What does it take to become an expert at anything?

http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2012/08/what-does-it-take-to-become-an-expert-at-anyt/

Let’s round up the research so we can get to key actionable elements.

In 95% of cases natural talent does not determine who will be an expert at something. So what does it take to become the best?

 

1)      10,000 Hours of Deliberate Practice

It’s quantity and quality. You need tons of time spent training but it has to be the right kind of practice. Just showing up is not enough, you need to continually challenge yourself with the right kind of effort. “Deliberate Practice” is a specifically defined term. It involves goal setting, quick feedback, and countless drills to improve skills with an eye on mastery. It is not “just showing up” and, plain and simple, it’s not fun. What are the key elements?

More on the essentials of Deliberate Practice here.

 

2)      Have Grit

Perseverance. Persistence. Plain and simple, you can’t get to 10,000 hours if you give up. Researchers have found grit is more predictive of success than IQ in a variety of challenging environments from Ivy League schools to military academies to the National Spelling Bee. And you must commit to the long term. Sounds cliché but it’s vital. With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent. More on being grittier here and here.

 

3)      Find A Great Mentor

You want someone who will not go easy on you, who gives quick focused feedback and emphasizes fundamentals. The best coaches use the system of “Explanation, demonstration, imitation, correction, and repetition.” More on how to pick the best mentor here.

 

4)      Focus on the Negative

How often do you hear that recommended? It’s true: An eye for the negative makes you more likely to learn from your mistakes. Novices focus on positive feedback (“good job!”) because hearing they’re doing well helps them stay committed. Experts focus on negative feedback (“You’re doing that incorrectly”) because they’re interested in progress. The shift to focusing on negative feedback is one of the marks of an expert mindset.

 

5)      Focus on Improvement

When challenged, focus on “getting better” — not doing well or looking good. Get-better goals increase motivation, make tasks more interesting and replenish energy. When perfectionism is focused on internal goals, it’s great and enhances performance. When you’re trying to impress others, it’s a negative.

 

6)      Fast Feedback

You need to know what is working and what isn’t so you can course correct as soon as possible. Whether feedback comes from a boss, a stopwatch, or analytics software you can’t get better without it. More here.

 

7)      It’s Worth it

I think it’s important to keep in mind that training for expertise does not live in a vacuum. Deliberate Practice is stressful in the moment but brings greater joy later. Using our best skills is one of the most powerful ways to increase happiness. This has been shown time and time again.

What 10 things should you do every *week* to improve your life?

There are a number of other things research says we can do to make life better but we don’t need to do them every day:

 

1) Create new good habits, kill bad habits:

Changing your environment is the easiest and most powerful way to change your behavior. Altering the things in your home and your office and carefully picking the people you spend time with will bring you greater and more effortless results than anything else. Manipulate your environment to make what you should do easy and what you shouldn’t do hard.

More here.

 

2) Review your goals:

Here is everything you need to know about setting goals. Doing this can improve your life. Goal setting is one of the four techniques the military used to increase Navy SEAL passing rates. Studies have also shown it makes you happier. Initially, the research says, aim high. Set ambitious goals. (But later on down the road don’t be afraid to settle to be happy.)

 

3) Network:

Networking is vital to staying employed, salary growth and job satisfaction. Employees with larger networks perform better. (Networking has even been shown to be vital for drug dealers.) You’re likely to find out about your next job through people you know but aren’t very close to so expanding your pool of “weak ties” increases opportunities. Reconnecting with old friends on Facebook and Linked In is a good first step. Harvard Business Review has what may be the best networking technique out there.

 

4) Do something exciting with your partner:

What simple thing kills many relationships? A lack of excitement.

The research points again and again to how important thrills are:

 

5) Think of death:

Sound morbid? You couldn’t be more wrong.

9 minutes in to his famous Stanford commencement speech Steve Jobs discusses the importance he placed on thinking about death during his life:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

Scientists now agree with him.

 

6) Write:

Writing has been shown to help people:

 

7) Do a gratitude visit:

It’s the best way to say thank you to someone who deserves it and it’ll dramatically increase your happiness as well.

 

8) Volunteer:

Volunteering has been shown time and time again to increase happiness. So the best way to be selfish might be to be selfless. You’ll probably inspire others to do good too. Don’t have time for this? Wrong. Giving your time to others makes you feel less time-constrained.

