Three Ways to Get Ahead in Anything You Do

October 11, 2017|

By Mark Alison

  1. Books – When I started my first company, one of the books I bought was How to Build a Small Advertising Agency and Run It at a Profit by Len Gross and John Sterling. The book was an experienced operator’s blueprint. The wise counsel in those pages helped me build a strong foundation that did not have to be re-created when the company grew. I still have the book with all of its underlines and marginal notes.

Our first political campaign opportunity came and I had no idea what to do. I discovered a book about grass-root political campaigns. We ran the campaign according to the book and our newbie won over an incumbent for the first time in 20 years! There was powerful information in that book.

The education I received from books continued: Among the topics are strategic planning, surveys and research, public speaking, public relations and even a book called What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School.

Now, of course, there is the internet, with so much material available at a mouse click (but I still buy books because I can underline in them).

The bottom line is there is a book or online training about everything. Use other people’s experience to catapult you ahead. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

  1. Education and Seminars – Choose seminars wisely. Some training is cleverly designed to sell to you, more than train you, and on and on it goes. But seminars can be motivating moments in your business and personal career.

I recall meeting with John Maxwell at a leadership seminar in Atlanta, early in his career. Only a handful of people turned up at the hotel venue, so we took a small side room and John worked one-on-one with each of us, giving us – giving me – his leadership secrets.

I highly valued that opportunity and put his words into action. Since then, I have been to many seminars, both large and small. The secret to learning from a seminar is, as Tony Robbins puts it, “Play full out.” In other words, you’ll get as much out as you put in.

Online and classroom training are available on every subject imaginable. Just to stimulate your imagination, step out of your comfort zone and take a short class in something crazy. The people you meet are just as interesting as the topic. I still go to seminars and classes today.

Want to stay relevant? Never stop learning.

  1. Mentors – As I was getting started in business, I looked for someone to advise me. Reading a trade magazine, I found the most successful person closest to me (I didn’t have a lot of money for travel).

Alf Nucifora, considered by many to be a new leader in our field, was in Atlanta. So I called him, asked for half hour of his time, made a list of questions and drove to his office. He gave me more than an hour and the time was golden.

I’ve met Alf since then and thanked him for the advice. Don’t be afraid to ask the best for their input. When you get the opportunity, listen more and talk less.

At one business seminar I met a guy who steered me toward a peer group that was perfect for my business. After an extended interview, they chose to mentor me. I was ecstatic. My business saw profit margins double in a short time, far shorter than if I had done it on my own.

These mentors were from all across the country and ranged in age. We met twice a year in person but they were always available if needed. It was top-to-bottom scrutiny from my P&L to simple operational procedures.

As time progressed, I became one of them and was able to mentor new invitees who were once like me.

I adopted a phrase early in life – “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I don’t know who originated that phrase but I do know what the implications are. Seek, ask, find. There are people who have been where you are who are willing to share their knowledge and experience. Find the best ones and take what you can use from them. Life is a learning experience.


Mark Alison is an entrepreneur with a journalism degree specializing in marketing and public relations. Contact him at



Leave a Reply