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Your Silence Isn’t Helping Anyone…

Your silence isn’t helping anyone. Least of all you.

Sure, it fits with all the things you’ve been told. That it’s better to “fly under the radar” and to “live to fight another battle.” The problem is you aren’t looking for any battles. And you definitely aren’t looking to live another day – because you’re not doing any living right now. At least not the kind that matters.

I’m not talking about rock climbing and cliff diving and all the risky things one does with one’s life that might provide a rare dose of adrenaline. I’m talking about the day-to-day living that would do a lot to make you happier and more successful. It’s easy to be daring when jumping out of a plane with a trained instructor strapped to your posterior, but another thing altogether to open your mouth at the next meeting and say the unpopular thing that needs to be said.

Forgive me, I’ve been reading/listening to an insane amount of Seth Godin lately, and like all good philosopher poets (we’re calling a “marketing guru” this now? – I am) they have their ONE. BIG. THING. And Godin’s is seductively simple: Make Art. Cause a ruckus. Be bold. Sure, there’s a lot more, but this is the overarching summary in my eyes. And it’s a summation that rings big ass church bells in my noggin.

As a business leader and overall fan of the human condition, I’m constantly motivated by learning what motivates people – or as I’m finding out – what holds them back. My current project is leading a team of 40+ in the daily operations of an off-campus Student Housing community near UCF. It’s exhilarating and every bit a seething mass of awesomeness. At the same time, a big part of my role is as teacher to a number of them whom are still in college and finding their way in the world. This is the messiest part, and also my favorite.

On certain days (read: the best days) I pontificate a lot. My passion gets to run free and I become a whirling dervish of know-how. I try to start with underlying principles and work up from there to the more concrete issue at hand. If you don’t know the “why” you won’t care about the “how”, I always think.

With that in mind, and a good dose of Godin in my ears, I’ve come to believe the biggest restraining force working on anyone is the fear of being wrong. No one likes it and frankly, we’re not taught how to deal with it and accept it. In fact, we’re taught to avoid the whole possibility entirely:

  • If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • Everyone has their own opinion
  • Who are you to say?
  • There’s a time and a place and this isn’t it. (Never is!)
  • Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. (this is my favorite)

It’s all part of the same thing. Sit down. Stay quiet. Hide your art. Hide your knowledge. Hide your passion. No one can crap all over your dream if you don’t actually do anything to make it concrete. This extends past dreams to mere notions of “wouldn’t this be cool…” so we don’t dare do anything we’re not explicitly told to.

It sucks. And I’ve known this for as long as I can remember. I’m done with it.

I’ve had a great career thus far and I owe it entirely to my inability to shut my pie hole. I say the wrong things at the wrong times. I break rules and conventions when they don’t suit the mission and act as obstacles to our goals. I don’t do this recklessly, but do you realize how many rules exist because some idiot not following it could do real damage?

And failure has been a big part of it. I’ve screwed up royally for sure. Mostly, I’ve finished with far more success than not, and in failing, have cleared a new path of others who could benefit from my failure. It gets seen, it gets celebrated. “Whoops, I did something stupid guys – but this is why I did it.”

So speak up. Stand up. Be counted on. Be a part of whatever it is you’re already a part of instead of just dipping in your seat to avoid getting called on. Guess what? They know you’re there and they know you’ve got nothing to say. Isn’t that way worse than being thought stupid?

Prepare. Learn. Think. And sit up straight next time, lean forward and open that mouth god gave you. Your living doesn’t happen on the weekends or in a mountain – it happens wherever you are, everyday.

Worst case? They fire you for looking/thinking/saying something stupid. You move on, get a new gig, and you are in a better place for it. And most importantly you’ve learned something.

Your silence? No one wants that. Unless a movie is on. Then by all means shut up.

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“Be Confident”… why didn’t I think of that?

A friend recently posted a very nice Facebook update that read something akin to “Be Confident. Be Fierce. Be Rad.”

Confidence

Ok, she didn’t actually say “Be rad” but that would have been a nice touch.

As I was in an introspective place when I read it, I thought “Oh, why didn’t I think of that? I’m going to be confident today! Psssshhh.” As though confidence is a thing you decide to do vs. a thing you either are or aren’t. Try: “Be experienced today” and see how far you get. Confidence, like experience, is a thing that once obtained tends to become a part of you. Before you blow me up here, I know there are a myriad of exceptions and confidence can be lost – but just go with me on this one.

Working in Student Housing, one of the hardest things to do is to get College Student Leasing Specialists to be confident in the selling process. To most people, sales is a filthy, perverse word readily eliciting the image of a car salesman wearing tweed and twirling his waxed mustache, like some silent-film-era-villain, while he forces some damsel into purchasing a Jetta at 13.9% interest – with an extended warranty. Terrible things, no doubt.

So before I can tell them to “Ask for the sale! Close EVERY lease!” (read: Be Confident) and do my best Alec Baldwin impression from “Glenngary Glen Ross” I need to build their confidence. There are multiple ways of doing this but I have my favorites that tend to resonate with everyone.

Often I’ll ask them to tell me about their last big purchase. Inevitably this is a laptop. When I ask them how they decided which one to buy from the endless sea of choices they’ll inform me that they went into a Best Buy and told the person what they wanted and that person told them which was right for them. VOILA! SUCCESS! Could it really be that easy? 

You want confidence? Here it is: These people are coming to you because you are that person! You’re the expert! People buy things from people who they believe know more than them on the subject and have the solution to their problem! Your prospective Residents WANT YOU TO ASK THEM TO SIGN A LEASE! They may not consciously know it, but they want to be told. A guy doesn’t walk on the lot lest he wants to buy.

Alec Baldwin - "Second prize is a set of steak knives"

So true Alec. So true. 

Often, after this exchange, confidence levels soar as our Leasing people understand their role in a new light, and their own capabilities. The frame changes from, “can I ask someone to sign a $10k lease after 45 minutes of meeting them?” to “can I attempt to solve someone’s problem that is looking to me to do just that?”

p.s. 2nd prize is a set of steak knives. 

Instead of imploring someone to be “something”, can you help to actually make them “something”? Can you offer a quote, a perspective, a new way of looking at things that helps make them; confident, proud, assertive, aware, concerned, involved – or any other adjective?