Seven life and business lessons from a university president who overcame severe obstacles, via an MSP and channel pro image consultant.
When I was just 2 years old, my Papa Al passed away due to a sudden heart attack. He was only 55. My grandmother was now a widow with six children, the youngest age 5. Life had thrown Grandma Belle a severe curveball.
Resilience should have been Grandma Belle’s middle name, however. At the time, she and my grandfather were building a business together selling skincare products. My grandfather was the natural lead generator. While selling men’s suits for the now-defunct Filene’s department store, he would talk to his customers’ wives (prospects) about the youthful benefits of proper skincare.
Without my grandfather, Grandma now had to take on full responsibility of the entire sales process. She forged ahead and built a strong, profitable multilevel marketing funnel. She earned several cars and awards, including a trip to Hawaii that she gave to my parents for their honeymoon.
Like my grandmother, Dr. Nido Qubein, president of High Point University in North Carolina and successful business mogul, also had to overcome severe obstacles in his life. An immigrant from Lebanon, he and his family came to this country with very little money and an inability to speak English. He lost his father at a very young age, leaving his mother to be Qubein’s guiding light.
Her guidance shined bright. She truly had a growth mindset, not fixed. Like my grandma, she didn’t let their present circumstances (language barrier, financial instability, new culture, single motherhood, to name a few) deter her from focusing on what was “possible” versus the “impossible.” She believed in the American Dream.
Years later, Dr. Qubein infused his life experiences and positive attitude into his position as president of his alma mater, High Point University. Over the past 15 years, he has turned a university that was on the verge of closing into a sought-after, profitable institution with a strong brand. High Point’s differentiating factor or “unique selling proposition,” other than having a dynamic president at the helm, is to be the “premier life skills university.”
As an image consultant, this mission is music to my ears! You mean there is a university that focuses on teaching students social etiquette, dinner etiquette (they have a learning-lab steak house on campus called 1924 that teaches students in a live restaurant setting), communication skills, and emotional intelligence? Yes, there is!
Seven Golden Nuggets
Dr. Qubein recently shared his wisdom with a gathering of motivated IT professionals. Here are seven of the many golden nuggets he imparted. These are in no order of significance. They are all equally important to growing your personal and corporate brands. I suggest writing them individually on Post-it notes and placing them in your workspace as daily reminders.
1. Be extraordinary. Don’t just be good but really think about how you can be extraordinary. Start by choosing to associate with positive people who will support you, not bring you down.
2. It’s OK to be disappointed, but not discouraged. We all have experiences that just don’t work out and it’s human nature to be upset, angry, or disappointed—temporarily. However, it’s not OK to be “discouraged.” Discouraged leads to inaction and lets fear stop us from trying once again. But mistakes and challenging experiences make us stronger, so don’t give up.
3. Care about the “soft skills.” At the end of the day, it is crucial to have the technical skills to be proficient at your chosen profession. But you also need to focus on how you speak, how you dress (physical appearance and grooming), and how you conduct yourself during social interactions (manners). In addition, you should strive to have a positive attitude and accept the differences in people. These qualities will set you apart from other candidates applying for the same job or bidding for the same contract. They will also make you a more valuable employee when you enter the workplace and a much more desirable business partner.
4. Take risks. We can’t always play it safe. We must try new things and be OK with making mistakes. There are no failures, only learning experiences on our journey.
5. Be selective when choosing who is in your “circle of influence.” Consider who you are spending time with wisely. Do they make you happy? Do they inspire you to learn and grow? Do they believe in you? Can you learn something from them? These are the family members, friends, teachers, and mentors you want to make sure are in your life.
6. Be aware. There is an old Japanese proverb that says: “A frog in the well does not know the great sea.” If we only focus on our own job, problems, or well-being, then we are missing all the opportunities the world around us presents. Hop out of your well from time to time. You will be delighted and enlightened by what you see!
7. Don’t grow incrementally; be revolutionary. Our competitors are growing incrementally. Being bold will set you apart. Dr. Qubein took a huge risk when the school borrowed $10 million to renovate the freshmen dorms. Yes, freshman, not upper classmen. He wanted to impress the freshman right from the start. How do you impress your employees and clients from the moment they meet you?
If Grandma Belle had the opportunity to meet Dr. Qubein, I know they would instantly connect. Grandma had a saying: “People either give you pleasure or profit. If they give you neither, let them go.” Grandma did not have the energy to affiliate with people who derailed her from her growth-minded mission.
Do you need some motivation to be growth-minded? Start by hopping out of your well…