Nearly 20 years ago, my husband had the rare opportunity to be a contestant on the classic television game show “Jeopardy!” I had a front row seat to the process, and I realized my work as a consultant has more in common with winning Jeopardy! than I ever would have imagined!
The short version is this: Success is just as much about surrounding yourself with experts and the right tools, as it is about your own expertise. This is the message every advisor needs their clients to understand for mutual success. Now, on to the not-so-short version.
Success isn’t just about your knowledge
My husband is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. When he got the chance to play Jeopardy!, I was confident he’d knock out his competition—if not with ease, then at least solidly. In fact, it was my own confidence that led me to sign him up without telling him. I had to scramble and explain (quickly) what I’d done when the producer of Jeopardy! called him.
Success is just as much about surrounding yourself with experts and the right tools as it is about your own expertise.
Despite his immense knowledge of topics from history and literature, to world religion, mythology, pop culture, and entertainment, he still came in second place. What we didn’t realize at the time was that all the knowledge in the world wouldn’t help him win if he didn’t have the buzzer on his side.
The buzzer? Yes, the buzzer
Unless you’re already a well-versed Jeopardy! aficionado, you’re probably wondering what on earth I’m talking about. As it turns out, the buzzer and a contestant’s mastery of it are the most difficult aspect of playing Jeopardy!—and the real key to winning or losing the game.
It’s no surprise that every contestant on Jeopardy! is highly intelligent, well read, and prepared for their appearance. But the process is more extensive than most people realize. It starts with the Jeopardy! Test. If you passed this first hurdle, you might get invited to audition, which includes another round of online test questions. From there, an applicant may be asked to play a mock game in front of the show’s producers who are looking both for correct answers and contestant enthusiasm (they need to make good TV after all!).
After all that, a select few applicants will be invited to appear on the show. This is when the real work begins. A quick Google search reveals hundreds of books, websites, apps, flashcards (who knew there were so many flashcards?), and study guides, all designed to help would-be Jeopardy! contestants have the best chance. By the time you get to this point, there isn’t a contestant still in the mix who isn’t highly capable and qualified to win. But on the day of your show’s taping, anything can happen. And that’s where the buzzer comes in.
Like running a business, Jeopardy!’s buzzer is a tricky thing
A lot of ink has been spilled bemoaning the Jeopardy! buzzer. Former contestants agree: The buzzer is where Jeopardy! is won or lost. What an average viewer doesn’t know is that a contestant’s buzzer isn’t activated until the entire clue is read and the contestants are informed by flashing lights offscreen. Then, it’s game on! The first person to buzz in gets the chance to answer, but if two contestants buzz at the exact same time, everyone’s buzzer is frozen for a fraction of a second, leaving the opportunity open for anyone to be first again. This is why you’ll see contestants pressing their buzzer madly as each question is asked. Ultimately, it’s anyone’s game since all contestants are super smart and the chance to win relies largely on buzzing in at the exact right time.