LIT Speaker Series Recap: Alex Gabbi (4/17/19)

Last night, we kicked off our first LIT Speaker Series. Through this recurring series, we are excited to host distinguished speakers from many different areas of the business world. Our events are open to all UT students looking to gain wisdom about finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, and life in general. Our first LIT speaker, Alex Gabbi, gave us just that.

“I was told I could speak about whatever I wanted, so I’m just going to talk about what I think is interesting.”

Gabbi joked as he pulled up his presentation. He would keep this lighthearted attitude for the whole lecture.

Gabbi is a Lecturer in the Marketing department here at UT whose extensive management career spans from the level of start-up to Fortune 200. He is also a professional public speaker and a world traveler who stays curious about topics and places that are foreign to him. All of this makes him a riveting orator, so all eyes in the room stayed trained on him for the entirety of his fifty minute lecture entitled “15 Life Lessons in 50.”

Gabbi began with a simple slide entitled “Passion > What ____ Tells You To Do.” He looked around the room at undergraduates concerned with finding internships, interviewing for positions, building resumes, and planning for a career. As we look to the future, he encouraged us to remember that “only you know what you love,” and to prioritize our passion accordingly.

He illustrated his message with an anecdote from his own life. He told us that his dad wanted him to become an investment banker. At this, many IB hopefuls in the audience sat up a little straighter. Gabbi recalled being on a plane, headed to begin a banking career, when he realized that he was doing it because his dad thought it was the right thing for him to do, not because of his own desires. He landed, called his dad, and announced that he was going to be an entrepreneur.

“And it took him 10 years to forgive me.”

Gabbi chuckled. Standing before us with a successful career in entrepreneurship, Gabbi held no regrets about his decision. He emphasized that if you’re not passionate about something, people will see that. On the other hand, if you follow your passions, you will find success.

For the remainder of the lecture, Gabbi enumerated 14 other things he’s learned about how to get the most out of life. He spoke to an interdisciplinary room of business, communications, and engineering majors, but was able to connect to everyone in attendance as he related his life lessons to common goals: landing job opportunities, effectively working with different types of people, inciting change, and improving oneself.

To be a master of building relationships in the workplace, Gabbi emphasized becoming “a student of human nature.” Gabbi has spent a lot of time researching personality types, human motivators, and non-verbal linguistics. He encouraged us to do the same if we want to succeed in the workplace, because the best way to influence people is to first be able to understand them.

Gabbi explained that there are four main social styles: driver (likes to get the point), amiable (likes to build rapport), analytical (likes to lay out all facts and figures), and expressive (a “hugger”). He encouraged us to peg people as the different styles and adjust our behavior accordingly. People like people that are similar to them. If you communicate with people according to how they wish to communicate with others, you will communicate more successfully.

Another equally important facet to successful communication is understanding non-verbal cues. From reading up on FBI interrogation tactics, Gabbi has learned that people tell the truth from the bottom up: “the window to the soul is their feet.” If someone’s feet are pointed away from you, they are unconsciously signalling that they are ready to leave the conversation. People can easily fake a smile (which curves outward rather than upward), but the feet don’t lie. Knowing cues like this will help you analyze your business dealings and improve upon them.

Just like his advice to learn psychology to improve one’s corporate career, many of his lessons shared a baseline message to diversify one’s knowledge to improve oneself. A world traveler, Gabbi lit up as he told us that gaining exposure to different cultures, religions, and experiences is “the key to everything.” He challenged us to see the world from a different set of eyes and see what those eyes teach us.

“Be curious!” Gabbi enthused. Ask questions. Take an interest in something new and philosophize about it. Then grow by finding someone to challenge your beliefs. The people with a drive to learn are the people with a zest for life. The people willing to “push [themselves] to a discomfort zone” are the people with the ideas, with the creativity, with the ability to make a lasting change on the world.

After he engaged the audience in Q&A – which featured internship advice, book recommendations, and artificial intelligence – students formed a line wrapping around the side of the room to speak to him personally. We thank Alex Gabbi for such a captivating lecture and look forward to the many promising presentations to come in our Series.