Career Success Lessons from the Tour de France and Vanity Plates

Did you watch any of the Tour de France?  Cadel Evans of Australia won it all.  He was amazing to watch in the Alps on Thursday and Friday and in the time trial on Saturday.  I was glued to my TV set every night during the race.  I found it oddly compelling – don’t know what it is, but bicycle racing is very interesting to me.   We’re having a pro cycling race here in Colorado in August.  I’m looking forward to watching a few stages in person.

Today’s career advice comes from a story related to the Tour de France.  Lance Armstrong won several Tours while riding for the now defunct US Postal Service team.  I was in my local bike shop around the time he was winning all those tours.  They were offering a US Postal Service bike team cap for sale.  I bought one and was quite proud to wear it.

I was wearing it in a local supermarket where I went to pick up a few things.  The checkout woman looked at my hat and said, “Do you work for the post office?”  I said “no,” and explained about the USPS pro cycling team.  I got a blank stare in return.

There is some common sense career advice in this story.  Here it is…

Never assume that you know what other people are thinking.  You’ll be wrong a lot of the time.

Assumptions are a great communication killer.   Here’s another story to illustrate that point…

Rob Likoff is a friend of mine.  He lives in New York and is a big basketball fan.  The license plate on one of his cars has a New York Knicks logo in the middle with the letters SLM DNK flanking it.  Most people quickly recognize this as “Slam Dunk.”

One day, Rob was taking a client to lunch.  As they approached his car, she asked him if he had met a lot of women as a result of his license plate.  He was somewhat puzzled and asked her what she thought the letters meant.  She said, “That’s easy – Single Ladies Man, Divorced No Kids.”  Rob was flabbergasted.  He was 100% sure that anyone who saw his vanity plate would realize that it meant Slam Dunk.   By the way, his other car has a vanity plate that says “FST BRK.”  I’ll give a free download of my latest career success book I Want YOU…To Succeed in Your Corporate Climb to everyone who deciphers that license plate message correctly and leaves a comment.

Back to the story…

While it might seem strange that someone would interpret a message meant to be “Slam Dunk” as “Single Ladies Man, Divorced No Kids” it makes more sense if you understand the context.  This particular woman is single and in her mid 30’s.  She had mentioned to Rob on more than one occasion that she would like to get married and start a family.  Her biological clock was ticking.  When you look at the license plate from her position, it makes some sense that “Slam Dunk” means “Single Ladies Man, Divorced No Kids.”

My US Postal Service bicycling team hat and Rob’s vanity plate stories illustrate the importance of not making assumptions when it comes to human communication.  Assumptions are communication killers and, more important, potential relationship killers.  Test your assumptions.  Make sure you are actually communicating, instead of just thinking you are.  This is true for all three of the major forms of business communication – conversation, writing and presenting.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  If you want to create the life and career success you want and deserve, you need to become a dynamic communicator – in conversation, writing and presenting.  Assumptions are communication killers.  Dynamic communicators test their assumptions to make sure that the message they are intending to send is actually being received by other people.  Put yourself in the place of the people with whom you are communicating.  Are they likely to understand the nuances of what you are saying?  If not, take the time to explain things as you go along.

That’s my career advice on becoming a dynamic communicator.  What’s yours?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, you can download a free copy of my latest career success book Success Tweets Explained.  It’s a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

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  1. Subramanya says:

    Very good point, does FST BRK means First Brake?

  2. Actually, it means Fast Break — a basketball term. I assume that’s what you meant.

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