5 Lessons from the Oscars

Tonight a worldwide audience tunes in to watch “The Oscars.” Created in 1929, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seeks to recognize professional excellence in the motion picture industry. Many tune in to see if their favorite film wins, to see what their favorite star is wearing, or just to be a part of a global communal event and, well,  tweet about it.

But let’s face it, everyone is there to advance their own profession in one way or another, so let’s look at takeaways for your career.

People notice what you wear. Someone once sang, “It’s not who you are, it’s how you dress.”  That’s true, to some extent, at the Oscars—and to some extent, at the office. You hope to be judged for more, but your office doesn’t have to have a red carpet for you to know that no matter where you work your appearance is one of the first things people notice. While the cameras of the world may not be on you, everyone you interact with notes what you’re wearing. The plus side? It’s also one of the few things you alone can control. Remember the old adage…dress for the job you want. Look professional and prepared (Google “dress for success”).

Thank others. One of the most boring aspects of the awards show (besides, sometimes, the host) is the winner with the long, drawn out blustering acceptance speech.  No one climbs the precipice of success alone, so thanking others is admirable and appreciated. but a thank you shouldn’t sound obligatory it should be sincere. While you may not have access to a Sunday night primetime audience, you do have plenty of social media tools at your disposal. And while tweets and comments are a great way to say thanks, never underestimate the power of a personalized thank you note.

It’s not just about the stars. The base of the Oscar statuette has five spokes representing actors, directors, producers, writers and technicians. In addition to awards given for best actor, best director, and best music—often to names we  know—awards are given for sound mixing, costume design, and makeup—usually to names we don’t. Even if you’re not the “face” or “star” of your organization, know what it is you contribute and strive to be the best at it. Make yourself indispensable, and you’ll last longer than the pretty faces, anyway.

The best work isn’t always recognized. The Monday morning water cooler discussions center around who won, who didn’t win, and who should’ve won. But if there is one consensus about the Oscars, it’s that “the best” doesn’t always get the reward. You won’t always get that job, that promotion, or that recognition, no matter how deserved. There will always be lucky first-timers, irrational favorites, and sympathy winners. If you’ve ever felt jilted, take heart from actors such as Cary Grant who have never won an Oscar. If the reward you want is something controlled and bestowed by others, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get it. The only solution is to put your focus on being the best performer you can be today, and keep your eye on tomorrow.

What’s your own “Oscar?” While you are sitting on your couch watching others have their big night, think about what you want to win and what would be a good representation of that success. It’s fun to see others celebrate their giddy success, but you deserve to celebrate yours, too. Oh, and when the day comes that you walk up to the podium, please remember the three classic rules of public speaking…Be sincere, be brief, and be seated. Thanks.

7 Lessons from the Superbowl

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. You’ve got the hot wings, the dip and chips, and the Flatscreen TV. You’re ready to kick back and enjoy the Packers and Steelers in XLV. It’s great to root for winners on the field. But as you do consider these tips for a post-game plan to post some wins in your own career.

1. What’s your Super Bowl? The dream of playing in the Super Bowl is a powerful one, driving players relentlessly through every game of each season. What dream can you affix in your mind, what place do you want to go to, what shining moment are you striving for? What’s something that will get you fired up to get out of bed early each morning?

2. Put in the time. Everyone likes to talk about their favorite star players and wear their jerseys during a winning season.  But few people take notice before they’re gridiron heroes: when they’re putting in the tough hours, practicing hard when no one’s watching, and persevering through slumps, injuries, and other setbacks. Realize that for pro football players—and for you—there is no such thing as an overnight success, according to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, it usually takes about 10 years.

3. Have a tantalizing talisman. The Super Bowl ring is the ultimate memento of an NFL career and symbol of success. The ring means more than its 5K worth of gold and diamonds; each ring tells the story of a team, a season, and a player.  Instead of waiting around for the company to give you a gold watch for your retirement decide upon your desirable talisman and affix a goal for achieving it. Put a pic of it on your desktop or Blackberry screen saver. Let it be known that you will obtain it if you achieve your goal. Maybe it’s a new wristwatch, diamond ring, pocket knife, or set of golf clubs. Whatever it is, consider getting it engraved, and you’ll not only have a nice symbol of your success to enjoy, but something you can pass on.

4. You might lose. Imagine slugging it out all season with the Super Bowl in sight then falling short like the Jets or the Bears this past season. Oh, the agony of defeat. And in the big game today someone must lose. Part of the appeal of the Super Bowl is watching the struggles of life play out on 52 inches of Hi Def. A dream will come true for some while for others it all comes crashing down. The fact that many of these players will start from scratch again next season is an inspiration for all of us to start anew tomorrow.

5. Get in the game. Over a 100 million people are expected to tune in to the Super Bowl. But only a few dozen at best will see time on the field. Those players will be the subject of comments and commentary from legions of spectators far and wide. In his famous In the Arena speech Teddy Roosevelt said, “It’s not the critic who counts.” Instead it’s the person who gets in the ring and takes his  lumps and comes back for more. Focus less on critiquing others and more on the steps you’re taking to be on top of your own game.

6. You might make a mistake. Immediately after the Super Bowl, everyone had an opinion on what the Steelers did wrong, or what the quarterback should have done differently, or who else should have done what.  The best lesson there is that you have to allow yourself to make mistakes of your own. Playing it safe won’t gain you much yardage.

7.  Plan your comeback. Those who didn’t make the Super Bowl are already making plans for next season. The coaches all make that clear in the post-game press briefings. The defeated Steelers are plotting a return to the Super Bowl and the victorious Packers are planning to avoid the perils of complacency. So how about you? Ready to stage your own comeback?

Whose List Are You On?

I decided to try out my new Blu-Ray player with a bang so I grabbed—what else?—“The Expendables.” This 2010 homage to ‘80’s action movies features a rogues’ gallery of action stars including stalwarts Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, and of course, Arnold in a cameo.

The reviews were mixed, but the box office returns were impressive, so whether it was the intense action, the stunts, the weaponry or the in-your-face high resolution, I enjoyed the ride.

At one memorable point in the film, Willis, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger appear in the same scene for the first time in their collective careers. There are any number of little lessons you could take away.

You might say, “It’s never too late to do what you might have done,” or “You’re never too old,” or perhaps something along the lines of, “You’re only as old as you allow yourself to be defined to be.” But those chestnuts are, well, old.

I like this lesson better. In the scene, Mr. Church (Willis) is interviewing mercenaries Ross (Stallone) and Mauser (Schwarzenegger) for the job of overthrowing a Latin American dictator. Church tells them, “Both your names came to the top of the list.”

As we go into the new year, many people are busy compiling their own “to-do” lists. But perhaps our focus might be better spent trying to make it to the top of someone else’s list. Getting the attention of a Mr. Church looking to hire the best for a job you’re good at.

So who’s list do you want to be on, and what can you do to get to the top of it? That might be something worth shooting for.

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