The other day I received an email from a good friend. Couple of years ago he quit his job, went traveling, and eventually resurfaced back in his hometown of New York. His money ran out, so the plan was to work for a few years before moving back to Latin America (Argentina) for good. For a guy already in his late 20s, he didn’t have much experience job-hunting; in fact, he’s only ever had one job in his life (which he got right out of college). That job was with a prominent software company in Silicon Valley: Google.
My friend is a brilliant engineer, but apart from that he’s a very shy and unassuming guy. He gets nervous any time he needs to “sell” himself, whether that’s interviewing for another company, or talking to women in the intimidating dark bars and clubs. Even formatting his resume in a eye-friendly way is beyond his abilities. Believing that I can help with the latter, he attached his resume to the email and asked me to review it and, if necessary, fix any issues. I quickly glanced over his resume and made few mental notes on the areas that needed tweaking. I closed the email and went back to my work.
Few days later, while I was eating breakfast, a simple but important thought occurred to me: my friend’s qualifications and experience should speak for themselves. I mean that in a literal sense: his accomplishments should “speak” instead of him having to physically open his mouth and enunciate his work and experience to a prospective employer. Beyond that he shouldn’t need to do anything more. He doesn’t need to be nervous because he’s not doing anything dishonest or illegal. He’s not trying to pass himself as someone else. He’s also not trying to smuggle cocaine out of Colombia. Essentially he doesn’t need to talk the talk because he walks the walk.
Right then and there, I realized that my friend is a great product and great products sell themselves.
A great product is a product that solves a specific problem. A great product doesn’t convince you to buy it; you know with a high level of confidence that the pain you’re having will be solved with that product. The product works. It delivers on its promise. You buy toothpaste because it contains fluoride which fights cavities. You buy a bathroom cleaner because it removes moulds and bacteria from your bathroom. You buy a BMW because it’s a meticulously engineered car and drives fantastically. It’s also reliable and won’t break down the minute you drive it off the lot or many years down the road. All of these are great products. They all sell themselves.
My friend is a great product because he spent several years learning and perfecting a particular skill set in a very demanding environment. He’s probably one of the most capable guys in the world who can come in and implement a solution to a that specific problem. He’s a BMW. He’s a Mercedes-Benz. He’s a Macbook Air. He’s a ThinkPad. Does he need to polish his resume by changing the font or alignment or the heading or the style or the format? No. Does he need to spend sleepless nights preparing for an interview? No. He just needs to let people to know that he’s available. That’s it. Period. Full Stop. He doesn’t need to sell himself any further. In fact, he shouldn’t even be nervous or anxious for the verbal interview. People who don’t know what they’re talking about get nervous, not people who are experts in a specific domain like my friend.
A great product sells itself.
Obviously, being great at something isn’t enough, you still need to announce your availability; you need to let people know that you’re ready to put your hard-earned experience to work on their specific problems. But if you’re truly great, that’s all you have to do.
If you observe all the successful and solid people around you, what’s the common denominator? What is the one thing that they all share? The successful men are all built on solid foundations of knowledge and experience. The unsuccessful men must desperately use words like duct type to compensate for that missing knowledge and experience; they are like snake oil salesmen who always have some elaborate story to tell you in order to sell you a car that doesn’t run.
The chart below shows what it takes to get what you want (a job, a girl, etc) if you’re a good product vs. if you’re a poor product:
What all the successful people share is that they let their actions — not their words — speak for them. Let that sink in. You see, they don’t sit around and wonder how to communicate their abstract notion or idea of success; they don’t try to persuade anyone that they’re important, cool, interesting or successful. They don’t read books that tell them how to “hack” success. They are successful because of their accomplishments. That’s it. Which road to success they took doesn’t matter. What’s important is that these men are superstars. They’re capable, intelligent and determined. They are finely engineered products that sell themselves.
Let’s say you’re an American guy who speaks fluent French as a result of living in Paris for many years. One day, when you move back to New York, someone asks you if speak French. How will you answer? Will you begin to explain English that, “yes, I speak a bit of French because I learned some of it in Paris,” or will you just outright start speaking in French? Do you see the difference between these two approaches? In the first one, you resort to explaining a particular skill using words; in the second one, you actually utilize that skill to respond to an inquiry.
Let’s say you’re a great software engineer and are looking for a job. How will you send that point across? How will you persuade someone that you should be hired? Do you begin by telling people that you have a degree from Harvard, Yale, Stanford or some other Ivy League school that carries “prestige”? Do you begin by telling someone that you have five years of experience in a specific programming language? No. You simply point to an array of applications that you’ve conceptualized, designed and developed. People use those applications. Those applications make money. That means if someone hires you, they will also make money! Once again, instead of verbally explaining why you should be hired, you let your own accomplishments talk for themselves. Much more effective.
An action is a great multiplier of verbal communication. One action can say 10, 100, even 1,000 different things compared to words and sentences. And it will “say” any of those qualities in a way, much better and more effective than any words elicited from your mouth will ever do.
When trying to persuade someone to do something, verbal speech is generally used to compensate for something that someone lacks internally. If you need someone who speaks Hungarian, will you be impressed if the guy begins rambling on and on how he tried to learn it but stopped, but can still speak a little bit? Or will you be impressed when a guy immediately starts talking in fluent and flawless Hungarian? If you need a good marketer to create demand for your software product, will you be impressed if a guy begins talking about very abstract topics like marketing channels, sales processes, meaning of life, the birds and the bees, or will you become intrigued when he tells you that he brought a software application from zero to millions sales a year using unconventional marketing techniques? Of course the latter; if he can create demand for someone else’s application, he can also do the same for you.
Do Leonardo DiCaprio or Tom Cruise go out and try to endlessly convince women to like them? Of course not. They don’t need to explain anything about themselves. People either “buy” them or not; girls are either interested or not. If a girl says No to Leonardo, he’ll go to the next one in line. Both of these guys are quality products, so there will always be buyers to snap them up. If it won’t be the first girl, it will be second. If it won’t be the second, it will be the third.
The point is that when you’re a great product, you don’t need to do much — if any — selling/convincing/begging. You simply show up. That’s what the word itself in “selling itself” really means: it means not needing additional selling on top of what you already represent as a man in the flesh.
On the other hand, if you suck, then get ready to beg, validate, and supplicate to everyone and anyone who crosses your path. After all, that’s your only chance of getting what you want. No amount of marketing or sales will ever make any impact on a crappy product; you can’t simply show up and expect to get what you want.
That’s my life philosophy in a nutshell: be more; not talk more. The more I accomplish, the more it automatically molds, like clay, into my personality and psyche. It reflects me without me explicitly saying it or referencing it. It alters my behavior. Remember, communication is 93% non-verbal. 93%! That means words really mean very, very little. How can non-verbal communication be improved? By reading body language books? By observing professional actors on TV? No. Your behavior is improved by being more, not by talking more.
I first noticed my behavior change after returning to America after my sojourn in Brazil. I literally felt like a different guy. Talking to women was smoother and more seamless. People noticed that I’m not some average, run of the mill guy. After returning from Eastern Europe several months ago, I noticed that I talk less and less with an even greater effect. I physically go out alone, yet I’m never alone: I carry all that experience with me everywhere I go. It’s written all over my face. As a result, I no longer need to sell myself as much as I needed before. I just show up. It’s truly a surreal experience. As I long suspected, most of game (93%?) is really inner game.
“Don’t worry about polishing or tweaking your resume,” I wrote back to my friend. “Your stellar experience communicates your qualifications better than anything else could ever do. All you have to do is announce that you’re available. All you have to do is show up.”
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