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A New York Epiphany Of Intuition And Insight – Nerves Or A Red Flag?

Lauren Hirsch Williams is a Business Relevance Strategist, Pitch Stylist, International Bestselling Author, and Award-Winning Screenwriter. With decades of experience, which includes Worldwide Director of Advertising at PepsiCo, Founder of MovieHatch, and Creator of the new MyTurn TV Network for empowering women,

Executive Contributor Lauren Hirsch Williams

While living in the heart of New York City, amidst the steel symphony of skyscrapers and the relentless rhythm of ambition, I tried to carve my niche. Though the city's pace never slows, I learned to listen to the quieter tunes of intuition. On one such evening, as the autumn leaves floated down Central Park West, I found myself in a situation that would later unravel as a lesson in discerning nerves from red flags.

A heart sign of couple in New York.

I patiently sat in the lobby at the Four Seasons on 57th Street (before it was shuttered and renovated) when it became the stage for an unexpected insight. I was meeting with a guy we'll call Sam, a polished producer with an air of confidence that could rival the height of the Empire State Building when he presented me with a business proposal. His pitch was enticing. He had the right answers and never blinked or hesitated when speaking. His proposal could have been groundbreaking for us both.

However, a familiar flutter settled in the pit of my stomach. Was this the flutter of nerves, like the ones I'd felt when I first presented in conference rooms at television networks? Or was this something else?

That afternoon, I realized it was time to dissect this feeling to understand its roots. Over the years, I'd learned that while nerves were akin to the buzz of Times Square loud, chaotic, but inherently exciting red flags were the shadows in the alleys of the Financial District, silent but foreboding.

I embarked on a journey of introspection, retracing my steps from when Sam approached me. I realized that the difference between nerves and red flags lay in their origins. Nerves often sprang from the excitement of new ventures and the thrill of challenges. They were the adrenalin that powered late nights and early mornings.

On the other hand, red flags emerged from a place of dissonance. It wasn't just the proposal that caused unease with Sam, but the discrepancies in his story, the evasive glances (despite not blinking) when I probed deeper, and the overreliance on charm over substance. What I felt was not merely nerves but a beacon of caution.

Armed with this understanding, I did what this city had taught me best: I dug deeper. I contacted my network, those seasoned by the city's ebbs and flows. Their responses echoed my concerns of ventures that never took off, of promises that vanished like mist.

I'm lucky to have some wise friends and colleagues who helped me realize there are steps to take to help distinguish between red flags and nerves.

  1. Reflect and Journal (if you like doing that): After a significant business encounter, take a moment to consider your feelings. Was there unease? Was there excitement? By putting your emotions into words, you'll gain clarity on whether you're simply nervous about a new venture or if there's a genuine red flag.

  2. Fact-Check and Investigate: Never rely solely on your gut. If you sense something's off, take the initiative to research. Look into potential partners' track records and past ventures and, if possible, seek feedback from their previous collaborators. This will provide concrete evidence to either validate or dispel your concerns.

  3. Engage Your Network: There's power in collective wisdom. Share your observations and concerns with your industry's trusted mentors, peers, or friends. Their experiences and perspectives can offer valuable insights into your situation.

  4. Revisit Past Encounters: Think back to business dealings where you felt similarly. What was the outcome? Did your intuition prove correct, or was it just the jitters? Recognizing patterns in your reactions can help decipher their meaning.

  5. Seek Neutral Ground for Clarification: If you're still unsure after introspection and research, approach the individual or entity. Ask clarifying questions and gauge their responses. It's often in these direct conversations that true intentions, for better or worse, are revealed.

Finally, I met Sam again, this time amidst the calming trees of Central Park, away from the seductive, high-energy environment of a top-class hotel. The cracks in his veneer began to show as I questioned him, armed with my intuition and the evidence I'd gathered. It was clear; what I'd felt was not just nervousness but a warning. His talk was hyper and hopeful rather than fact and reality. He was convincing, to be sure, but what he needed to move forward would sit solely on my shoulders to bear. I'm all for collaboration and partnership, but if someone tells me they have elements already secured on a deal and it turns out they don't (even if they're in the process of securing them), I'm out. That's a red flag flying in full saturation.

This experience, a confluence of instinct and investigation, reinforced a lesson. In the relentless pace of New York City, amidst dreams that soar as high as skyscrapers, it's crucial to discern the source of our inner alarms. Is the exhilarating buzz of nerves foreshadowing growth, or the silent sound of red flags signaling caution?

For my fellow sojourners in the world of business, make sure to listen to your intuition and delve into its whispers with wisdom and sensitivity. Success in business is not just about the opportunities you seize but also about the pitfalls you avoid.


Lauren Hirsch Williams, Business Relevance Strategist & Bestselling Author



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