Ignore the Experts

Utah vistas
What Not To Not Do (Got It?)

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of being told what to do. Just this morning before breakfast I had more than 100 people giving me advice via articles and blog posts in my RSS feeds, email subscriptions, LinkedIn and Facebook. (And that’s not including Twitter.)

The Dos and Don’ts of This and The Five Steps to That and The Single Biggest Mistake You’re Making in the Other. Etcetera.

It’s all very wearying. I read a book recently that was full of advice on public speaking. Among the author’s many dos and don’ts was the warning that a speech is not the time to try and dazzle the audience with your magic tricks, balloon animals or vacation slides.

And that was the last straw. I committed myself then and there to find a way to break that rule in my next presentation.

That opportunity came in a webinar for a university in Utah, a state I’ve visited and happen to love. I started off by telling the audience about the “rule” against showing vacation photos, then proceeded to put up a slide with a few of my favorite landscapes from around the state. I briefly extolled the virtues of that magical land and told them how lucky they were to live there.

I didn’t do it just to pander to them (though I hope I was somewhat successful in that), but to make the following points:

  1. Many rules are made to be broken. In fact, that’s exactly when the most exciting things tend to happen.
  2. Look skeptically upon anyone (including me) who professes to tell you how you should and should not communicate and express yourself. Communication is a highly personal thing that depends very much on individual style and personality and circumstances. You have to pick and choose those things that work for you and discard the rest.
  3. In the end, it’s about authenticity. It’s about being yourself. And you’re never going achieve that if you’re following somebody else’s playbook.

Of course, the key to being yourself is knowing yourself. And that is a whole other thing. (You can start be reciting The Nonconformists’ Oath.)

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