Thursday, October 23, 2014

Life lessons from "Shark Tank"

Forget about the gold and red scenery, sweaters, boots and pumpkin-flavored everything (OK, maybe don't forget about that last one). Fall = TV, and one of the many shows I expect you to be watching is "Shark Tank." 
It's already in its sixth season, but I didn't start watching it until last year when I was immediately hooked. I'm not sure why it's so fascinating to watch awkward, arrogant, scatterbrained, brilliant people pitch products that range from clever to genius to ridiculous to some of the richest people in America who are probably making money off of you every day without you even realizing it—but it is.

I've even picked up a little (key word: little) bit of a business education—about as much as my brain is willing to comprehend, anyway. I've also learned a few life lessons, five of which I'll share with you right now.

1. Simplicity is underrated. Some of the best-performing products on the show are the ones that make you kick yourself the rest of the night for not inventing yourself because they are so simple, easy and applicable to so many people. 

Whether we're trying to solve a problem at work or in a relationship, get a little artsy and create something, make plans for something as small as Tuesday night dinner or as big as a wedding or a career path, or, in my case, make any type of decision at all, it's easy to overthink things to the point that we end up tired and miserable with a pretty lame result. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of wanting everything you do to be the most creative, the smartest, etc., but it's important to remember sometimes the simplest ideas and solutions are the ones that make the most sense and make you the happiest.

2. Greed won't always get you ahead. Yes, greed is what drives corporate America, and the greedy guys usually fare better (materialistically speaking) than the rest of us, whether we like to admit it or not, but there is usually a tipping point—a point visitors to the tank quite often reach, much to my disappointment and entertainment. It is pretty amazing to watch someone with a great product come in and totally eliminate any chances of a deal because s(he) gets too greedy.

Always wanting more will push you to work harder to succeed, but you must have a limit where you can stop, accept satisfaction and be happy with what you have and what you've accomplished.

3. Passion can make a difference. Many of us, especially those of us fairly new to the workforce in the lovely state it is in, have come to terms with the reality that you can only "follow your passion" for so long. However, that doesn't mean you should completely give up on it or be ashamed to be passionate about something.
Robert's my favorite:)

Some deal winners don't actually have the best product, but are chosen because of the obvious passion they have for it, which goes to show it really does pay to believe in something.

4. There is never one right way to do something. The sharks all found success in different industries in different ways, so they don't always give entrepreneurs the same advice. While certain products do require certain business strategies, as a successful marketing approach for one brand could kill another, there are always different ways to find success.

The same goes for any life choice. I understand wanting to get the opinions of friends and family when you're trying to decide something, but it's important to remember that what worked for one person won't necessarily work for you. In almost any case, there is not a right or wrong way to do something— just a way, and whatever you choose, give it your all.

5. Know yourself. Too often, the people who were lucky enough to get the chance to pitch their products are not prepared with enough information to answer the sharks' questions: a huge red flag that usually results in five fast declarations of two dreaded words: "I'm out." They have to know their products and numbers inside out to show they are competent and committed.

Life is going to kick you around and spit on you when you're down. You'll face challenges you never planned on tackling, and if you don't know who you are, what your values are and what you stand for, well good luck, my friend. It was nice knowing you:)

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