Basic Black for Personal Impact

I have just finished reading a great book, full of common sense advice for career and life success.  It’s called Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life).  Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines, is the author.

I really like this book.  If you’re serious about career and life success, you need to read it.  Ms. Black shares the story of her amazing life and career.  She tells you what she’s learned along the way.  Savvy readers will read with a highlighter to take advantage of the common sense wisdom she imparts.

The book starts strong with a great story about her first job, where she inadvertently left the original of her resume on the copier machine at work and got a call from a senior executive at the company who found it.  It ends strong too.  The last paragraph reads:

  • “And that’s the final piece of advice I’d like to leave you with.  Opportunities will come – they always do.  Trust yourself enough to jump at them.  Never be afraid to go for it.  And remember, you deserve to have the best life, and the best career, that you can have.”

In between, Ms. Black shares her thoughts on such important topics as: Drive, Risk, People, Fear, Power, Passion, Attitude and Leadership.  I like this book so much, I am going to blog about it every day this week.

Today is Tuesday, so this post is on positive personal impact.

  1. People with powerful personal impact develop and constantly promote their personal brand.
  2. People with powerful personal impact are impeccable in their presentation of self.
  3. People with powerful personal impact know and practice the basic rules of etiquette.

On page 65, Ms. Black tells the story of a CEO who had just won an award for her outstanding company leadership.  As the woman approached the stage to receive her award, she “looked like a nervous school girl going to the principal’s office rather than a woman being celebrated in a room full of cheering peers.”  Ms. Black certainly can turn a phrase with the best of them.

The point of the story is that the woman did not have positive personal impact.  In the pages that follow, Ms. Black suggests four ideas for helping you make a positive personal impact:

  1. Dress for the occasion.  I always advise people to dress one level up from what is expected.  In that way, you stand out in a positive manner.  I am at the blog world expo in Las Vegas as I write this.  I am wearing a starched and pressed shirt, freshly dry cleaned khakis and a blue blazer.  Most everybody else is in jeans with untucked shirts.  I was asked to be interviewed by two different groups who are doing pod casts from the convention.  I think some of this has to do with the fact that I presented myself in a professional manner.
  2. Carry yourself as though you know where you’re going.  My friend, Debra Benton, once told me to, “Stand straight, keep your shoulders back and a small smile on your lips.”   This is great advice, that I follow every time I am in public.  And you know what?  Debra is right.  People notice me, nod in my direction and treat me with some deference – because of how I dress and carry myself.
  3. Look people in the eye.  More great advice.  When you look people in the eye, you convey a message of inner strength and confidence.  People are more likely to listen to what you say and believe what they hear.
  4. Express yourself clearly and confidently.  I always tell people to be prepared to answer the question, “What do you do?”  Even though this is a question we hear almost every time we meet someone new, a lot of stumble over their answer and don’t make a positive impression.  I always come across well, because I always say, “I’m the Common Sense Guy.  I’m a consultant, speaker, executive coach and writer.  I help people, teams and entire organizations succeed by applying their common sense.”  This is clear and positions me as a confident person, someone worth their time and attention.

Ms. Black’s four pieces of advice on positive personal impact are great common sense.  Put them into play and notice how people begin to respond to you.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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