I proofread mass-market/trade fiction and nonfiction manuscripts marking corrections, as well as correcting errors in type, format, grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and adhering content to style guides. It was this role that led to my true calling toward a career path in storytelling, editing and writing, finally putting my B.A. in Creative Writing to good use.

What were your #First7Jobs, and how did they shape you? Share in the comments below.

Photo Credit: @HollywoodReporter.com

Conversational Storytelling, or The Art of Sneezing

Hello.

No,
not Adele.

It’s just me,
Andrea. We haven’t met yet.
But I think we will, one day soon.

I’ll be the one writing in a notebook with a pencil, drinking coffee;

there’s one seat free, it’s opposite of me. You may hesitate momentarily at the idea of sharing space with a stranger,

then decide to walk over and ask, “May I sit here?” at the same moment I lift a Limited Edition Blackwing from the page, glance upward with a kind smile and say, “Of course.”

I clear off half the tabletop for your laptop, textbook, newspaper, iPhone, hard drive, earbuds, glasses, tissues, and whatever else you remove from the knapsack on the floor, as you place the cold/hot beverage on the corner closest to your dominant hand, pull out the creaky wood chair and fold your frame into it.

Seconds, minutes, hours pass in silence. Then you sneeze, I say Salute. Your eyebrows either furrow in confusion, or your serious, not-so-serious face cracks a smile. Then you pull an earbud from your ear and we start talking about different customs on how to respond to sneezing. We debate the best way to cover your nose and mouth (hand or inner elbow), and rate the softness of tissues. I remember carrying twenty tissue packets on my trip to Asia and still not having enough. You laugh and nod knowingly.

I smile. You smile. Boom: we’ve connected. The stories we exchange become a part of our daily tapestry, anecdotes we retell later to co-workers, friends, and family. A debate we post on a blog, across social media or even at our local. They may even inform a purchase when we run out of tissues.

A chair scrapes against the floor, a phone rings nearby and the ambient noises float back to the foreground. You check your watch, I check mine. We say our goodbyes, maybe even exchange information.

Humans thrive on creating emotional connections. We connect through our stories, learning about the world and each other through shared experiences.

Conversational storytelling creates moments for brands to make real-life connections with consumers.

If all you have is this one moment,
how will you use it?
Share your stories.

Right now,
below.

Grazie.

*This post originally posted on Medium. The format of this post was created in a Fibonacci Sequence, where every word counts. #artscience @andrea_gayle
Photo Credit: David’s Mighty 3

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