I wanted to write an epic post about my experiences in Dubai last week (and I may yet), but instead let me just say this, because it’s on my mind:
It’s a big world out there. Those of you trying to be the next Seth Godin, the next Tony Robbins, the next Peter Drucker, you’re wasting your time. They’re all great people. They know their stuff. And they are very good at being Seth Godin, Tony Robbins and Peter Drucker, but you’re chasing the wrong dream. You’re wasting your time. And you’re acting like a complete jackass trying to be something (and someone) you are not.
Let me explain. I spent last week listening to two three types of people:
The first had problems they needed to solve – How do I get more customers? How do I keep my customers from abandoning me? How do I grow my program? How do I bring more investment into my country? How do I secure 5% more market share? How do I change perceptions? How do I accelerate adoption of my technology?
The second had ideas, some of which might very well solve some of the problems brought up by the first category. These were smart, intuitive, compassionate, clever little entrepreneurs with warm smiles and dependable handshakes. People who watch and listen more than they speak. People who solve rather than sell. People who care more about results for their clients and customers than their own fame or status. I like those guys. We get along. We find in each other a common trait, and every meeting feels a lot like running into an old friend.
And then there was the third type. The salesmen. The people selling crap nobody needs. The guys who talk more than they listen. The guys who haven’t had an original thought in over a decade but still think their limited view of the world is more relevant than that of a 20-something tapped into his demographic. The guys who can step off a jumbo jet, spend less than 24 hours in a foreign country – most of which they spent hiding in their hotel rooms – and tell everyone there how to fix all their problems. The guys who think that because they wrote a book twenty years ago, they are now infallible one-man think tanks. The guys who start believing their own PR, or their own “press,” as they say. Here’s a reality you need to come to terms with: If you started off selling bullshit, your bullshit doesn’t magically turn into gold a few books and a couple of decades later.
Be careful what you decide to sell today, boys and girls, because you might still be selling it twenty years from now. And what you sell ends up defining you a lot more than you realize.
Don’t put all your eggs in the celebrity consultant basket. That gig isn’t what you think. Don’t go there unless you want to reach the end of your “career” as a punch-line. There’s far less money in it than you think, and no dignity whatsoever. What’s worse is this: Instead of being the guy who spent his career solving problems for the first category of person I mentioned here today, instead of creating legitimate value, you end up spending the best years of what could have been a fruitful career selling something that people don’t need: Your “personal brand.” Put a lid on that little ego trip right now, before it swallows you whole.
What you should focus on is this: Being the second kind of person mentioned above. The kind that listens more and speaks less. The kind that cares about doing a great job. The kind with an eye for positive change. The kind that doesn’t spend every waking moment trying to sell themselves to conferences, to publishers, to CNN, to whomever might be dumb enough not to see through the shameless self-promotion. It doesn’t mean you won’t speak at conferences and won’t be published. It doesn’t mean you won’t get to travel to cool places every few months if that’s what you want to do. What it means is that if you focus on being that second type of person, if you focus on improving the lives (and businesses of others) instead of focusing on improving your brand, status and personal myth of success, you might actually get it all. Everything you’ve ever wanted. And as a bonus, you won’t spend the next twenty years being a parasite.
The world needs you to stop focusing so much on yourself and to turn that brilliant little mind of yours outward instead of inward. Every company in the world is struggling right now. Companies in every country, from the US to Senegal, and from Australia to the Emirates are looking for help, for solutions, for insights. The last thing they need from you or anyone else is more bullshit. There’s already more than enough of that for everyone to choke on ten times over. They need real help. They need that second category of person: Problem-solvers. Dependable helpers. True partners. Be that. That’s where the value is, not in selling your “personal brand,” your trademarked 10-rules or 20-step program, certification or cookie-cutter ROI calculator. The value of that is zero. Zip. Stop it.
Instead, try this on for size: Get off the “I want to be a social media rock star” train and start helping. I swear your career prospects will improve FAST. Not only that, but you will rediscover how good it feels to be part of something bigger and greater than “me, Inc.”, to see your efforts improve the lives of other people, not just your own. True success comes to those on this path, not on the other. Starting as soon as you can wrap your head around this idea, focus on solving real problems. If they involve social media, great. If they don’t, so what? It’s a big world out there. Social media and the US fishbowl are only a very small little sliver of it.
Think bigger. The world needs you to.