“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” -Francois Bacon
Opportunities are created through consistent activity while on your path to do your passion. Last month (March 2012) I had the pleasure to speak with two Auburn University business school classes. Dr. Kyra Leigh Sutton found me through a LinkedIn Group for Morehouse/Spelman Alums and invited me to come speak with her students about entrepreneurship and social media. Talk about an opportunity right? She doesn’t like for me to call her “Doc” so she’ll be referred to as “Kyra” from here.
After an excellent introduction by Kyra that honestly made me sound way too smart, I started my talk by telling the students about my mistakes in business. I did this for a few reasons. For one, I like to be real and honest with my crowd. I never want to come off like Mr. Perfect Pants. In everything I do, I want there to be a genuine human element. We all make mistakes and hopefully we grow from them. Secondly, I love to tell stories of bouncing back. Bounce back stories give hope and inspire people to take action. Thirdly, there’s comic relief. You ever notice how comedians talk about their shortcomings? Talking about your mistakes with a tinge of “colorful” humor breaks the ice. It’s always nice to produce some chuckles and smiles before going into the meat of your talk.
Speaking of the audience… they were mostly college juniors and seniors who were about to jump into the real world. The economy blows and I could sense their apprehension. I have a young spirit and I can relate to them. We listen to the same music and we dress the same (I’m a jeans for a meeting type of guy). I’m into SEC sports. The guys especially got a kick out of learning that I work with Bomani Jones. The ladies loved that I spoke about my young daughter and that I’m on Pinterest. The golfers in the class thought it was cool that I’m working with the #1 eBay retailer for used golf equipment.
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It seems like yesterday… sitting in the classrooms at Morehouse and Georgia Tech. They appreciated my youthful angle. At the same time, there were a few older students with whom I related to as well. I sensed the older students walked away with a better understanding of my stance on seizing opportunities and aligning careers with passions as early as possible. I split the difference in age between the 40-somethings and the 20-somethings so I can get with them both.
So what did I talk about? I talked about my O.P.E.N. Concept: Opportunity, Passion, Education/Educate, and Networking. I spoke about the importance of the four points and how they converge to help produce successful lives and careers. It’s interesting because opportunity, passion, education/educate, and networking play off each so much in life and business. Getting a good handle on the four can take you and your ventures to unimaginable levels. I ended the talk with advice on how to use social media and blogging to organically market and build authority for their efforts. I also gave the students some required reading – Start With Why by Simon Sinek, Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, and Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The speaking experience inspired me to start writing my first self-published book on the O.P.E.N. Concept. Stay tuned!
I loved every moment of working the room and interacting with the students. I’ve never been shy and if you are, please find a way to break away from it ASAP. There’s no point in allowing shyness to ruin your opportunities. If you know your stuff, let that confidence in your material propel you through the experience. I don’t get into silliness like imagining the people in the crowd in their underwear. I’m sorry, but that’s just dumb and it would easily distract me. Instead, I focus on making eye contact with almost everyone in the audience (depending on the size of the audience) and speaking in an authoritative yet likeable tone. My goal is to connect with every person in the room. I touched the inspiration nerve of 98% of the warm bodies in the classroom during my two talks (there was this one young lady who totally didn’t seem interested lol). By inspiring the majority I had done my job.
Upon finishing my talk, I was given a nice applause (by both classes). I shook hands after the classes and received many words of gratitude from the students. I was also approached for quick advice. It was awesome. Kyra told me she overheard students from both classes say that I was the best speaker to visit their class. Just writing this makes me blush.
So what opportunities have come from this one speaking engagement? Well, I’ve inspired three students (that I know of) to start blogging… notably Kathy Lashley who has an excellent life story. She’s about to receive her degree after raising a family and is really kicking butt. She’s proof that you can do anything and that it’s never too late to go back to college. Check out her blog. Also, I met with several potential Nao interns. Hmmm what else… Kyra and I are on the verge of working together on a project for a new client. Lastly, Kyra introduced me to Mr. Shakeer Abdullah, Director of Auburn’s Multicultural Center. I’m working with Shakeer to bring Bomani Jones to Auburn in the fall as a guest speaker. Opportunities are amazing right?
War Damn Eagle.
P.S. – If you’d like for me to come speak at your function, give me a shout.