My Most Cited Tips

On long-windedness, immaturity, and resilience.

Posted Sep 11, 2019

pxhere, public domain
Source: pxhere, public domain

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm a felonious contributor to readers' information overload. So, if only as penance, yesterday I described my few favorite career tips. Today, here are what I believe are my three most cited tips:

Follow the traffic-light rule

Do you know someone who’s long-winded? How do you feel about him or her? Chances are it’s not good.

Now consider the possibility that other people consider you long-winded. If you sense or even have been told that you’re a Billy Blowhard or Chatty Cathy, you could do worse than to follow the traffic-light rule: During your utterance’s first 30 seconds, your light is green. During the second 30 seconds, chances are increasing that the person would rather talk than for you to continue. At the one-minute mark, your light is red: Yes, there’s the rare time you want to run a red light, for example, when telling an anecdote that you’re confident is interesting to the person. But most times, you risk boring or frustrating the person and appearing egocentric.

I used to think that I merely needed to teach my long-winded clients the traffic light rule. But it turns out that at minimum, many of them need practice: They don’t have a good sense of when they’ve spoken for more than 30 or 60 seconds. So practice with a timer, whether the one on your phone, a kitchen timer, whatever. Sometimes, even that’s not enough. Some people know they’re long-winded but don’t much care. A typical response, “Talking something out helps me and if they’re a little bored by it, that's no big deal.” You can’t force such a person to change. The best I’ve been able to do is to say, “Well, if you’re willing to possibly pay that price, okay.” Usually my not arguing about it results in their monitoring themselves more carefully and reducing but not eliminating their blathering ways.

Beware the Peter Pan Syndrome

This syndrome is so named because, as Peter Pan felt, some people just aren’t yet ready to grow up. Even if they're 30 or older, they figure they still have a long time to be a responsible adult. They may invoke excuses for their inaction such as “fear of failure,” “fear of rejection,” “fear of success,” and “wanting to rebel against The System,” but sometimes it’s mere laziness.

You’d be wise to limit your involvement with people afflicted with the Peter Pan Syndrome. Not surprisingly, they can be frustrating, impeding your life, and even drag you into co-dependency. Be especially vigilant if you’re prone to rescuer fantasies. Many sufferers of the Peter Pan Syndrome only claim to want to grow up—It’s cushier to just hang out.

If perchance, you’re suffering from the Peter Pan Syndrome, it might (or might not) help to remind yourself that you’ve been given the gift of life, which imposes on you a responsibility to earn it. That means supporting yourself and contributing, if only in a small way, to your sphere of influence. All ethical work is contributory but especially so is work that has a ripple effect: teaching, librarianship, playing even a small role in the development or distribution of a quality product or service. What also can help is this article’s next tip.

Stop looking back. Take the next step forward.

I grew up knowing dozens of people who survived the Holocaust, including both my parents. Oddly, the ones who seemed mentally healthiest and most productive rarely went to Holocaust remembrance events. They focused on moving forward. Indeed it was my dad who said, “Martin. Never look back. Always take the next step forward.”

Each and every one of us has had crap happen to us: a parent mistreated us; a spouse left us; a boss fired us. But I’ve had the privilege of having been career coach to 5,700 people including some of the most successful people and some real strugglers. And one of the key differentiators, in addition to intelligence and drive, is that the successful ones, after quickly revisiting a trauma to identify any lessons to be learned, are far more likely to follow my father’s advice: “Stop looking back. Take the next step forward.”

I read this aloud on YouTube.