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If you study financial success books on investments, you will likely come across the terminology “OPM.” It stands for other people’s money. The idea is to start with nothing, but use other people’s money to become fabulously wealthy. Widely used in the real estate world, this concept of financial leverage and OPM is often hyped on infomercials.
How does it work?
You want to buy a rental property, but you don’t have the money. You put down a small amount and finance the rest from the bank. Let’s say you buy a house for $100,000, but you only put down $5,000. When the price goes up to $150,000 and you sell the house, in addition to the rental income you earned, you pocket $50,000. In simple terms, the magic of OPM is that you made $50,000, but you only used $5,000 of your own money (if anything at all!). That’s an extraordinary return on your investment. Obviously, given the housing downturn, many people are realizing that the $100,000 home doesn’t necessarily become $150,000 and could end up at $50,000. That has been a painful lesson to many, but the OPM concept is still a valid approach.
My entire life has been spent studying a different type of leverage—one leveraging not other people’s money, but something much more valuable. And its value is always there and cannot go down. In fact, the more it is used, the more it goes up in value.
What is it?
Erin Morgenstern debuted as an author last year with a most creative book, The Night Circus (it’s also one of my favorite book covers of 2011). In addition to receiving numerous rave reviews, the book was recently awarded the Alex Award by the ALA, which is given to the top ten adult books that also appeal to young adults.
As I talked with Erin about her achievement, I was struck by three success themes:
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As a frequent keynote speaker and lifelong student of communication, I often hear the advice, “Know your audience.” It’s a speaker’s starting point. You need to know who you are talking to, why they are attending, and what their goals are. Knowing your audience is crucial.
On the other hand, I’ve never heard advice for audiences. Since all of us are more often in an audience than in front of the room, I thought I would share some tips:
1. Know your speaker. If you have a program, look at the speaker’s information. Did she write a book? Does he have a blog or appear often in the media? It’s important to know where someone is coming from before you listen to the content. You will spot bias as well as expertise.
Only a few weeks ago, I knew very little about John Green. I was told he was a huge Vlogger, but that didn’t help since I had never heard of that either. Vlogging, it turns out, is video blogging. John Green and his brother, Hank, run an unbelievably popular video blog with over seven million views per month! Years ago, they decided to give up all textual communications and launched a video conversation that soon went viral. They also have an entire community of “Nerdfighters,” dedicated to fighting what they call “world suck” (apparently anything in the world that is the opposite of awesomeness.)
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Most of the time, you will see leadership advice admonishing younger managers to be thick skinned. Ditto for advice to new authors, songwriters or anyone in the public arena. The mantra never changes: Have a thick skin.
Any leader will tell you that you cannot be too sensitive. There are always critics. No matter what your intentions, you will find that some people will respond negatively. That’s just human nature.
But everyone reacts differently to criticism. Believe me, I’ve had my share. Some of it is mean or misguided, so I ignore it. Some of it is hilarious, so I keep it to laugh. And some of it is true and points out a weakness, so I keep it to learn.
Listening to the toughen-up directive always made me wonder. It’s a common mantra, but what do you do with that advice? Is there an emotional gym to strengthen our ability to ignore criticism?