 

9) De-stress:

There are many easy ways to do this. Talk to yourself. Lean back instead of leaning forward. Have more sexWatch comedy. Spend more time with friends. Becompassionate. Take fish oil. Stand up straightMeditateGarden. Chew gum. Smell vanillaNap. Eat salt. Spend time in nature.

 

10) Plan a getaway:

Going on vacation does improve our happiness in the long run. Our work performance is improved for up to a month afterward. Traveling can make youmore creative. These countries are the friendliest. You can trust the people most in these US states. And the people in these states are the happiest. And if you’re looking for something wild and crazy: These countries drink the most. Thesecountries and these states are the most promiscuous. Research has some ways you can improve your next vacation and make it even happier.

 

If you haven’t already, check out: What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

1) Get out in nature:

You probably seriously underestimate how important this is. (Actually, there’sresearch that says you do.) Being in nature reduces stress, makes you more creative, improves your memory and may even make you a better person.

2) Exercise:

We all know how important this is, but few people do it consistently. Other than health benefits too numerous to mention, exercise makes you smarterhappier, improves sleepincreases libido and makes you feel better about your body. A Harvard study that has tracked a group of men for more than 70 years identified it as one of the secrets to a good life.

3) Spend time with friends and family:

Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert identified this as one of the biggest sources of happiness in our lives. Relationships are worth more than you think (approximately an extra $131,232 a year.) Not feeling socially connected can make you stupider and kill you. Loneliness can lead to heart attack, stroke and diabetes. The longest lived people on the planet all place a strong emphasis on social engagement and good relationships are more important to a long life than even exerciseFriends are key to improving your lifeShare good news and enthusiastically respond when others share good news with you to improve your relationships. Want to instantly be happier? Do something kind for them.

4) Express gratitude:

It will make you happier.

It will improve your relationships.

It can make you a better person.

It can make life better for everyone around you.

5) Meditate:

Meditation can increase happinessmeaning in life, social support and attention span while reducing anger, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Along similar lines, prayer can make you feel better — even if you’re not religious.

6) Get enough sleep:

You can’t cheat yourself on sleep and not have it affect you. Being tired actually makes it harder to be happy. Lack of sleep = more likely to get sick. “Sleeping on it” does improve decision-making. Lack of sleep can make you more likely to behave unethically. There is such a thing as beauty sleep.

Naps are great too. Naps increase alertness and performance on the job, enhance learning ability and purge negative emotions while enhancing positive ones.Here’s how to improve your naps.

7) Challenge yourself:

Learning another language can keep your mind sharp. Music lessons increase intelligence. Challenging your beliefs strengthens your mind. Increasing willpower just takes a little effort each day and it’s more responsible for your success than IQ. Not getting an education or taking advantage of opportunities are two of the things people look back on their lives and regret the most.

8) Laugh:

People who use humor to cope with stress have better immune systems, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, experience less pain during dental work and live longer. Laughter should be like a daily vitamin. Just reminiscing about funny moments can improve your relationship. Humor has many benefits.

9) Touch someone:

Touching can reduce stress, improve team performance, and help you be persuasive. Hugs make you happier. Sex may help prevent heart attacks andcancer, improve your immune system and extend your life.

10) Be optimistic:

Optimism can make you healthierhappier and extend your life. The Army teaches it in order to increase mental toughness in soldiers. Being overconfidentimproves performance.

Why aren’t you doing what really makes you happy?

The path to happiness and the path to being an expert overlap.

Here’s the problem though: research shows that you don’t usually do what really brings you joy or makes you an expert — you do what is easy.

Sitting on the couch watching TV does not make you happy:

“…heavy TV viewers, and in particular those with significant opportunity cost of time, report lower life satisfaction. Long TV hours are also linked to higher material aspirations and anxiety.”

You are happier when you are busy and often have more fun at work than at home.

How is that possible? You spend a lot more time in high-challenge, high-skill situations that encourage flow states during work hours. You’re more likely to feel apathy during leisure time at home.

Via Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness:

the study found that while at work (relative to home/leisure), these individuals spent a great deal more time in high-challenge, high-skill situations (that is, those situations that foster flow) and less time in low-skill, low-challenge situations. Indeed, they were inclined to experience a sense of efficacy and self-confidence during work hours but to experience apathy at home. However, when probed about what they’d rather be doing, these participants uniformly stated that they’d rather be doing something else when working and that they preferred to continue what they were doing when at leisure.

