A respected MIT professor said that your success is determined by three things. Here’s How To Get Better At Each Of Them

Before he died, beloved MIT professor Patrick Winston would famously give a lecture to college students teaching them the value of good communication. In his introduction, he drew attention to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which calls for a court-martial for any officer who sends a soldier into battle without a weapon.

Winston says there should be similar protections for students — and we might add that that protections should also be offered to entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs. Namely that no one should go through life without being armed with the ability to communicate well.

Because, as Winston puts it:

“Your success in life will be largely determined by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas, in that order.”

The quality of your ideas.

Winston, a brilliant professor who taught thousands of students and was himself a pioneer of artificial intelligence, also knew the power of emotional intelligence. While he recognized the value of brilliant ideas, he placed even more importance on the ability to communicate those ideas in an impactful way.

Let’s break down each of Winston’s keys to success along with how you can improve your capabilities.

The ability to speak

The best speakers know how to inform, persuade and direct their listeners. They speak with confidence and conviction. In turn, they motivate their audience to take action. (Imagine how less successful Apple would have been if Steve Jobs didn’t know how to deliver an effective presentation.)

So, how do you improve your ability to speak?

Here are three quick tips to get you started:

1. Q: How much does my audience know?

If you know a lot about a subject, it’s easy to get over the heads of your audience. On the other hand, if your audience is well-informed, it’s easy to bore them.

So ask yourself: How much does my audience already know about my topic? If you can tune in to what you’re specifically saying to your listeners, you’ll maximize your impact.

No one will become passionate about what you have to say unless you are passionate about it first.

So get to know your subject well. Make clear to yourself how it has helped you in your work or life, and what value it has for others. Practice talking about it out loud to anyone who wants to. And if you’re the type who gets anxious when you talk to others, try channeling that nervous energy into enthusiasm.

The problem with passion and enthusiasm is that you speak faster. But again, you have to remember your audience: that means slowing down to a pace they can absorb. (If you watch Professor Winston’s lecture, you’ll see that he speaks at a very slow, very purposeful pace — but the audience hangs on every word.)

Consciously practice slowing down when you speak. Include yourself in meetings or when presenting; then listen to it later. If you find yourself speaking too fast, try taking more breaks while speaking. For example, if you’re asking a rhetorical question, you can pause and silently count to three before continuing. Or, if you’re asking a direct question, force yourself to wait for the person to answer you.

Finally, use sentences like “in other words” and “to put it simply” to repeat the main points in a way that is easy to understand.

The ability to write

Jeff Bezos conducts board meetings based on written, narrative memos that require multiple employees per week or more to write. Jason Fried, the founder and CEO of Basecamp, says they make all hiring decisions — from programmers and designers to marketers and receptionists — based on the applicant’s writing skills.

Because writing clearly means thinking clearly.

The written word has a special power. It can be done at your own pace. It can be continuously refined and improved. It influences and motivates. And as more and more remote work is performed, it becomes even more important to be able to communicate through writing in a concise, easy-to-understand way.

So, how do you improve your writing skills? You have to write.

Many experienced copywriters have started transcribing texts from other major copywriters as practice. This works because when you write, you can’t help but slow down and think. This will help you internalize what you’ve written, while increasing your own skills at the same time. Over time, you create your own style while borrowing from the best practices of others.

You can do the same. See a website or landing page that you really like? Transcribe it, word for word. Then try again – this time with your own product or service in mind, but with the same writing style. (You can do the same when trying to emulate all types of writing, from emails to reports.)

Another tip: If you have a question you want to ask someone, write it down first. Think about the person you want to ask and what questions they might have; then include the answers to these in your writing.

The quality of your ideas

The ability to generate high-quality ideas starts with consuming high-quality ideas. Start studying great thinkers and reflect on their findings. Make connections between what they have discovered and what you have learned in your own life.

Then focus on ideas that solve real problems. Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, strike when the iron is hot: If you have a problem you just solved (or are trying to solve), write down your process and your progress. Doing this will help you build on previous thinking patterns and improve the quality of your ideas.

Now you need to make time for “deep work.” That means regular, dedicated time for creative thinking and brainstorming, as well as working out those brainstorms. (Deep work also means you have to stop multitasking, so turn off your notifications and put your phone away.) Focus on one task or idea at a time until it’s done, or until you’ve made significant progress.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of walking, as it can boost both your brain’s dopamine levels and your creative thinking abilities.

So, if you want to increase your chances of success, remember the advice of the late Patrick Winston: don’t go into battle without your weapon. Practice speaking, writing and thinking and use the above process to help you do that.

Because developing the ability to effectively share your ideas will benefit you in ways impossible to measure.

The opinions expressed here by businesstraverse.com columnists are their own, not businesstraverse.com’s.

Shreya Christinahttps://businesstraverse.com
Shreya has been with businesstraverse.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesstraverse.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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