If Only Someone Had Told Me Sooner!

life lesson, listen

I recently heard an interview with a very successful colleague who I had the good fortune of working with, in a mastermind group as a young speaker/consultant. My colleague was asked what he wished someone had told him earlier in his career?

Realizing I had been there earlier in his career, I wanted to know what I should have said to him to make his success even greater, so I listened to his answer intently. He responded to the inquiry by saying, “I wish I had been told I wasn’t as good as I thought I was and that I needed to constantly seek to improve my core competencies. I would be so much better today.”

Wait…in my opinion this guy was as good as he thought he was...if not better. Surely, his storied career was a testament to how effectively he had honed his core competencies. Then again, what might have been possible if he had been more self-aware and hungrier for knowledge?

While my colleague and I will likely debate his response, I thought the question prompted meaningful reflection. For me, it produced an answer that I believe is at the heart of customer experience success.

From My Aging Perch

While I have come to learn my pearl of wisdom through a long journey as a speaker/consultant/author, I wish I had started my career behaving in accord with the knowledge that success and significance occur when you listen more than you speak.

Of course, someone would also have had to have also told me that listening happens on many levels.

It happens at the word level, where we listen to others to gain an understanding of their wants, needs, desires, preferences, and opinions. It occurs on an emotional level, where we hear the feelings behind words and demonstrate our listening through empathetic connection to the emotional state of another. Listening happens with our eyes, as we observe the actions and nonverbal communication of others.

It even happens through reading, when we receive the thoughts and ideas of others to fuel our growth.

As I look back on my career, I wish I had listened more to client needs before I sought to offer solutions, that I had stopped selling after deals were closed, and I had understood that some of the most powerful ways we can care for one another are simply to be fully present, to comfort in silence, and demonstrate an authentic interest in the person in front of us.

Fruits of Listening

I am glad I listened to the question posed to my friend. It prompted me not only to process that question through my own career journey but to search for lessons others have offered when faced with the same or similar questions. Here are a few of the answers of a number of successful people which  I “heard” through reading.

Author Roy T. Bennett said:

“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.” 


“Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others.”

Musician Phil Collins noted:

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” 

Nobel Laureate Albert Einstein learned:

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

Stanford Professor Tina Seelig who wrote a book titled What I Wish I Knew When I was 20 wrote:

“First, opportunities are abundant. At any place and time you can look around and identify problems that need solving….regardless of the size of the problem, there are usually creative ways to use the resources already at your disposal.” 


“Even though it is always difficult to abandon a project, it is much easier in the early stages of a venture, before there is an enormous escalation of committed time and energy.” 

Listening to Others and to YOU

So what is your answer to the question, what do you wish you knew earlier in your life?

Better yet, are you willing to ask the question and listen to the answers of others?

I’d love to “hear” your thoughts about business success and listen for opportunities to serve you. To set-up a safe listening space, please contact us. I look forward to hearing from you!

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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