Thinking and working can beat sad feelings. But you avoid those because they take effort.

You spend up to 8 minutes of every hour daydreaming. Your mind will probably wander for 13% of the time it takes you to read this post. Some of us spend 30-40% of our time daydreaming.

Via The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You):

Do you remember what the previous paragraph was about? It’s OK, I’m not offended. Chances are that your mind will wander for up to eight minutes for every hour that you spend reading this book. About 13 percent of the time that people spend reading is spent not reading, but daydreaming or mind-wandering. But reading, by comparison to other things we do, isn’t so badly affected by daydreaming. Some estimates put the average amount of time spent daydreaming at 30 to 40 percent.

Problem is, a wandering mind is not a happy mind:

“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.” …subjects’ mind-wandering was generally the cause, not the consequence, of their unhappiness.

So, what should you be doing?

  • Things you’re good at.
  • Your default is to do what is easy, but you’re happier when challenged. You need to fight your instincts.
  • Signature strengths” are the things you are uniquely talented at and using them brings you joy. People who deliberately exercised their signature strengths on a daily basis became significantly happier for months.

Mastering skills is stressful in the short term and happiness-boosting in the long term. Ambitious goals make you happier.

But maybe you’re afraid of failure. This is why you do what is easy and why your instinct is to play it safe. Fear of failure is one of the most powerful feelings.

When challenged, focus on “getting better” — not doing well or looking good. Get-better goals increase motivation, make tasks more interesting and replenish energy.

But what is the end goal you should focus on? Is there an easy way to think about what you should be heading toward?

Yes. Think about the best possible version of yourself and move toward that.

 

If you enjoyed this post, share it with friends. We all deserve to be happy. 🙂

Little things you can do to increase long term happiness:

 Harvard happiness expert and author of “The Happiness Advantage“, Shawn Achor gives some science based tips for increasing well-being.

Via CNN:

In The Happiness Advantage, I challenge readers to do one brief positive exercise every day for 21 days. Only through behavioral change can information become transformation.

• Write down three new things you are grateful for each day;

• Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours;

• Exercise for 10 minutes a day;

• Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out;

• Write one quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising someone in your social support network (family member, friend, old teacher).

 

Things that are proven to make you happier! :)

http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2012/08/here-are-the-things-that-are-proven-to-make-y/

http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2012/12/happy/

 

1)      Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude.

Every night before you go to bed write down three things good that happened to you that day.

Write someone a letter thanking them and telling them how much what they have done for you means. Visit them and read it in person. It’s a proven happiness WMD.

Be grateful for good events and focus on the fact that they will soon end. This has been shown to increase happiness and to make you more likely to take advantage of opportunities.

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“ My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“ My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.

Via CNN:

In The Happiness Advantage, I challenge readers to do one brief positive exercise every day for 21 days. Only through behavioral change can information become transformation.

• Write down three new things you are grateful for each day;

• Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours;

• Exercise for 10 minutes a day;

• Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out;

• Write one quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising someone in your social support network (family member, friend, old teacher).

 

How to make yourself happier in just a few seconds:

Imagine an important positive event in your life (like meeting your spouse) never happened.

Mentally subtracting cherished moments from your life makes you appreciate them more, makes you grateful and makes you happier:

Can you train your mind to be happy :

Training your mind to look for errors and problems (as happens in careers like accounting and law) can lead you toward a pervasive pessimism that carries over into your personal life.

Why are lawyers 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression and more likely to end up divorced? They have trained their minds to seek out the bad in life because pessimists excel at law.

Is there a way to get your mind out of these negative loops? Yes.

You must train your brain to seek out the good things in life:

You can train your mind to be unhappy and you can train it to be happy. One of the reasons old people are happier is because they remember the good and forget the bad. And when it comes to the future, be optimistic. Optimism can make you happier

“Retrospective judgment” means reevaluating events and putting a positive spin on them. Naturally happy people do it automatically, but it’s something you can teach yourself. Happy people naturally reinterpret events so that they preserve their self-esteem.

So, to sum up:

  • Count your blessings
  • Only compare yourself to those worse off than you
  • Tell yourself a positive story about the challenges in your life

 

The secret to being luckier is to be open to more opportunities, to interact with a large network of people, to break routines and keep a relaxed attitude toward life.

