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Easy to Digest Business Lessons from Alice—”Drink Me!”

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As an undergraduate I studied French Literature, knowing that I wanted a well-rounded liberal arts education before I pursued my graduate studies. For my graduate degree, I earned an MBA. Studying literature gave me the background to examine human behavior, history, and communication. My business studies enabled me to understand processes, strategy, rules, and models.

I believe I have finished my more formal education, yet I would like to continually increase my scope of knowledge and learn something new, and as often as possible, like many of us. However, since my graduate program, I have experienced a roadblock that challenges my best intentions.

drink-meI am a businessperson and therefore want to learn more about business, but I find my attention span for reading business books is seriously lacking. Every business tome seems like a text book and my brain starts fighting for oxygen like it is warding off infection. For every fiction or non-fiction book that I start, I know I am going to finish reading it. For every business book I start, I know chances are slim to nil that I am going to reach that last page. Business magazines, journals and newspapers, they are not at stake; my attention span can cover them. It’s reading those business books that seem like such an insurmountable task.

If only I could find a solution. Then one day I discovered, perhaps there is one, an anti-body to my affliction. If I can gorge myself on reading literature and learn business lessons at the same time, my problems would be solved; my body’s defense system could be tricked into thinking that the invader was benign. That’s when I decided to start with rereading Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

In case you don’t remember, the story is about a young English girl named Alice, who follows a rabbit, impersonating a dapper well-spoken English gentleman, down a rabbit hole. She finds herself in a crazy world filled with nonsensical creatures and humans who love to argue. There are potions, cake, and mushrooms that make you grow or shrink, a beautiful garden that belongs to a queen, and countless colorful characters including a Mad Hatter, a Cheshire cat, and a caterpillar who smokes a hookah.

teaAfter reading the tale, I compiled five pages of business lessons, that would have elated the Alice characters who looked for a moral in every poem, song, or story, and amused and amazed me. Here are some examples from those pages.

Take More Risks. Be Adventurous. Be curious. Alice is a true creative thinker imbued with a curious mind and not afraid to take chances. She drinks, eats, speaks boldly, asks questions, pursues adventures, and tries new solutions to achieve her goals without getting caught up with the consequences of the journey. In the end, she reaches her intended goals.

Stick to your goals. Alice is determined. She never forgets her purpose is to visit the most beautiful garden she ever saw, the one she glimpsed briefly when she first fell down the rabbit hole. Toward the end, she is rewarded with the opportunity to visit the beautiful place.

Make speeches and presentations purposeful, interesting, and relevant to your audience. The animals and people complain when a character’s speech does not get to the point quickly enough or their statement is confusing, or worse yet, is billed as a way to help others when it is actually about the speaker’s intent to appear more important or smart. Alice frequently misses the mark , and therefore the result she desires, by saying the wrong thing thereby embarrassing or hurting others.

A great way to continue making money off a winning concept is to build upon it. Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, after penning the original story of Alice sold a cheaper edition for a less affluent audience and a children’s edition for a younger audience, had the story translated into many different languages, wrote stage adaptations, and had biscuit tins and umbrellas printed with the heroine. He had a shrewd business mind.

Make sure you make time for fun in your work-life. In their daily lives, the characters in Alice laugh, make jokes, sing, dance, or tell stories. These efforts seem to break down inhibitions, create a positive way to exchange ideas, bring pleasure to those who can participate, and expand the creative ways in which one can learn.
Now please excuse me, I have to get back to those business journals.

Susan Goldberg’s company, SGES, conducts retained senior level executive searches for businesses and provides career coaching for both senior-level executives and recent college graduates. Her website is www.susangoldbergsearch.com and Susan can be contacted at susan@susangoldbergsearch.com.

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