Emilio slid into his chair, his scotch sloshing a little as he set it on the table. Gus held up his glass.
"All hail the conquering hero!"
Emilio grinned. "Shut up. No, seriously, thanks."
"Your days must be packed. You barely had time to breathe before; what's it like now?"
"Not so bad. I'm mean I'm busy, don't get me wrong, and the days are long, but I've got a terrific team under me who—"
"Janet still there?"
"Yes, Janet is someone I talk to a lot about—"
"Janet and I worked together back at PMI. She could command a room like nobody's business. I'm not surprised she's there. I should look her up."
"Yeah, she's great. She was actually with me in Augusta when—"
"Augusta for the Masters?"
"You went to the Masters?"
Emilio grinned. "I did. It was insane. You ever been on a private plane?"
Gus took a sip of his beer before replying. "Uh, no."
"I'd never pay for it myself but I can't lie, it's a great way to travel. And you should see the company hospitality headquarters. They built these huge, gorgeous homes—"
"Yeah, I've heard about those."
"Yeah, they're beautiful. Lady Antebellum performed on—"
"Jenny started listening to them a long time ago and I didn't really get it, but we went to see them about two years ago and they were incredible. Good show."
An awkward silence descended over the table until Gus said, "Dude, I'm happy for you. Maybe one day my company will send me to the Masters, too."
Emilio looked at Gus sympathetically. "Hey, don't sweat it. You'll see, you'll be next."
Gus made a face. "I don't know. I've been there awhile now. They keep telling me I need to bring in more business, better clients. But I brought in that big account I told you about last year. What else am I supposed to do? I'm doing the best I can, you know?"
Emilio shrugged. "Totally. You're doing great. If they don't see how much value you bring, the problem is them, not you. You need to find a company that appreciates you."
Gus nodded into his beer. Emilio was right. It was time to move on again.
LOOK IN THE MIRROR
One could see this as a turning point in Gus's life, a moment where he started getting serious about taking control of his professional life. Not me. As far as I'm concerned, Gus just grounded his career for good because he's got spinach in his teeth and no one has the nerve to tell him. And if, like Gus, you've ticked off all the requisite boxes on your field's checklist for professional advancement, yet seen yourself left behind as your colleagues and competitors zoomed up their career ladders, you've likely got spinach in your teeth, too.
Let me explain. Let's say you prepared for weeks to make an important presentation, the kind where a close-up of your face will be projected on a big screen so everyone can get a good look at you. And let's say that on that big day, when you stood up on the podium and began to speak, you revealed a little bit of leftover lunch—a piece of spinach lodged in between your teeth. You could be the most polished, poised person in the room, and no one would notice. Jewels of wisdom could fall from your lips, and no one would be able to hear them. Why? Because the flash of green they're spotting every time you open your mouth would make it impossible to focus on anything else! Your entire interaction with your audience, in that moment, would be hijacked by an unsightly spot of spinach.
Now, one of the many differences between this book and others about good communication practices is that I make no distinction between public and private speaking. In fact, I believe there is an overrated correlation between public speaking and success, and an underrated correlation between private speaking and success. Any trait, characteristic, or bad habit that unbeknownst to you hampers the effectiveness with which you present yourself or communicate "on a daily basis", especially at work though not exclusively so, is the equivalent of that unsightly, off-putting bit of spinach. It could be a squeaky voice, a condescending attitude, a sloppy appearance, or a disregard for personal space that makes people uncomfortable. Even a poor handshake or a thick regional accent can prevent people from perceiving you as the superstar you really are. These traits and habits may seem inconsequential, even superficial, but if they keep you from showing yourself off in your best light, block your ideas from being heard and understood, and prevent people from trusting and believing in you, they are getting in the way of your success. In my experience, gleaned from twenty-five years of guiding high-striving talent to the pinnacle of their careers, when all else is essentially equal—education, work ethic, intelligence, experience, ambition—the single biggest factor to winning business, promotions, friendships, followers, and voters comes down to one thing: our ability to communicate and make deep human connections.
This excerpt ends on page 15 the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book Obsessed by Emily Heyward.