Gotta’ be shameless Baby!
Marketing guys have to be shameless.
Being modest about what they sell is not going to help them meet their sales targets. Imagine a car salesperson trying to sell you a car with the line, “Sir, this car is moderately good. The engine may not be so powerful. And the car seats may be a bit small. But I guess you will not mind the few glitches, right?” After hearing this, would you still buy the car?
Entrepreneurs have to be shameless.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs apply for limited venture-capitalist funding. Even if the product/idea has not been fully tested, and there are hundreds of reasons why the entrepreneur’s idea might fail, the entrepreneur must pitch his idea with utmost confidence and passion. A shy, reticent, and introverted entrepreneur will never be noticed in the crowd.
A person appearing for an interview has to be shameless.
The interviewee must give the impression that it has been his life-long goal to join that particular company and that company alone. And he/she should do that at each company’s interview. While that is hypocritical, it is accepted behavior in the interview process. In fact, it is the expected behavior. Imagine a candidate saying, “Well I am actually most keen to join company X, but since they do not have openings right now, I am willing to make a compromise and join you.” How would an interviewer react to that one!
As pointed out in the previous article, writers need to be shameless.
First, they have to be shameless during the writing phase. Also, after the book is written, the writer takes on the role of a marketing manager when pitching it to publishers or in subsequent marketing campaigns. Writers are usually shy to put their work out to the world. They are continuously self-correcting and self-criticizing. Thus, shamelessness is critically important at that stage.
Well, what I have said so far seems quite obvious, right? So why am I taking the pains of stressing this repeatedly. Because for many of us, our education system teaches us to be the exact opposite of shameless. It teaches us to be modest.
Modesty be damned!
I personally know how our education system stresses the importance of modesty. I was one of those kids who always came first in class during my high-school. During that time, modesty seemed to be a good option.
And then I got into an IIT. At IIT, every other kid had been the topper in their high-school (for the uninitiated, IIT stands for Indian Institute of Technology, and the IIT-s are THE top engineering colleges in India). Continuing to be modest there would have been a disastrous option (and it was too, for my first initial years there).
So how do you know when to be modest and when to be shameless? Here’s a simple thumb-rule — if you are top of your class, if you are extremely reputed in your profession, if you are a President’s Gold Medal awardee, or a Nobel Prize winner, or an Olympic Gold Medalist — people will notice you anyway. You can afford to be modest.
But let’s face it. Statistical probability governs that you are most likely not at the top right now. You might be working to get there, and best of luck with that. But what do you do in the meantime? BE SHAMELESS.
But, how to be shameless?
The key to being shameless is engaging in self-promotion. Being educated to be modest all our lives, we usually suck at that. Fortunately though, Facebook and other social networks have recently trained us in the art of self-promotion. Whenever we dress up well and look good, we take a pic and update our profile picture. When we travel somewhere beautiful, we post a pic. When we do something great or achieve a feat, we share it with the rest of the world. What are we effectively doing? We are continuously promoting a fantastic ever-happy image of our lives.
Unfortunately many of us fail to do this when it comes to our life’s work, i.e. in the realization of our deepest passions. Let me explain what I mean by that.
The two kinds of ambition
There are two kinds of ambition. On the one side, there are social ambitions — completing a degree, bagging a job, progressing in one’s career, ensuring the success of one’s kids, traveling to exotic places etc. These ambitions are held by almost all of us. There are support systems (or channels of encouragement) that help us achieve these goals. Parents, friends, relatives, co-workers, the education system and the entire socio-economic system continuously help us to achieve these goals.
And then there are hidden ambitions. These are ambitions that may be very unique to you — something your parents, siblings, and even your closest friends may not identify with. My hidden ambition (apart from the social ambitions listed above) is to write books and to become famous as an author. Well, it is not hidden anymore :). Another’s dream is to open a design gallery of paintings and visual art. Another’s ambition lies in social work. Yet another (who does not hail from a business family) wants to open his own business.
For all these hidden ambitions, society usually does not have any support system. Unless your parent, immediate family member or close friend is a writer, artist, social-worker, or business-tycoon, it is highly unlikely that you will ever receive any guidance or advice about pursuing your hidden ambition. So how do you begin? How do you leave our mark in a field that is completely unknown to you?
