Sunday, July 6, 2008

JWN: First, Best, Only

Photo Note: Cynthia Oswald, Chamber President, Joseph, & Carl Lutz, Chairman of the Board (Media Credit: Bob Oswald)

First. Best. Only.

By: Joseph W. Norman

“First, best, only.” This is a principle I learned from Cynthia Oswald, President of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce. It isn’t a concept you’ll read in the Harvard Business Review and you won’t see it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, although I wouldn’t doubt it if I saw Cindi there soon. This idea is a way of life. It’s an attitude and a personal belief system.

In her own words:

“Leadership is the act of growing. Using your accumulated power for the good. Knowing you have never truly arrived, no matter what your title, position or salary is. Life is a journey full of choices and opportunities. One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt, "Do one thing everyday that scares you." I am constantly trying to grow personally and professionally and that often creates a feeling of fear. If you use that fear to motivate yourself to take another step forward, life-long learning will be second nature to you and you will be perceived as a leader by others. Opportunity abounds for all of us! It is when we choose to ignore it out of fear that we get stuck in mediocrity. I have had many jobs and careers in my lifetime and I have always had the same attitude. If I am going to get up and go to work everyday, I want to be the “First, best, only.” Why not?” – Cynthia Oswald

To really take your current role to the next level, you need to think of what hasn’t been done yet. What is the differentiating piece? When I worked as a Risk Analyst at the Fairport, NY based investment firm, Manning & Napier, I heard this lingo every single day. In the financial services industry the differentiation element is the foundation for all investments. In business, it propels the competitive advantage for a company.

This isn’t just a business concept though because it can be applied to your personal life. We are all unique individuals with our own natural and beautiful gifts and passions. If we leverage the creative concept of “First, best, only” we can maximize our efforts!

ACTION PLAN: Think about your life today and contemplate what parts of it could be stepped up a notch with a “First, best, only” idea. Share this concept with your colleagues and brain storm a list! I guarantee there is at least one area in which you can achieve more by doing something different!

I am blessed to have a friend like Cindi Oswald. Recently, we helped each other achieve our own, “First, best, only,” moment. On June 20, 2008, I graduated from the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce’s ten month leadership development program, Leadership Livingston. The New York State Business Council and the Chamber Alliance of New York State confirmed that I am the first student in New York to ever graduate from a program of this kind. First, best, only!

The opportunities are out there to make your mark on this world. First, best, only is a lifestyle which can help you achieve that desire! Give it a try! As Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Change your thoughts and you can change your world!”

Joseph W. Norman, resides in Macedon, NY, and is Chief Enthusiasm Officer of Notable and Newsworthy and Editor of The VIP Profiles. He offers lectures and keynote talks on leadership, personal, and professional development and is always up for a business lunch.

Joseph can be reached at or 607.743.8569.