Weekends make much less difference for people who work in open and trusting environments. They simply exchange one set of friends for another on weekends.

 

Can one word sum up everything you need to do to be happier?

That word is “PERMA.” It’s an acronym for:

  • Positive Emotion : We need 3 positive things for every negative thing in order to thrive. we shouldn’t try to eliminate negative emotions, rather, we should work on keeping the ratio at three positive for every one negative.
  • Engagement :
    • This is what is often called flow. It’s when you’re so wrapped up in what you’re doing that the world fades away. When do you usually feel flow? It’s when you’re challenged but not beyond your skill level. Passive activities don’t create flow. Neither do overwhelming challenges.

There are a handful of things that need to be present for you to experience flow:

  • Clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable.
  • Immediate feedback.
  • Knowing that the task is doable; a balance between personal skill level and the challenge presented.
  • Strong concentration and focused attention.
  • The activity is intrinsically rewarding.

More on creating flow here.

  • Good Relationships : http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2012/12/word-sum-happier/
  • Meaning : Meaning comes from belonging to and serving something that is bigger than you are. “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”
  • Accomplishment :
    • What has research shown is most tied to success? Seligman says it’s “grit“. Perseverance. More about grit (and how to be “grittier”) here.

 

 2)      Do what you are good at as often as you can

 Signature strengths” are the things you are uniquely good at and using them brings us joy. Exercising signature strengths is why starving artists are happier with their jobs.

 

3)      Spend as much time as possible with people you like

The happiest people aresocial with strong relationships. Not spending more time with people we love is something we regret the most.

Being compassionate makes us happier (causal, not correlative.) Share the best events of your day with loved ones and ask them to do the same. It works. And compliment them — we love compliments more than money or sex.

But I’m an introvert, you say? A little bit of extraversion here would do you good. Happiness is more contagious than unhappiness so with amount of exposure to others well-being scales.

 

4)      Money is good. Many other things are better.

Money is good but wanting money can be bad. Loving money can make it harder to be happy. There are ways money can bring happiness but they are not what you expect.

5)      Give

Giving makes us happier than receiving. In fact, it can create a feedback loop of happiness in your life. Volunteering makes us happier and can therefore be the most selfless way to be selfish.

Helping others reach their goals brings joy. Doing nice things for others todaycan literally make you happier for the rest of the week.

6)      Savor

Take time to really enjoy the good things. What are the best ways to savor?

  • Positive mental time travel: Happy memories or looking forward to something
  • Being present: Not letting your mind wander and being absorbed in the moment.

Savoring is one of the secrets of the happiest people. Focusing on the limited time you have in this life is a good way to remind you to savor what is important.

7)      Strive   

You don’t usually do what brings you joy, you do what is easy. Set ambitious goalsand strive. Thinking about what happens to you in terms of your self-esteem will crush you — look at life as growing and learning.

Sitting on the couch watching TV does not make you happy. You are happierwhen you are busy and are probably have more fun at work than at home. Thinking and working can beat sad feelings. A wandering mind is not a happy mind. Mastering skills is stressful in the short term and happiness-boosting in the long term.

 

8)      Be optimistic, even to the border of delusion

Optimism is key. Yes, pessimism softens the blow of bad news but it isn’t worth it. Optimism increases resilience.

Does this make you out of touch with reality? Maybe but being a little deluded is good:

Love means being slightly deluded. Being somewhat delusional improves marriages. Happy people believe their partner is a little more awesome than they really are. Someone you think is great who also thinks you’re great — it’s one of the primary things you should look for in a marriage partner.

Thinking happy thoughts, giving hugs and smiling sound like unscientific hippie silliness but they all work.

 

9)      Fundamentals are fundamental

Cranky? Before you blame the world, eat something. Take a nap — it can purge negative emotions. Sleep is vital because your mood in the morning affects your mood all day.

Get your sleep. You cannot get away with cheating yourself on sleep and being tired makes it harder to be happy.

 

10)   Frequency beats intensity

Lots of little good things is the path to happiness. You want frequent boosts notrare big stuff. (And this explains the best method of how to split a dinner bill with friends.) For the most part, don’t bother to try and reduce the bad so much as you increase the good.

Stop thinking about big events that might make you thrilled — it’s the little things of everyday life that make lasting improvements to our happiness. You’re not going to win the lottery and it wouldn’t have the impact you think it would.

