You learn how to be book smart in school, but you better not forget that you need to also be street smart. There’s an old saying about how the “A” students in school end up working for the “B and C” students in life. I’ve always been amused by that notion.
I succeeded because I have street smarts. Here are some street-smart ideas that have worked for me over the years.
Idea No. 1: Take time — whenever possible — to think about important situations that arise before taking any action. Unexpected problems come up in life. No matter what you are hit with without warning, memorize these six words: I want to think about it. All my life I’ve seen people react instantly to events that took them by surprise, and they opened their mouths and really hurt themselves. So practice: I want to sleep on it! I want to think about it! You won’t be sorry.
Idea No. 2: Agreements prevent disagreements. Whenever you have a meeting of real importance, summarize your understanding with a brief note back to the other party. I guarantee this will save you from a lot of “he said /she said” … “I thought you meant” … or “We never talked about that.” Nail it down before it nails you.
Idea No. 3: Leaks don’t just come from faucets. Just remember that the walls have ears, or as I now say, the world has ears. Don’t discuss private important business or personal matters where it can be overheard by other parties. Many deals have gone down in elevators. Smart phones and recording devices are everywhere.
Idea No. 4: Always let someone else set the table for you. Let other people talk you up. It will carry a lot more weight. The sound carries further when someone else blows your horn.
Idea No. 5: Dial up your telephone skills. Never, never just leave your name when you call someone. Always leave the exact time frame you can be reached to avoid playing telephone tag.
Also, whenever you do reach a customer, client, VIP or key person in your network, immediately ask them, “Is this a good time to talk?” Don’t blow a deal just because of inconsideration. I’ve received calls all my life where I was preoccupied, and the caller had no chance to be successful.
If you have an assistant who takes your calls, you will always make a solid impression if your assistant says that you are expecting their call.
Lastly, and this is a tough one, but try to only take phone calls at a specific time of day. This is a huge time saver. Of course, there will always be VIP exceptions.
Idea No. 6: Don’t be boring. Don’t be predictable. Don’t be dull. Put some creativity into your life and business. For example, I have various types of letters that I use on a regular basis. I have unique and creative letters of Congratulations and Thank You, and then I always add a personal message to them. I do a report card letter where I list 10 or so items and rank each item A+, assuming they deserve it. I’m a big proponent of putting a smile on people’s faces, whether it’s with creative gifts or personal notes.
Idea No. 7: Check out who is attending events to which you’re invited. I often call the person in charge of an event to try and get a list of attendees and where they will be seated. The cocktail hour is usually not long enough to greet more than 25 percent of the crowd. However, if you have the seating chart, you know the exact table number, plus who’s attending. Then you can zero in on the contacts you want to make. If you can’t get a list in advance, arrive early and check the name tags to see who will be there.
Idea No. 8: Many times in life when you are faced with a difficult situation, you should try and apply this philosophy: If you can afford to buy your way out of a problem, you don’t have a problem.
Idea No. 9: Call people who have experienced a setback, demotion or personal tragedy. Everyone calls people on the way up, but not so often on the way down. You will always be remembered for your kindness.
Mackay’s Moral: A student of life considers the world a classroom.
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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