I Know How Successful You’ll Be When I Hear You Talk at Dinner

It’s judgmental, and it’s sometimes wrong; but I’ll say it anyway. I know how successful you’ll be in life when I hear you talk at dinner, with about 75% accuracy. And not just dinner either – in almost any sort of interaction, there is a simple gauge I use, which tends to be correct:


Pay attention to how CEOs, successful businessmen, and top thinkers talk. You’ll notice one thing they share in common: they’re ideas people. When they talk, they’re focused discussing concepts – the war in Syria, prospects for LINUX based systems, or the works of Allende versus Marquez.

Lesser people talk about (1) other people, (2) just about themselves.

The two tend to not get along.The latter find the former to be stuffy, and difficult to interact with. The former find the latter utterly disinteresting. But between the two, I find far more success stories in the ideas people.

Here are some key reasons:

  • When you talk about ideas, you’re also doing research
  • Talking about ideas creates business opportunities
  • People who speak on this level tend to interview and present well


1. When you talk about ideas, you’re also doing research

Being informed is extremely difficult. There are billions of things going on in the world, and billions of perspectives on any single subject. So the process of discourse, of talking about ideas or current events, is essential as a form of research.

When I talk to people about the situation in Syria for example, I’ll get feedback from many different views. Each of those views will be backed up by anecdotes, personal experiences, or research already done by someone else. Even if another speaker doesn’t know the issue perfectly (none of us do), she might contribute something I didn’t know before, or give me a good lead to read up on.

The conversation becomes a sort of collaborative learning experience. But you don’t get this effect if you hang around people who just talk about other people. People who are more interested in what Sam said to Jane or why Harry is annoying.

To apply it to business, I’d say ideas people have an unfair advantage, because even their casual conversations can count as market research. The way they socialize translates to their work, their creativity, and their innovation. So it’s not a surprise that so many directors, CEOs, top designers, etc. talk on this level without effort.

door of opportunity

2. Talking about ideas creates business opportunities

Do I even need to explain this?

Every now and then, you find someone who can take your idea, and find a way to implement it. Sometimes the reverse happens. I cannot count the number of jobs I’ve gotten just talking ideas – all it takes is for me to make one good suggestion, and bam! It’s a contract for my services filled in.

When you express ideas – when you talk about why outdoor advertising is limited, or why restaurants shouldn’t have piped in music, or how Wuthering Heights is not a love story, what are you doing? You’re showcasing your intelligence. You’re parading your niche knowledge, yours skills, and maybe your competencies.

Talking about ideas makes you look impressive and worth listening to. Talking about your neighbour and how arrogant she is just suggests you’re the type to gossip, and at best makes you seem like a likeable (but hardly awe inspiring) person. At worst, talking about other people can reveal the worst sides of your personality.

Which relates to my next point:


3. People who speak on this level tend to interview and present well

The thing about ideas is that, if you know very little of what you’re talking about, it shows. So if you’re used to speaking on this level, you’re probably also used to reading a lot, and learning a lot. Otherwise you just wouldn’t speak this way.

The other wonderful thing about ideas is their complexity. They’re too huge to discuss as a whole, so you need to systematically present parts of it. If you’re talking about Apple versus Android platforms, for example, you need to present your opinion in chunks (e.g. talk about memory allocation, talk about store policy, talk about China’s market size).

The ability to break all this down, and address it in parts, is exactly what you need in a job interview or product presentation. So if you want to know why some people are so darned articulate, it’s easy – listen to what they choose to talk about. That’s the secret sauce.

It’s not just a tiny change, it’s a lifestyle change

When you decide to practice speaking on the level of ideas, you make a huge change. It’s not something you can do without reading more, thinking more, and changing who you speak to. Next week I’ll explain how to make the change, and you can follow me on Facebook for more.

What are your favourite topics of conversation? Contact me on Facebook and let me know. We may have a lot in common!

Image credits:

Tudor Collegiate Strategies, Rentpost Blog, Driver Layer, epublika English


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