 

11)   Avoid life’s most common regrets

We know what people most often regret before they die:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

So what can you do to live a life without regret?

 

 

Top Ten Reasons Why Large Companies Fail To Keep Their Best Talent – Forbes

Top Ten Reasons Why Large Companies Fail To Keep Their Best Talent

Whether it’s a high-profile tech company like Yahoo!, or a more established conglomerate like GE or Home Depot, large companies have a hard time keeping their best and brightest in house. Recently, GigaOM discussed the troubles at Yahoo! with a flat stock price, vested options for some of their best people, and the apparent free flow of VC dollars luring away some of their best people to do the start-up thing again.

Yet, Yahoo!, GE, Home Depot, and other large established companies have a tremendous advantage in retaining their top talent and don’t. I’ve seen the good and the bad things that large companies do with talent management. Here’s my Top Ten list of what large companies do to lose their top talent :

1. Big Company Bureaucracy. This is probably the #1 reason we hear after the fact fromdisenchanted employees. However, it’s usually a reason that masks the real reason. No one likes rules that make no sense. But, when top talent is complaining along these lines, it’s usually a sign that they didn’t feel as if they had a say in these rules. They were simply told to follow along and get with the program. No voice in the process and really talented people say “check please.”

2. Failing to Find a Project for the Talent that Ignites Their Passion. Big companies have many moving parts — by definition. Therefore, they usually don’t have people going around to their best and brightest asking them if they’re enjoying their current projects or if they want to work on something new that they’re really interested in which would help the company. HR people are usually too busy keeping up with other things to get into this. The bosses are also usually tapped out on time and this becomes a “nice to have” rather than “must have” conversation. However, unless you see it as a “must have,” say adios to some of your best people. Top talent isn’t driven by money and power, but by the opportunity to be a part of something huge, that will change the world, and for which they are really passionate. Big companies usually never spend the time to figure this out with those people. 

3. Poor Annual Performance Reviews. You would be amazed at how many companies do not do a very effective job at annual performance reviews. Or, if they have them, they are rushed through, with a form quickly filled out and sent off to HR, and back to real work. The impression this leaves with the employee is that my boss — and, therefore, the company — isn’t really interested in my long-term future here. If you’re talented enough, why stay? This one leads into #4…. 

4. No Discussion around Career Development. Here’s a secret for most bosses: most employees don’t know what they’ll be doing in 5 years. In our experience, about less than 5% of people could tell you if you asked. However, everyone wants to have a discussion with you about their future. Most bosses never engage with their employees about where they want to go in their careers — even the top talent. This represents a huge opportunity for you and your organization if you do bring it up. Our best clients have separate annual discussions with their employees — apart from their annual or bi-annual performance review meetings — to discuss succession planning or career development. If your best people know that you think there’s a path for them going forward, they’ll be more likely to hang around.

5. Shifting Whims/Strategic Priorities. I applaud companies trying to build an incubator or “brickhouse” around their talent, by giving them new exciting projects to work on. The challenge for most organizations is not setting up a strategic priority, like establishing an incubator, but sticking with it a year or two from now. Top talent hates to be “jerked around.” If you commit to a project that they will be heading up, you’ve got to give them enough opportunity to deliver what they’ve promised.

6. Lack of Accountability and/or telling them how to do their Jobs.Although you can’t “jerk around” top talent, it’s a mistake to treat top talent leading a project as “untouchable.” We’re not saying that you need to get into anyone’s business or telling them what to do. However, top talent demands accountability from others and doesn’t mind being held accountable for their projects. Therefore, have regular touch points with your best people as they work through their projects. They’ll appreciate your insights/observations/suggestions — as long as they don’t spillover into preaching.

7. Top Talent likes other Top Talent. What are the rest of the people around your top talent like? Many organizations keep some people on the payroll that rationally shouldn’t be there. You’ll get a litany of rationales explaining why when you ask. “It’s too hard to find a replacement for him/her….” “Now’s not the time….” However, doing exit interviews with the best people leaving big companies you often hear how they were turned off by some of their former “team mates.” If you want to keep your best people, make sure they’re surrounded by other great people.

8. The Missing Vision Thing. This might sound obvious, but is the future of your organization exciting? What strategy are you executing? What is the vision you want this talented person to fulfill? Did they have a say/input into this vision? If the answer is no, there’s work to do — and fast.

