“Sure, finish school, get the degree. But remember this: what’s on that paper is so much less than who you are as a person.” - Ramon Ray
Ramon Ray is an entrepreneur, a professional speaker, an enthusiast, and a lover of Indian food. He knows these things about himself, and has embraced and celebrated them. Doing so has allowed him to become the fullest expression of himself, which he says, is what people really respond to. Ramon spoke over Zoom to students at Amity University, a private research university located in India, and after an introduction of himself, fielded questions from students and faculty about how to be a professional in your field within the global world, and what lies ahead for our post-COVID world.
Ramon spoke to the students about wanting to be an FBI agent or a member of the U.S. Secret Service as a boy. “Dream big,” he says. “It’s a big world.” While he did not end up on that career path, his career as a public speaker happened quite by accident. He demonstrated his ability to talk like a high-pitched cartoon character resembling Elmo, and explained how that combined with his enthusiasm and skill set led to getting requests to speak in public, with audiences in the thousands.
At the heart of Ramon’s message to the students was a stress on embracing the diversity that exists in the world, while at the same time appreciating the universal values that hold us together as human beings. The world is a big place, but also small in many ways, as it’s made up of communities everywhere we go, each of which has its own unique customs, values, traditions, and perspective. Embracing the other perspectives that exist in the world is fundamental to thriving as a local professional in a global world. Remaining open-minded, rather than “my way is the right way” will open new doors.
One of the best ways we can practice this is to travel. Ramon described his experience traveling to India, appreciating the beautiful saris that the women wore, the way they greeted each other, the people’s reservedness, their deep value of family, and wonderful food. “Outwardly we are all different, but inwardly we are similar. Take a child anywhere in the world, give them candy, and a smile comes to their face.”
Ramon also offered an answer to the most common fear people have about being open to other customs and values: Does being open-minded mean you have to give up what you cherish to be right? No, it doesn’t. You can hold your own values while being open to new ones. It is an expansion, not a contraction. You are learning from others and that should be a privilege.
The other central tenant Ramon offers in succeeding as a young professional is to hold onto the goal of serving others. One way to do this is being an active listener. For example, if a friend says they saw a movie the other day, rather than respond by saying “Oh, I saw a movie, too,” try instead to ask what their favorite part was. This shows a genuine interest, and respect for the other person’s experience and perspective. It is the kind of thing that is so subtle it’s easily missed, but is crucial to the success of the young entrepreneur. “We all start the same,” Ray says, “birthed by our mothers. But after that, every single person has a unique experience, a different journey. Those journeys have shaped our viewpoints.”
He cautioned the students about making assumptions about other people through stereotypes, something we all do all the time. Removing assumptions allows us to get closer and build trust, but that’s something which takes time. Trust is built through compromise and negotiation, critical skills for the young professional. Ramon mentioned the book Never Split the Difference by a former hostage negotiator and the skills he learned that can be applied on a universal level.
As far as the rocky transition from student to professional, Ramon offered three main tips:
- Slow down: You will face language barriers, mispronounce names, and people will mispronounce yours. It’s ok. Take your time when speaking.
- Be sensitive and try to read people as best you can. Some will be willing to engage further, some won’t. Pay attention to what they are telling you.
- Ask a lot of questions, as this is how you learn.
And for those who are introverted or shy, unlike himself, Ramon holds to the belief that whether bold or shy, you can thrive. “But for the quiet ones,” he warns, “don’t shrink too much. That will hurt you. When in doubt, be you. Be kind.” To approach someone you don’t know, or a new potential business acquaintance, he suggests the most basic and effective method: smile. “A smile will win anyone over.”
Once embarking on a new professional career, in order to succeed, consider these three key tips:
- Have to have good character. People will see whether you have genuine character or not quickly, and it will inform their decision about wanting to work with you.
- You have to be hard working.
- Learn a skill and aim to be the best at it.
“In 20 years,” he says, “no one will care about what your degree is. They will want to know what you’ve done, what you excel at, what you do better than anyone else.”
Lastly, the students all wanted to know what happens now, after being leveled with the global pandemic of COVID-19. What will the world look like going forward? How do we prepare for that?
Some points to keep in mind:
- Learn the art of being able to present digitally. There is no way around this. It’s where the future is headed.
- AI is going to be powerful. Learn how it will affect your career choice and how to use it to your advantage.
- Interconnectivity will be more and more online. Embrace digital business. Along with this, you will have to make the in-person experience even more valuable.
And below are four points on how to successfully break into the industry you want to work in:
- The best way to succeed is to be passionate about what you’re doing.
- Build a team. Don’t try to go at it alone. Even a small team of 4 or 5 people you know well and can depend on will make all the difference.
- Focus on the part of the process that you do best. If you’re weak with numbers, for example, don’t try to take that on as well. Hire someone else to do it.
- Know the business side of things: how to market your product, yourself, etc.
Ramon avoids burnout by doing 50 push-ups every morning, going for walks, and stretching. He reads constantly and, perhaps best of all, he allows ample time each day to do nothing else but just sit and think.