Whether you’ve ever thought of it or not, you’re a company. You compete to get people to choose you instead of someone else for almost everything in your life. Getting picked for the team. Dating. Scholarships. Jobs. Raises. Loan or mortgage approvals. Being a part of your teenaged children’s lives. Getting into an exclusive retirement home. How well you market yourself against your competitors will play a huge role in determining whether you win or lose in many areas of your life.
That can sound crass, and in fact it often is. But again, it’s part of being a business. Some companies choose to compete by genuinely caring for their clients and supporting their communities, while others compete aggressively with a “take no prisoners” bravado. You’ll need to determine which is ultimately the most satisfying and rewarding strategy for your life. I’m certainly confident I know which works best in mine.
Whichever you decide, like any company you will need to invest in the things that will improve your value, and you will get ahead by supplying others with what they need. You will nurture your assets – health, family, friends, finances, business relationships, reputation — and take care of them as best you can. You will produce goods or services — your time on the job, your volunteer activities, your relationships in and out of the workplace — and you will move ahead or fall back based upon how good your goods are seen to be. And like any company, you will succeed or fail based largely on the quality of your strategies and tactics in all these various areas.
Yet, amazingly, most of us never take the time to really develop or even consider a business plan or marketing strategy for our lives, or even recognize that we need one. We do. In fact, that extra level of planning is often why some people just always seem to have things work out nicely, while so many more people work just as hard or even harder, but come away with a lot less. Some believe their lives to be guided by a great plan, whether theirs or that of a greater being. The debate of which is better is certainly beyond the scope of these few words. But whatever the source of their life plans, people who see things as one step in a bigger process will almost always know how to make the most of things that come their way and move on, long before many others even begin to realize something important was happening at all.
You may not be convinced. That’s understandable; life change doesn’t happen immediately. But change can indeed happen a lot faster than you probably ever imagined. Even if you are completely sure this makes no sense, there’s no harm in taking just a few minutes to consider the possibilities. So what are the things that have been holding you back? What are the skills you wish you had on your side? If you could make only one improvement to your skill sets, which one would make the biggest difference to your career path, or even to your personal relationships?
While the answer will be different for everyone, for many people an honest response would be making an improvement to their communication skills. That may not sound overly exciting or pivotal, but job interviews, sales pitches, presidential debates, and even arguments over who gets the best parking spot, will almost always be won by the communicator who has best prepared for the moment.
If communications has always been your strong point, that’s no news at all for you. You’ve known it for years and have reaped the benefits. But what if language was always your worst subject, and every communications challenge from spelling and grammar to reading and public speaking was a moment of huge embarrassment for you? It’s time to turn things around. The history books are filled with stories of people who took control of their communications, and then took control of their destiny. The King’s Speech tells the story of one such person, whose improved communications changed not only his destiny, but the destiny of millions.
So how do you step up your communications game? Start by believing that it really can be done. There are countless ways to learn and practice new skills, but none of them will work well if you’re not convinced that they can. Recognize the challenge and the opportunity, and start taking steps:
- If you need one, look into basic skill building courses at a local college or online.
- For public speaking, perhaps take a look at Toastmasters, a wonderful and very low-cost way to build your skills in a supportive and fun environment, or consider a Dale Carnegie course.
- Explore e-learning options such as CoursePark, with well over 1,000 top courses for just a few dollars or even for free.
There are endless opportunities out there to improve yourself. Start believing and actually making some plans on how you can get your career and your own personal company back on track. The time has never been better. If you’re ready to get ahead, it’s time to communicate.
For a change.