9. Lack of Open-Mindedness. The best people want to share their ideas and have them listened to. However, a lot of companies have a vision/strategy which they are trying to execute against — and, often find opposing voices to this strategy as an annoyance and a sign that someone’s not a “team player.” If all the best people are leaving and disagreeing with the strategy, you’re left with a bunch of “yes” people saying the same things to each other. You’ve got to be able to listen to others’ points of view — always incorporating the best parts of these new suggestions.

10. Who’s the Boss? If a few people have recently quit at your company who report to the same boss, it’s likely not a coincidence. We’ll often get asked to come in and “fix” someone who’s a great sales person, engineer, or is a founder, but who is driving everyone around them “nuts.” We can try, but unfortunately, executive coaching usually only works 33% of the time in these cases. You’re better off trying to find another spot for them in the organization — or, at the very least, not overseeing your high-potential talent that you want to keep.

It’s never a one-way street. Top talent has to assume some responsibility as much as the organization. However, with the scarcity of talent — which will only increase in the next 5 years — Smart Organizations are ones who get out in front of these ten things, rather than wait for their people to come to them, asking to implement this list.

[At the time of writing, Jackson was long YHOO]

How To Sell Yourself

How To Sell Yourself

Earlier this week, I posted “She Got the Promotion. You Didn’t. Here’s Why.”

One reason I suggested you may get passed over for a promotion is if you’re not selling yourself.

“You forgot to sell you at work,” I wrote. “She sold herself like a pro and the boss bought it.”

In response, one of my Twitter followers, Natalia, tweeted, “@iamsusannah How do you sell yourself? Teach us!”

I’ve always been good at selling myself. Why? I’m not sure.

Because I figured no one else would. Because I’m a natural born hustler. Because I’ve spent a fair amount of my career hanging around pimps, prostitutes, and porn stars, and, boy, do they know how to sell themselves.

Here’s how you can sell yourself — at work, in life, to the world.

TIP #1: It’s not you, it’s “you.”

One of the biggest challenges for those who are selling-themselves challenged is an inability to separate who they truly are from who they are as a product. There’s you — imperfect, conflicted, fallible — and then there’s the “you” you’re selling — awesome, cool, superhuman.

Don’t sell yourself well? Think of “you” as a superhero version of yourself. Make a list of your best qualities. Dress the way SuperYou would dress. Talk the way SuperYou would talk. Be SuperYou. Role play. It’s a part. Experiment. This is play.

 

 

When I used to be on TV, I would get very nervous beforehand. Then I would think about how I only had to be “Susannah Breslin,” not Susannah Breslin, for 22 minutes on a half-hour TV show, if you subtract the time they need to run the commercials. I can be my idealized self for 22 minutes. That’s how it starts.

TIP #2: Annoy others.

It’s not enough to just be. There’s too much competition. You need to network, communicate, and engage with people as the “you” you want to be, and you won’t get there by hiding.

Recently, I heard about a job opening. It would be a very cool job working with a very cool group of people. The situation gave me the opportunity to suggest anybody for the position. I suggested one person.

It was the person who had annoyed me the most.

I’ve known her for about a year, and it was because she kept bugging me, kept sending me emails, kept reaching out to me — and, in doing so, selling herself to me — that she was the only person who came to mind and the only person I suggested.

This is stupid. Because I have 4,000 followers on Twitter, and I have a blog on Forbes.com, and there should be way more people who I should have been able to suggest. But because she was the only who waspersistent, she was the only one I suggested.

She is young. She is a millennial. She gets it.

TIP #3: Be a unicorn.

People try to sell themselves, their products, and their services to me all the time. Mostly, they do this through emails. I would say 99% of them do it wrong.

They’re boring.

They pitch dull ideas, uninteresting products, unoriginal versions of themselves. They think they’re adding a new spin, or a groundbreaking product, or a forward-thinking service, but it’s the same old thing.

One thing that’s great about the internet is that it’s a marketplace where anyone can sell anything. One thing that sucks about the internet is that this digital marketplace gives everyone the opportunity to hawk their crap.

You want to be a freelance writer? Wow, nobody’s tried that before. You have some new app that’s like five others before it? Congratulations. You’re working with an expert in a field wherein better experts already exist? I fell asleep reading the first sentence of your lame pitch.

Be a unicorn.

