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Why you need to sell yourself

November 16, 2017

“Your most important sale in life is to sell yourself to yourself.” — Maxwell Maltz

There is an unequivocal harsh truth in this world : nobody looks out for yourself other than you. You may say that you have great friends and family and that might most certainly be true, but — BUT — at the end of the day when the dust settles, there is no one else who hears the sound of the tree fall but you.

Something that I have always had a problem with is how some people have seemingly attained success “without doing any work”. There are times when I would — and I know YOU would — say something to the effect of “ How did THAT person achieve success while I am languishing or stagnating” or “How did THAT person achieve success while I am the ‘smarter’ one?”. Tell me with complete honesty, or better yet, admit to yourself that this thought hasn’t crossed your mind at least once before. I am trying to deconstruct that feeling with reality as an anchor. How did that person seemingly achieve success out of the blue? Why does it seem like that person galloped away while you are left in a trail of dust?

The true reason behind this meteoric success is that they were able to sell themselves better — Period. They were better at stating why they were better than the rest of the arcade they were competing with. The reality of them being better or inferior to the rest is inconsequential for the purpose of this argument. They were better salesmen/women and marketers, and there are no two ways about that. The fact that they were able to convince the audience that they were better is all that matters.

The audience could be anyone you can think of. If you work in a company with your other colleagues, the audience could be the higher ups or peers in your company. In the open source technology space , it’s how loud your voice is and how you can build a community around your idea. It is not always necessarily the merits of the actual idea you have worked on that matters but how you present that idea to the world. If you work in a startup, the audience could be the venture capital funds that you are wooing to get your funding from. If you are a board member of a company, it’s the shareholders that you want to placate or attract. The list goes on and on and on….

The biggest problem most people have when it comes to the notion of being successful is the act of selling yourself. Everyone fantasizes about the glory of success in a romanticized way, imagining how hard work, blood, sweat and tears lead to a hard-earned victory. However, most people shy away from actively selling themselves because they think of it as dirty or being untrue to the art/craft that they have dedicated their lives to. They think that it is tangential to the goal of making the world a better place. More often than not, it is also the self doubt that prevents them from selling themselves because they think that they are just not good enough or that selling themselves is a travesty. They think that if they sell themselves, they are overdoing it, and that there are much more qualified people out there doing what they are doing.

This is where I disagree. The fact that you doubt yourself is an indication of your superior thinking. Not only have you worked on your idea and achieved a modicum of success ( maybe it’s a LOT more, but I’m being conservative ), but you also have the emotional intelligence and awareness that puts you in a higher quartile. Perhaps you built a great product or a great company or possess a skill that you are really proud of, but unless you make people believe in your idea or creation, why should they be incentivized to have anything to do with it?! Display confidence, not hesitation. Confidence attracts attention. Confidence does not imply brashness. Projecting soft power can be incredibly useful and applied to the same effect as a bombastic display of showmanship.

The most successful people made it big because they knew what they were good at, and they knew how to make the world know about it. Think of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Indra Nooyi, Gordon Ramsay, Oprah Winfrey, and so forth. They were vocal about what they were doing and have perfected the craft of delivering the message of encompassing who they are. Is the playbook for someone else the road to your success? Probably not. Should you follow what everyone else does to the T to sell yourself? Certainly not.

The world is not a playground of zero-sum games with perfectly scripted mathematical equations; someone else’s success does not mean you have to take a backseat. You should not have to sit back and lurk in the shadows while someone is out there hustling. How can you sell a product, an idea, or a thought, if, as a first step, you are not able to state unequivocally what is special about yourself? There is a common saying: “If you don’t ask, you won’t get”. I would like to add to that: “ If you don’t sell, they won’t buy”

Don’t shy away. Don’t hide in the corner. Don’t be afraid of being in the spotlight. Don’t be doubtful of your achievements. Right before military units are about to undertake an operation, they use a phrase akin to “Breach, breach, breach”. While you embark on your operation to sell yourself, your call to action should be “Hustle, hustle, hustle”. Put in the effort! SELL yourself. Don’t sell yourself short; REALLY sell yourself. Carpe diem — seize the day! Make sure the world knows what you did. Make sure YOU tell the world what you did, because the fact of the matter is, if you don’t, no one else will.