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Some lessons from Jeopardy: what I learned from appearing on a quiz show.

Last June 11-12, I had the honor to appear as a contestant on the quiz show Jeopardy. Playing Jeopardy was the fulfillment of a longtime ambition and, like so many of life's experiences, it provided some new lessons and reinforced others previously learned. Here are a few of the insights I took away.

Persevere. Throughout our lives, we are constantly being told to "hang in there" or that "things will get better." If nothing else, my appearance on the show certainly was a testimony to those ideas.

I had had a difficult time with the signaling button and then incorrectly answered two Daily Doubles. I hung in there, however, and going into Final Jeopardy I had a $100 advantage over my nearest competitor. Fortunately, the category was one with which I felt comfortable and I beat the competition.

To reinforce this lesson of perseverance, I need only recall my efforts to get on the show in the first place. After two previous failures, I tried out again during a trip to the West Coast and finally made it. So, when the job's getting a little too tiresome or the board of directors is being a little too demanding, hang in there and persevere.

Prepare as best you can, but don't forget to rely on your instincts. A show like Jeopardy tests your retentive abilities. There's not much you can do to study or prepare for it, but still you find yourself looking through almanacs, playing home versions of the show and Trivial Pursuit, and otherwise trying to pick up that one extra piece of information that may come in handy. But then, during the game, there comes that inevitable time when you have to rely either on your instincts or your best guess.

I guess the better you prepare, the better your guesses are. So it is with association management or any other type of work: You prepare as best as you can and have confidence in your ability to wing it--if and when you have to.

Enjoy yourself. Competing on television ranks right up there with tense situations, but I actually found myself looking forward to the challenge and getting into the thick of things during the game, which may be the result of being a bit of a ham when given the opportunity. The lesson here is to make the best of any situation, no matter how stressful. Get some enjoyment out of every day and out of your work.

Take pride in what you do. As I said earlier, getting on Jeopardy was a operational goal. I did it primarily for myself, and I was proud of what I was able to do. My satisfaction was reinforced by the notes and calls from family and friends after the fact.

It is easy to take pride in something as obvious as appearing on a televised game show and winning, but we also need to take pride in the day-to-day things we do. All of us know that we do important work--the credit for which sometimes goes to an elected or appointed volunteer for obvious reasons. The important thing is that you know what you did and can take pride in it.

We hear a lot about humility, which is good to a certain extent, but there isn't anything wrong with a modicum of good old-fashioned pride once in a while. Enjoy it--you earned it.

If I really tried, I could no doubt find other lessons to be learned or reinforced from an appearance on a game show. I hope that these few will do, however, and hit home with some of you readers.

Dennis C. Neff, CAE, is president of Management Services, Moorestown, New Jersey.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Neff, Dennis C.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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