My “ah-ha” moment happened on a fateful day during my career at Bloomberg in New York. I found myself giving a speech to a group of professionals where, at the end of my message, the audience members would ask me questions. The cameras started to roll, and the questions started, too. I found myself stymied and blindsided. I bumbled along in what seemed like a press conference and, when it was all said and done, I couldn’t believe what a horrible job I had done.
Someone after the event came up to me and said, “Wow! You did a really good job!” In disbelief, I replied, “No, I did a horrible job!” To which they said, “Yeah, but it was better than anyone else!”
How pathetic. To have botched an opportunity to communicate effectively, but to have been better than the others before me. This got me thinking of the thought process of, “I don’t have to be good at it, I just have to be better than the rest.”
What Had Been the Issue?
I went back to the videos and replayed everything I did, asking myself how it could’ve gone better; what could I have done differently? It became obvious to me.
With all the time and resources that are spent on teaching different subjects and disciplines—including foreign languages that have a dismal retention rate—there’s no subject matter offered to prepare us for these moments in our careers.
We’ve overlooked the most important subject and language of all: communication and active leadership. Not the study of past and present leadership methods and mimicking their successful qualities—more than that—the study and application of how to direct action, change, and thought to something not yet accomplished. Imagine if part of our core curriculum as students was to learn how to inspire, persuade, and provoke change through leading and communication. Think about how your college and job interviews would have gone had you learned how to connect with the audience in front of you (big or small), be in control of your nonverbal communication, and listen to others with intent and focus.
It was that moment in my career when I realized this was a real need. A need that I wanted to improve in myself, but also that I wanted to help others learn in their quest to climb to the top of their careers. This moment led me to create and ultimately write a book on how to inspire, persuade, and provoke change through effectively interacting and communicating with those around you. It’s what the “Ten Commandments of Great Communicators” is based on—each commandment is meant to help an individual create a presence worth listening to.
We all make mistakes—it’s part of learning, adapting, and growing. The moment I described in New York—feeling stunned into confusion—is a mistake that changed the trajectory of my passion and career for the better. Today, I teach, coach, and consult students, professionals, and executives to be the leaders and communicators they need to be in order to be successful in their chosen industries.
 Bryan Caplan, “The Numbers Speak: Foreign Language Requirements Are a Waste of Time and Money,” Library of Economics and Liberty, (2012): http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/08/the_marginal_pr.html.