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Seeing the effect of finding the right medium for you at your 50th reunion

Posted by John T. Reed on

I got back from my 50th college reunion yesterday. I have been to reunions before. The new twist on this one was meeting Facebook friends. These are West Point classmates of mine with whom I never previously had a conversation. But they got to know me through this Facebook wall. And we finally had the face-to-face conversations at the reunion.

I should have joined the school paper

Makes me wish I had been a columnist in my high school and college papers when I was a student. I WAS a columnist in the Harvard Business School paper.

Find the fight medium for you

My Succeeding book says one of the career choices you need to make is to choose your MEDIUM. To make a living and to have friends—you have to relate to others through some medium. 

As a cadet and in most of my other life before I learned I was a writer at Harvard, I related to others the way most people do: essentially “schmoozing around the office water cooler.” 

Everyone is in the schmoozing competition; they should not be

Some people are good at that. Most are not. Who are good at it? The person who was the most popular in your class. Oprah was in hers and she is also good at the medium of TV. Your class president, most likely to succeed, and most popular classmates were good at high school or schmoozing.

But those people would likely be total busts in other media. Could your popular class president write a popular, successful book? Probably not. Rush Limbaugh is extremely popular—when he uses the medium of AM radio. He did not care for TV. And I have never heard that he was great at schmoozing.

Print for me

Print is my medium. I am also fiddling with pod casts and YouTube/Facebook videos.

At West Point, popularity and fame were measured by how many stripes you wore senior year or how great an intercollegiate athlete you were. Stripes come from being popular or respected as a future army officer with your classmates and higher classes in your company and with officers—schmoozing skills. I had the fewest stripes senior year: one; the rank of sergeant there. I am not sure of the percentage, but I would expect that about half the class had the one stripe. Also, like most, I was not an intercollegiate athlete.

One definition of leadership is “showing the way.” I have shown the way to hundreds of thousands of readers through my 35 how-to books. My classmates who achieved three-star rank and line unit command probably had authority over about 10,000 to 15,000 troops.

The top cadet in our class stripes-wise—called the first captain— senior year retired as a lieutenant colonel. My point is if we had been able to compete via all the different media, like print, TV, radio, stage acting, computer programming, sculpting, and so on, we would have had a different “First Captain” for each medium.

90% of life is showing up

Would I be my college class’s print “first captain?” It seems to have turned out that way, but I suspect that others in the class could have beaten me in that medium, had they ever tried to develop themselves in that medium. 90% of life is showing up. If you are a great writer, but never try to write, you did not show up for that competition.

We had extracurriculars at West Point. I was actually a top 40 DJ there. But that is an extremely limited medium. If we had talk shows like now I might have been a contender in that medium.

Best dancer, best sculptor

John Throckmorton was our actual First Captain. But if the medium of West Point had been dance, like at a performing-arts school, I expect a classmate other than John or I would have won that one. Ditto acting, singing, public speaking, programming a computer, solving advanced math problems, sculpting. Our class donated a statue of Thomas Jefferson to the WP library. The sculptor was James Muir, a member of our class who left before graduation, our sculpting “first captain.”

My Succeeding book lists 23 media. I probably missed some. Plus, new ones are being created every year, like Twitter and Facebook. My West Point class probably had 23 different “First Captains” if we had more opportunity to develop our skills in the other media.

Cartooning is one. Our late classmate John Calabro seemed to win that one. My ranger buddy and best man, Dick Steiner is our magician “first captain.” And so on.

But West Point is an extremely narrow venue, as is an Army career—mostly schmoozing around the military office water cooler. My Succeeding book and some of my others are about all of the world’s “First Captains” in the different media FINDING their media and other detailed knowledge of themselves so they can “be all they can be.”

The fact that probably the vast majority of the world’s people never found their medium and never figured out who they were in great detail so they could match themselves up to the right medium, goal, and path to achieve that goal, saddens me. 

Too many shot putters trying to run the 100-meter dash

Most people defaulted into the most common medium—schmoozing—failed to excel at it, and spent the rest of their lives being less than they could be and concluding, erroneously, that they were simply not competitive at anything. They probably WERE far more competitive than they thought, had they only gotten into the right medium, subject matter, organization, and so on. To use a track-meet analogy, too many shot putters trying to run the 100-meter dash and too many pole vaulters trying to put the shot.

A 50th reunion is a great place to observe the wrong-medium phenomenon because after that many years, a number of classmates HAVE achieved the know-thyself and find-their-right-medium goals. The effect is the class who’s who gets radically shuffled from what it seemed to be during college. Even among the schmoozers because Army officer with a family and home schmoozing ain’t the same as single college kid schmoozing at a military boarding school,

Read my Succeeding book to make sure this does not happen to you or your child or other young relative of friend.

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