Somewhere around Y2K, I was introduced to Susan Ford Collins. When we first met, Susan gave me a copy of her latest book, The Joy of Success. Because I’m a little obsessed with reading, I dove right in and polished off the book in a weekend. It was well written and full of good information, but I can’t honestly say it made any great difference in my life or understanding of my business. A few years later, Susan took an assignment in China where she worked for a long while. When she finally returned, we rekindled our friendship.
Around the same time, I was having a business problem and needed some good advice. I needed someone who could look dispassionately at what was going on and give me good insight and direction.
That person was Susan.
I made an appointment and sat in Susan’s office. I explained my predicament and what was causing me trouble. I told Susan that I needed insight and good advice.
“You need to read my book.”
With that, she reached behind the couch and plucked a copy of The Joy of Success out of a carton and tossed it to me.
“I already read it,” I said. “Back when we first met.”
“Well, you need to read it again.”
I took the book home with me and started reading it that night, expecting to simply review what I had quickly read a few years before.
Instead, when I read The Joy of Success this time I felt as if every word was written especially for me. I read and reread each page because the message was so relevant to what I was experiencing. I underlined powerful phrases, took notes about the things I was going to do, and mind-mapped the book on the inside front cover. And needless to say, it took me a lot longer than a weekend to get from cover to cover. In fact, when the weekend was over I had only completed about 45 pages.
That got me thinking: why did the book matter so much more this time than the first time I read it?
That got me thinking further: is this what they mean by the old adage, “When the student is ready the teacher appears”?
I used to think that saying was part of some “the universe will provide” pseudo-spiritual belief. My cynical interpretation of what that bromide meant was that when you broadcast your intention to the universe — POOF!! — the teacher would materialize out of thin air. What my experience taught me was that the teacher was ALWAYS there.
What changed was my willingness to pay attention and learn.
Addiction doctors and therapists talk about patients reaching a low point before they’re ready to do what’s required to fix their situation. Although I don’t think that our willingness or unwillingness to take action has to be contingent on us reaching such a dramatic nadir, I do think that we are much more likely to pay attention and learn what we need to learn when we have a vested interest in the results.
Not only does this awareness provide direction for how we should direct our energy, but it also means that as we build our brands and our businesses there is a critical need for us to understand our potential customers and what matters to them. Because only when we talk to their interests and intentions will they really pay attention to our message.
This All About Them mindset can help us build a brand that will attract more notice, attention, and action – all by making sure what we say matters to the people who listen.
Because when the student is ready, and the teacher appears, very good things can happen.