For progressing in such unknown territory, shameless-ness is an important ally. But then again, how to be shameless? Here are the five steps to shameless-ness:
- Speak out about your ambition: Assume that it has been your life’s hidden ambition to be a painter. So, when do you start calling yourself a painter? Can you call yourself a painter only when you hit it big-time?No. You are a painter as soon as you start calling yourself one. For most of us, this step, of acknowledging what we want to be, is a giant leap of faith. So when people ask you what you do, tell them that you are a painter. And the conversation (or your life) will veer to a totally unforeseen (and exciting) direction.Of course, the above statement assumes that you are actually working on your painting (or your writing, or business, or whatever field your hidden ambition lies in), and that you are are not sitting on your a** just thinking about it.Acclaimed self-published novelist Jeff Goins has an e-book on this approach of speaking out about your ambition. It is written keeping wannabe writers in mind, but is applicable to almost anyone else. Check out “You are a writer“.
- Let go of your inhibitions: Novelist Joanna Penn is one of the biggest success stories of the self-publishing world. In her novels, she writes about “dark and twisty” stuff — secret societies, supernatural phenomenon, corpse art and the like. But at one point in her career, she found herself thinking:
You don’t have permission to be that person, to think like that, to write like that, to publish that.
You’re a nice girl. What will people think of you?
Fortunately, she realized that it was just her inner critic speaking, and that she did have permission to write her mind. This is an important realization in any creative process (as I have pointed out in my post on shameless Indian writers).
I have a personal experience in this regard. I have a knack of coming up with silly puns from time to time. These are not jokes per se, but people tend to agree that they are so annoying that they are funny. Initially, I was reluctant to post them on any social networking site. But ever since I started posting these puns on my Facebook wall, I was amazed by the number of people who ‘Like’-d them. I was inspired to come up with better (or for that matter, worse) puns.
Poking at boundaries is a wonderful experience, especially because it can lead you to unexpected journeys.
- Ask silly questions: When you start off in a new field, you may have a million questions popping in your mind all the time – “Does my idea make any sense?”, “Will anyone be willing to buy my creation?”, “How can I get this feature that X‘s website has?” etc. And during this ‘start-up’ time, you will be most intimidated to approach someone and ask questions. Shrug off that fear. And begin to approach people to ask them their advice. Do not restrict yourself to friends and family — out of their liking for you, they will tend to be biased.Also begin to realize that all questions will not be answered by Google (or even Siri for that matter). Of course, you can use the power of the internet (online forums, e-mails etc.) to ask questions to almost any person on the planet. And you will be surprised how much help you can get from perfect strangers anywhere in the world.
- Reach out to leaders in your field: What if the person you wanted to ask a question to was a famous person? Surely, you could not ask that famous person your silly amateur-ish question, right? Wrong again. Once again, you will be surprised how easy it is to get a chance to discuss your thoughts with an otherwise famous celebrity. In his New York Times best-seller “The Four Hour Workweek“, Tim Ferris expands upon how to go about doing this. For my part, I have been able to reach out to internet millionaire Chandoo, and famous authors Ashwin Sanghi and Arnab Ray.
- Sell your work: They say the ultimate test of shameless-ness is asking someone to buy your product. Research has shown that when you ask someone whether they would be willing to buy something (not actually buying it, but just whether they would be willing to buy it if such a product did come out in the future) — 60-80% of respondents give a positive response. But when posed with the option of parting with their hard-earned cash and actually purchasing the product, the same sample group’s positive response spirals downwards like crazy.They say that selling your work is the litmus test in pursuing your hidden ambition. After all, asking for payment (in the form of asking someone else to buy your work, or finding a VC to fund your business-idea etc.) will be a critical aspect of sustaining your work (unless of course, you are Bill Gates or Warren Buffett and have loads of cash lying around).Once you start trying to sell your work, you automatically become shame-less. Otherwise, you perish.
How shameless can I be?
Finally, in all my advice about being shameless, the main motivation is to overcome your inner critic, and overcoming the default reaction of modesty that has been instilled into us by society. However, be wary of stretching the shameless thing too far. You are the best judge of how shameless you need to be. Every person’s limit is different.
But here’s the thumb rule that works for me — never alienate immediate family and your closest friends (of course, they may take some time seeing your point of view but that is fine).
Do you agree that overcoming modesty is that important? What steps did you follow? Do leave your comments below, or just leave a comment on our wall at http://facebook.com/gohatke or @gohatke on Twitter (use the tag #shameless)
Next: A few stretching exercises to let go of your inhibitions…