What is original? What is unique? What does it mean to be a unicorn? Find something nobody else is doing. Create something that did not exist previously. Be that new chimera the rest of us are too afraid to dream is real.

BONUS TIP: I wrote this post and this post the same day I did chemo. What’s your excuse? Stop thinking about all the reasons you can’t start today and just get started.

Email me. Follow me on Twitter. My personal blog.

 

  • Gloria FeldtGloria Feldt, Contributor 2 days ago

    You are right, Susannah, No Excuses (see www.GloriaFeldt.com if you don’t get the humor). And good wishes to you as you go through your chemo.

    The unicorn metaphor is a good one. But how does one become a unicorn? I think women are so socialized to be helpful, responsive, and to care what others think about them that conformity is the default position. What specific tips can you offer for deciding what sort of unicorn one wants to be and then becoming it?

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  • joshakruschkejoshakruschke 2 days ago

    Buy hooker clothes and act sexy…. Wait maybe I should read the article, not just the title, before I comment.
    😉

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  • jpbrodyjpbrody 1 day ago

    If you’re going to thrive, you had better learn how to sell yourself.

    Fairly early in my career, I was the Director of Development for a small non-profit. I did the direct mail appeals, arranged special events, re-designed the pitiful collateral materials and made them more money than they had made in a while in their direct mail.

    One problem: The president’s name was on everything I wrote. I ghosted for him, as is customary in those kinds of situations. I was the writer and I was good at it.

    The first inkling I had of a problem was when the chairman of the board wrote the president, congratulating him on the wonderful materials that he (the president) was putting out.

    Not much later, my contract was not renewed and even an offer of a freelance type of arrangement was refused.

    I guess the president continued his usual fine job; meantime, I was out hustling for work.

    You don’t have to be arrogant (although it helps). But you had better make SURE you’re getting credit for the work you do.

    jpbrody

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  • AnonAnon 22 hours ago

    I know a fellow that recently took a job as the executive chef at a 5 star hotel in Dubai. During his 2 first weeks he just observed the staff. In the beginning, some workers would come up to him, introduce themselves and tell him how impressed they were with his credentials and how happy they were to be working for him. Others stayed in the background and just went about their duties. As it turns out, the most competent workers were the ones that stayed in the background. The weakest were the ones that approached him after his first days on the job. Selling yourself is done by doing a good job, not being the first to kiss the new boss’ feet.

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  • Robert JacobsenRobert Jacobsen 21 hours ago

    Susannah –

    It took me about 10 years of my career to understand that selling and marketing yourself was vital to my career.

    I discovered this by accident – I was extremely competent doing something that was not valued or even respected by company management and had difficulty breaking out of that box. I had allowed others to define who I was which limited my value and opportunities.

    I transferred to a different division, which set my career back more than a few years, but one that exploded the box. To avoid being put into the same situation, I re-branded myself and sold myself as a unique value proposition and backed it up with action, which now is a widely-recognized reputation.

    The principle of offering unique and outstanding value, building a reputation for delivering it across the management team (not just my manager) and reinforcing it through your day to day behaviors.

    A key point though is that you must walk the talk. Promises don’t cut it – consistently great performance which backs up the sell message must happen for it to be effective. Integrity is essential.

    Never underestimate the value of a monthly status report with your accomplishments. Not only does it help you manager know what you’ve accomplished, but it also helps you focus on accomplishments that matter.

    Briefly for me, I approached it this way.

    1) Find a area of unique and essential value which you are able to do. I call it “the next big thing”. If there are none, find an area. Ideally, that area should be one that is growing or is expecting to grow, should be business-critical and essential, is an area you have skills in or can build those skills, is something you would enjoy doing and is something you can be passionate about doing.

    2) Show interest and initiative. In most cases approaching your management about interest and need may be advised – in some cases, just gradually move in that direction, building your skills in any way you can and focusing on filling the need and providing value.

    3) Raise the value bar through exemplary service, quality, responsiveness. Deliver beyond expectation every time.

    4) Broaden the scope of the unique value area – can you do more of this, add other things of unique value which can be combined with it.

    5) Continually build your skills and experience, while watching for new areas of unique value to leverage. Always look for the “next big thing”. I work in a technology field and some of these NBTs can take years before they get adopted so there is time to learn skills and knowledge.

    Susannah, I wish you the very best in your struggles. You are an inspiration.

    Bob

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