By Chuck Violand
December 21, 2015
The name Jonathan Goldsmith may not ring a bell with you, but if I said, “Stay thirsty, my friends,” I imagine it would conjure up a picture of the role he plays in beer commercials as The Most Interesting Man in the World.
In an interview with Alaska Airlines Magazine, Goldsmith was asked how ordinary folks like the vast majority of us can be more interesting. He replied, “Read. …Also, surround yourself with people who are brighter than you.”
Now is the time when many of us reflect on the year that is quickly coming to a close and evaluate what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve learned, and what still needs to be done. It’s also the time when we set personal and business goals for the coming year. Let me offer the same advice as The Most Interesting Man in the World: Stay thirsty.
Read. If you’re already a reader, why not explore a new topic or an author with whom you’re unfamiliar? Invariably, this will both broaden your scope of understanding and offer fresh perspectives on familiar subjects.
If you’re not an avid reader then start small, and with subjects you find interesting. As a business owner you quickly learn that reading isn’t optional. Even in this age of technology and social media, you must still be able to read and understand business documents, legal briefs, leases, RFPs, and tax notices. Nobody is going to send them to you as MP3 files or YouTube videos. Yes, electronic media is fun and entertaining and can be useful in growing your business, but you still need to read, and read a lot. The more comfortable you are with reading, the better you’ll understand the material.
Surround yourself with people who are brighter than you. This can be a little intimidating. None of us like to admit our short suits, and usually this involves moving way outside our comfort zones. But, if you’re serious about staying interesting and on top of your game, it’s something you’ll have to do.
You can start surrounding yourself with really bright people by reading (see suggestions above). My bookshelves are lined with the insights of some of the brightest minds in the fields of business, history, psychology, philosophy, and human potential. And they’ve all traveled to my office for the modest price of the books they’ve written.
You can continue being around really bright people by getting involved in your community, whether that’s civic, religious, or industry-related. Volunteer, serve on a board, or find other ways to reach out and work with others. It’s amazing how easy it is to feel like the smartest guy in the room within our own companies. Doing something like serving on an outside board forces us into peer-to-peer relationships with people who are easily as smart as we are and who help us reframe our own personal perceptions.
While we may never reach the status of The Most Interesting Man in the World like Jonathan Goldsmith, if we are willing to stay thirsty, we can spend a successful new year becoming the most interesting version of ourselves.