Career Success Lessons From the NBA

Today is President’s Day in the USA.  If you are lucky enough to have a day off, enjoy it. 

They played the NBA All Star game yesterday.  That reminded me of one of my favorite career success stories.  Read on to check it out…

Communication is a key life and career success skill.  The ability to engage in meaningful conversation is a key communication success skill.  Tweet 104 in my latest career advice book Success Tweets says “Learn how to handle yourself in conversation.  A brief conversation with the right person can greatly help – or hinder – your career success.”

As I always tell my career success coach clients, assumptions can kill a conversation.  As I write this, I’m reminded of one of my favorite George Bernard Shaw plays, You Never Can Tell.

Mr. Bohun is a character in the play.  He is a know-it-all.  He repeats the line, “You think you do, but you don’t” several times in the play.

What does this have to do with assumptions?  Everything, in my book.  As we engage people in conversation, we often think we know everything about them – their backgrounds, motivations, likes and dislikes.  Unfortunately, we think we do, but usually we don’t.

Now to the basketball part of the story.  Ioften tell this story when I am speaking to my career success coach clients… 

Rob Likoff is a friend of mine.  He is a partner in a very successful internet marketing services business.  Rob lives in New York City and is a huge New York Knicks fan.  If you’re not a basketball fan, the Knicks are the professional basketball team in New York.

Rob is such a fan that he has Knicks’ vanity license plates on both of his cars.  These plates have the Knicks logo in the middle.  One has the letters FST BRK (fast break – a basketball term) on either side of the logo.  The other has the letters SLM DNK (slam dunk – another basketball term) on either side of the logo.

One day, Rob was with a woman client.  They were going to lunch, and were taking his car with the SLM DNK plates.  As they approached the car, she said, “Have you met many women with your license plate?”

Rob thought this was kind of strange, and said, “No, why do you ask?”

She replied, “Because of what it says.”

Rob said, “What do you think it says?”

She said, “Simple, Single Ladies Man, Divorced No Kids.”

Pretty bizarre, right?  Wrong. 

Both Rob and his client thought they knew what the license plate says, but they didn’t.  Rob is a basketball fan.  He assumed that anyone seeing a license plate with the Knicks logo in the middle and the letters SLM DNK would automatically know that it meant “slam dunk.”

His client was a 30 something, single woman.  She had mentioned to him on another occasion that she feels her biological clock ticking.  She would like to get married and start a family.  If you look at it from her point of view, you can see where “slam dunk” would mean “single ladies man, divorced no kids.”

Back to George Bernard Shaw and Mr. Bohun  — they both thought they knew, but they didn’t.

And that’s the common sense career success coach point for today.  As the career advice in Tweet 104 in Success Tweets points out, a brief conversation with the right person can greatly help or hinder your career success.  Good conversationalists don’t make assumptions.  Assumptions can really derail a conversation.  Never make assumptions about the other person or his or her thoughts and motivations when you are in a conversation.  When you find you are making assumptions, test them out.  Ask, “Why do you thing that is so?”  Remember, in many cases you really don’t know what the other person is thinking or feeling.  To quote Bernard Shaw, “You think you do; but you don’t.”

That’s my best career advice about how assumptions can be conversation killers.  What’s yours?  Do you have any funny stories about how assumptions have hampered some of your conversations?  If so, please take a minute to share them with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my musings on life and career success.


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