About 7 years ago, while I was working at Microsoft, I had a meeting with my mentor. She could tell right away that I seemed anxious and distracted. I reluctantly shared with her that I was trying to decide if I should leave Microsoft and start my own marketing agency. She listened and then calmly gave me three pieces of advice that I still remember to this day:
- Be yourself.
- Always do your best.
- Pay close attention to the moment.
These were exactly the things I needed to hear and internalize at that time. Taking such a big leap was so daunting, but this advice really helped to ground me in a few basic truths that gave meaning to why I was making this decision – to be more of who I am and to help me pursue excellence and hone my craft.
Since then, her advice has become a touchstone moment that I return to during moments of doubt or angst.
“Be yourself” is not just about being authentic. It’s also about remembering who you are and how challenging moments in life can often push you off center and cause you to betray who you are. The key is to be clear about who you are – your values, your principles, your beliefs – and keep this recorded somewhere just in case you forget some times. When you find yourself acting a certain way that seems off, go back to your list and ask “is this who I really am?”
“Always do your best” is about pursuing excellence in all you do, setting a high bar, and working hard to exceed it. And at times, it’s also about accepting that you’ve done your best and being at peace with that even though the outcomes aren’t what you’d hope they would be.
“Pay close attention to the moment” is probably the hardest for me. I get so caught up in the busyness of the day that I often forget to pause and pay attention to the nuances that often make all the differences, whether it’s beauty in nature or nonverbal cues in people. I’ve found that if I actually take the time to pay close attention, I have never regretted it.
As it relates to communications and public speaking, these three pieces of advice hold the same weight. Being genuine in front of your audience, paying close attention to the feedback and signals they give you, and always doing your best to be prepared and confident are fundamental to achieving your communications goals.