Earlier this year, I was flown to Melbourne to be a contestant on Millionaire Hot Seat. An exciting, once in a lifetime opportunity and 24 hours of fun! 

On the way home, whilst gazing out to the world above the clouds, I was reflecting on the day. I realised I’d learnt some things which I could take into my business. Here they are:

1. Connection without distraction

On arrival at the Channel 9 studios, we had to hand in our phones and all other personal belongings (except for our lippy!). Yes, that’s right. The device that is almost permanently attached to us was gone and would not return until the end of the day.

After surrendering that key possession, we were directed to sit at a particular numbered table with fellow contestants. Complete strangers.

The connection that followed was like nothing else I’d experienced before. People talked to each other, people listened to each other and people genuinely engaged with each other. There was no distraction. We saw each others eyes rather than foreheads, and that eye contact was maintained.

The ability to connect without distraction was incredible. The engagement was genuine.

So, what’s the business lesson? Put the device down and listen. Listen to your staff, your clients, your suppliers. Genuinely engage. You’ll be surprised what you learn and the deep connection you can establish in a short period of time.

2. It’s easy to pass judgement. Stop that.

I am an avid viewer of the game show I was on and I am guilty of talking to the TV screen, prompting the contestant to stop prattling on or wondering why on earth they selected the answer they did. But now, after this experience, I’ll never do that again.

Unless you are the one in the spotlight, making the decision and enduring the pressure of that moment, it’s time to suspend judgement. You aren’t the one in the TV studio, with lights and cameras on you (7 in my case), and a clock ticking down by the second. No, you’re in the comfort of your own home.

It’s very easy to be a back seat driver but a whole lot different to be the one steering the vehicle.

In the words of Brene Brown, “if you are not in the area also getting your ass kicked, I am not interested in your feedback”.

What’s the lesson? Stop passing judgement or criticising others who are in a different situation to you. We all make different decisions and those decisions can sometimes be affected by the environment we find ourselves in. Rather than pass judgement, try to understand the other person’s situation and respect that. Be kind.

3. Everyone has a story

Bringing a group of strangers together for half a day without devices is definitely going to generate conversation. And when that conversation is centred around interesting, inspiring or life changing stories, it is bound to get interesting!

Following on from the judgement point and using the wise words we all learnt from our mothers at a young age, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Everyone has a story.

When we have an opportunity to share stories, we should. You might learn something, be inspired to do something or simply get a better understanding of something or someone.

We often think that our own stories are not worth sharing. But you’d be surprised how interesting your own story is and how it differs from the stories of other people. Don’t be afraid to share it.

The group of contestants I spent the day with had some cool stories. One was a serial game show host contestant who competed in fishing competitions but didn’t eat fish, another was a reflexologist had walked on fire 3 times, one man was related to a 2 time Gold medal paraolympian, another was a retired psychiatrist who had moved to Australia from the UK and one lady had been held hostage in a robbery. None of them looked like they had these stories behind them but they did.

What’s the lesson? Engage with others and learn about their story. You’ll learn something about them and you may even learn about or be inspired to do something new.

4. There’s always a team behind the scenes

Any show on national television is a major production. What we see on our screens at home though is the glitz, the glamour and the end result. Behind the screen is a whole other world.

I could not believe how many people there were in the studio for the production of the game show. Cameramen, make-up ladies, a guy to direct the audience when to clap, producer, assistant producer, security guards, contestant liaison staff, staging crew, lights crew, audio crew – and that’s before we even consider the audience, the contestants and the host.

Bringing anything to life, whether it’s a TV show or a business, requires a team effort. That’s even the case for solopreneurs. Whilst you might be the only one in your business, who is there behind the scenes enabling you to do what you do?

For me personally, I’ve got a small team to help with the business and also in the business. I’ve also got my suppliers and advisors, such as my software providers, accountant and business advisors. And most importantly of all, I’ve got my partner who takes care of our house and children so I can work.

We need to remember the team that help us do what we do on a daily basis. Give thanks to them. Your ability to show up, however and wherever that might be, is only possible because of them.

Further to that, every person in your team has a distinct and important role. Without one of them, something doesn’t happen. Something is lost. Remember that.

5. Sometimes, it simply comes down to luck.

No matter how much you strategise about a situation, sometimes it just comes down to luck!

On the game show, we didn’t know what questions were coming, how other contestants would perform or how we would perform under pressure. We could have strategised about where we were seated, when to pass on a question, whether there were hints in how the questions were read out but would that have changed the outcome? No. Why? Because it all came down to luck!

What’s the lesson? Whilst strategy and good planning most definitely has a place in business, it’s also common practice to beat ourselves up strategising over a situation which, at the end of the day, is completely outside of our control. Sometimes, you’ve got to throw caution to the wind and take a chance. You might get lucky. You might not. But does it matter either way?! At the end of the day, have fun and enjoy the experience.

Now, you might be wondering what the outcome of the game show was for me. Well, I had an awesome day and was in the right seat for the last question, but didn’t get it over the line! I did, however, walk away with a smile on my dial and memories of an experience I’ll never forget.

Sarah Stoddart