Florida’s Larry Lynam Presents Invited Lecture at Southwest Chapter Conference
Lori Alexander, MTPW, ELS, MWC
In the Florida Chapter, we all know and love Larry Lynam. He’s the guy who helped found the Southeast Florida Networking Group, now in its second successful year. With others, he created a poster on establishing the group and displayed it at the 2017 AMWA Medical Writing & Communication Conference so that other chapters could learn how to develop their own networking groups. Larry’s the guy who led two engaging chapter sessions—one on social media and one on using video as a self-marketing tool, using himself as a guinea pig. At the national level, Larry serves on the AMWA Education Committee and the Chapter Support Committee and has led highly valued sessions at the annual conference.
News of Larry’s talents has spread across AMWA, and the Southwest Chapter invited him to speak at the dinner that closed their chapter conference in April. Larry’s witty and thought-provoking lecture was titled “So You Thought You Were Only Going to Have One Career?”
Larry opened by noting that he, like many other AMWA members, had at least one career before discovering medical writing. A master storyteller with engaging Southern charm, Larry talked about the road to a second (or third, or fourth) career, drawing on personal stories, research, and the advice of experts.
Subsequent Success is Not Guaranteed
In starting the journey toward a second career, many people think that initial success guarantees subsequent success. It doesn’t always work that way, though, said Larry. “Our success can actually work against us having future success. Success feeds our egos and we see ourselves in a new light. Successful people often run the risk of overvaluing their own self-worth,” he said.
Larry noted that people expect subsequent success because of four reasons as expressed in personal statements: I have succeeded, I can succeed, I will succeed, and I choose to succeed. But attached to those four personal statements are what researchers have identified as “delusional beliefs of success” that haunt success (Table).
Clues for Future Success
Although a second success isn’t automatic, success leaves clues that can help on the pathway to future success. The challenge, said Larry, is finding the clues and using them. The first of four clues he discussed is humility. Too much self-promotion will turn people away, and humility is a redeeming quality.
Another clue is curiosity, which satisfies both self-preservation and reward. Larry encouraged his listeners to maintain their sense of curiosity by keeping an open mind, asking more questions, seeing learning as something fun, and being diverse in what they read, see, and do.
Courage is the third clue. “If you want to grow, you have to get out of your comfort zone,” said Larry. “This requires both a leap of faith and an act of courage.”
The last clue is vulnerability, which is considered by most to be a weakness. However, vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change and is perhaps one of the most powerful attributes of the truly successful, said Larry. Without vulnerability, you cannot be confident, you cannot be courageous, he added.
Drivers of Success
Larry also talked about four key areas that drive our success: skills, intellect, personality, and behavior. Two—intellect and personality—are mostly out of our control, but behavior is “where the quest for success gets really interesting,” said Larry.
Larry referred to What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith. In his book, Goldsmith outlines 20 habits that hold you back from the top. Passing judgment, making destructive comments, speaking when angry, and making excuses are just some of the habits on the list. Not listening is also on the list, described as “the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.” Larry encouraged his audience to be respectful listeners—to listen attentively rather than thinking about how we will respond. Other habits Larry highlighted are failing to express gratitude and refusing to express regret. In discussing the art of apology, Larry advised: “Say ‘I’m sorry.’ It’s optional, but it is nice to add, ‘I will try to do better.’ Then stop right there. Say nothing else. Nothing else! Don’t explain, don’t qualify, don’t complicate—anything else you say risks diluting the apology.”
In closing, Larry noted, “The future is promising, but it is never promised. There will always be something in your path so just go ahead and start now.” He encouraged the audience to set goals and to write their own life stories. “We are writers and isn’t our life really our ultimate story?”