They Zig, You Zag All the Way to the Opera

by Nelia Dingcong Bernabe
February 1, 2012
It was a simple phone call from my older daughter that triggered the shift in my mind-set. “Mom, see if you can find the book, When They Zig, You Zag by Siimon Reynolds,” she tells me.
“Huh? When you what you what now?” I asked her. Never heard of the book. Never heard of Siimon Reynolds (double “i” on the name) either. But that abruptly changed.
The book was first published in 1998 so finding a hardbound copy to give away as a Christmas present was a challenge when we were looking for it over a month ago. Long story short, I downloaded the pdf version and read it. It’s a short – 73 pages long – self-help book for people wanting a road map to success.
Siimon Reynolds, according to the book, is “one of Australia’s great young success stories.” By the time he was 30, he co-founded, built and successfully sold three ad agencies, including one in New York. He is a multi-awarded advertising guy and a very successful businessman and motivational speaker. In his spare time, he “studies human potential, and has given speeches to over 50,000 people on this subject.” His website says he is the mentor to business leaders worldwide.
What struck me about the book is it’s simple, very straightforward, yet powerful and practical. For example, he says in his introduction that great achievers travel their own road and think differently than the average person. He says they “feel differently, act differently and so their achievements are fundamentally different, and greater.”
His all-encompassing tips are on how to live your life like a champion and how to change your life for the better. Among them are: be clear about what you value in life, to stay young drink more water, do your most important job first each day, put health before work and you’ll be more successful, get a mentor, and much more.
Surprisingly for me, his one advice that stuck in my head is “listen to classical music, not modern.” Don’t ask me why but it just did. Although my music preference is pretty eclectic, classical is a genre that I stay away from. Nothing against it, just not my style!
For some reason after my daughter called me that one eventful day in December, I’ve become obsessed with this book. After I printed the pdf version, I’ve been going back to it at least twice or more each week. It has sort of become my physical mantra – I thumb through my binder, I pause at one or two tips, I gnaw at these tips for a few minutes, and then I take a deep breath.
Since then and after reading it a few more times now, my mind has opened up to the possibility of change and welcoming experiences that I would otherwise retreat from in the past. And yes, that includes classical music, too. We’ll get to that later.
One advice from the book that resonated with me, too, is “keep meetings under ten minutes.” I thought about this long and hard. How is that possible? I go to meetings a lot and in all the meetings that I’ve been a part of, not one ever got done in less than 10 minutes, not even 20 or 30. I don’t think that’s even possible but the guru said it could be done. He even recommended doing the meeting standing up. Now he’s talking!
Another advice that sounds so simple but seems so hard for a lot of people is “never make casual promises.” According to Reynolds, casual promises like I’ll call you tomorrow, or I’ll have that report finished by Friday, or I’ll meet you at 6, are made all the time but very often not kept.
He said, “…powerful people fulfill their little promises because they understand that the person’s word is crucial to their reputation and if they always deliver what they promised (no matter how small), word gets around that that person can be trusted.” After all, one does not become the go-to person by making habitual empty promises!
In just a few weeks that I’ve had this book, I’ve picked through Reynolds tips and applied them in my life right after New Year. Although it’s a work in progress, we all know our conscious decision to change or make some changes in our life is a daily struggle. It’s not an overnight thing.
I’m the kind of person who would give anything (I say that with reservation of course) a chance and Reynolds’ words definitely opened my mind to classical music. I don’t mean getting all excited and downloading Beethoven, Mozart and their contemporaries on iTunes. But I recently had the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is. Classical music came to me through a different medium, even better…the opera!
Yes, Virginia, this Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, Boyce Avenue, etc.-loving grandma gave the opera a chance. I seized my Pretty Woman moment last week when I watched La Boheme at the Lyric Opera of Chicago with my co-worker whose love for the opera is infectious and admirable. Like a blank canvas, I went that day with an open mind. En route, my opera-loving good friend wasted no time in giving me the synopsis complete with the opera’s heartfelt arias.
The experience definitely gave me the satisfaction of checking off one thing from Reynolds’ book but more importantly it gave me the chance to experience something different. A year ago I would have flat out said no but times have changed. I think it’s important to find ways to better ourselves and continue to learn so we can evolve into a better us.
As Reynolds said in his book, “The gold medal in life always goes to the contrarian. The man or woman with the guts to dance to their own tune, to step out, to risk, to ignore the jeers from the crowd on the sidelines and walk (as Scott M. Peck so eloquently put it) the road less travelled.”
Going to the opera might not be a huge deal but it is for me. It’s actually a huge step for it’s bigger than the obvious. It has allowed me to expand my horizon. By opening the door to new experiences, I have allowed myself to grow and embrace every new experience as part of carving out my road less traveled. And even better, it gives me the greatest satisfaction to say, “I’m no longer an opera virgin!” And in pure Pretty Woman fashion, Escargots, anyone?

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