A little more than 6-hours ago, I delivered my final keynote speech of 2017 – on differentiation and the principles of success – to over 300 delegates at the Regeneration Conference in Athens, hosted by The Global Shapers community.**
I am writing this in the newly refurbished lobby of the NJV Athens Plaza Hotel (where, by a strange coincidence, I wrote a similar post last year) before heading out for dinner with the organizers as well as the rest of the conference speakers.
In this final blog post of 2017, I would like to share with you some of the lessons I have learnt over the past 12 months, during which time I have worked in seven countries with clients ranging from small startups to renowned educational institutions (University College London and the University of Lausanne), global conglomerates (The American P&I Club in New York City) and international corporations (Henley & Partners in Hong Kong).
(1) AIM STRAIGHT, NOT HIGH
One of my major goals for 2017 was to have my brand new website up and running and it was achieved with the help of a small group of capable and creative people. In 2018, I urge you to “aim straight, not high”. By this, I mean that you should write down your main aims and start working towards them but try not to make them too elaborate and extravagant (i.e. aim too high). In this way, (a) you won’t be too discouraged if you don’t achieve them all and (b) it will be easier to keep looking straight ahead instead of upwards, which will just make you dizzy. I have set myself two major goals for 2018: (1) to complete my third book and (2) to structure, prepare and upload my first online course on communication, presentation and public speaking skills. This will be directly linked to the book, so both goals are interconnected, which may make them easier to achieve.
(2) BE BRAVE IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY
Adversity comes in many shapes and forms. For my family, adversity came knocking a few months ago when my father passed away. Just a few days after losing my Dad, I had to deliver a workshop in New York City. Putting on a brave face and making sure that I had the necessary reserves of courage, stamina and time to get prepared was all part of the healing process. Flying across the Atlantic gave me ample to time to reminisce about my Dad’s pearls of wisdom, which proved to be vital ingredients of a successful outcome in NYC.
(3) LOSE MONEY, NOT YOUR REPUTATION
A misunderstanding with my personal assistant caused me to miss my flight to Hong Kong. With less than 36 hours to go before my 8-hour workshop with the Board and advisors of Henley & Partners, I caught the last Emirates flight to Hong Kong – having paid more than €4,000 for the privilege. The idea of “throwing away” money may be hard to digest but “throwing away” one’s reputation by not showing up for an engagement is far worse: it is inexcusable. Some things really do fit into the “money can’t buy” category and reputation is one of them. In the event, the workshop proved very successful and, as a result, I was offered more work in Dubai and elsewhere, etc. Of course, had I caught my original flight, that would still have happened without me being out of pocket. There is always room for improvement!
(4) IT'S A BAD DAY, NOT A BAD LIFE
The day after I missed my flight to Hong Kong, one of my mentees asked me how I manage to be “positive all the time.” I answered that, actually, I am not positive all the time and, in fact, I don’t believe that such a person exists. But how was I able to summon the courage to appear positive when I had recently lost my father, then missed my flight to an important international engagement and been forced to pay a hefty amount to get there on time, the mentee asked. My reply? “I tell myself that it’s a bad day, not a bad life.” Try it.
(5) NO MAN (OR WOMAN) IS AN ISLAND
Making international appearances and undertaking keynote speaking for some of the most renowned global brand names are never simply personal achievements. You can be sure that, behind every successful man or woman, there is a team, working and supporting quietly in the background. In my own case, I am proud and delighted to have the invaluable help of, among others, my wife Christine, my personal assistant Maria Konstantinidou, my graphic designer Doros Athenodorou and computer wizard Fanos Kozakos. All have three essential qualities – promptness, politeness and professionalism – and much more besides.
(6) MAKE TIME YOUR ALLY, NOT YOUR ENEMY
Last September (2016) was possibly my busiest month in ten years, one in which I had almost too many engagements at home and abroad. In the midst of all this activity, a leading insurance company sent me a last-minute invitation to be the keynote speaker at a major event and, although I had less than a week to prepare, I accepted. This was the biggest mistake of my life! I may have received congratulations from many of the 200+ participants but, as my own harshest critic, I knew that, despite my best efforts and intentions, I had given a mediocre performance by my own high standards. This year, another insurance company approached me with a similar invitation, just 72 hours before their event. Even though the offer was tempting, knowing how I had felt last year, I turned it down. One below-par performance can harm the reputation of even the most consistently excellent speaker and/or trainer. A second one could mean the end and I am definitely not ready to retire!
This time of year is ideal for looking back, not only at your successes (and feeling deservedly proud) but also at your failures. We all have them from time to time (see above!) and it is imperative to learn from our mistakes and use them as an incentive to improve. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy and successful 2018!
* The above photo is from my today's speech at the Regeneration Conference in Athens at OTE Academy. All participants were presented with a complimentary Michael R. Virardi sales CD.
** The Global Shapers community is an initiative of the World Economic Forum, the international non-profit foundation based in Switzerland. It consists of a network of hubs, established and managed by young people of considerable potential, with distinct achievements and the vision to contribute to the society in which they live.