It seems that every time I look in a newspaper I see a photo of some head of state taking a selfie with a group of people. In olden times – before the word “selfie” came into vogue – you would just ask a bystander to snap a photo of you. It was a simple request that was rarely refused. In fact, the photo taker was usually happy to do it, smiled when you asked him, and you smiled back and thanked him. It was a very minor social transaction, but at least it was social.
The prevalence of social media is throwing many social interactions under the bus. However, I don’t really believe it is a consequence of unsocial media that causes people to forgo asking someone to take a photo for them.
Even in the age of the selfie you can ask someone to take a photo for you. You don’t have to do it yourself. However, people want to take a selfie just because the word “selfie” exists. It is more than a word; it is a phenomenon. There is even a song about it. You can also buy a rod to attach to your phone, attach your phone to the rod, extend it away from you, take the photo, and then disconnect your phone from the rod. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ask someone to take the photo for you? Of course it would! Isn’t someone always available and willing to assist? Absolutely! So why do it yourself? Because it’s a selfie!
This is a bizarre example of the “name the game” principle. If you name the game, you own it. I say bizarre because we probably don’t know who coined the term selfie, but since the game has been named, game on!
There are plenty of examples where the namer of the game is known, and reaps the rewards of naming the game. When Alvin Toffler coined the term “Future Shock,” he became the undisputed expert on all things shockingly futuristic. He did it again with “The Third Wave.”
You don’t have to actually name the game, so long as people think you did, or associate your name with the game. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a bestseller called The Tipping Point, which essentially gave new life to the older concept of critical mass. Gladwell did not actually come up with the phrase tipping point, he just saw it laying around unused, picked it up, and took it home. Finders keepers. But everyone just knows he is Mr. Tipping Point, and he gets paid big bucks to address audiences on the tipping point phenomenon.
Perhaps you can come up with the next hot phrase. It could make you rich.
I grew up in Miami, which bills itself as “The Magic City.” Neighboring Coral Gables proclaims itself “The City Beautiful.” Adjoining that is South Miami, whose motto is “The City of Pleasant Living.” This has me a bit puzzled. Pleasant living? Come on, is that the best you can do?
You can imagine a string of other towns of modest ambition:
Bakersville: A darn nice place to live.
Jonesville: An OK place to live.
Smithsville: Not the worst place you could be.
Clarksville: We’ve got the last train!
Butlersville: Now with electricity and plumbing!
There are two schools of thought when it comes to self promotion:
- You have to toot your own horn because no one will do it for you.
- If you have to toot your own horn it’s because no one else thinks it’s worth tooting.
As you have probably guessed, the ideal is somewhere in between. You have to present yourself at your best without overpromoting and sounding boorish. If you feel too humble, modest, or self-conscious to blast your horn at top volume, you can shine a light on what you make or do and let it reflect positively on you.
Steve Jobs always spoke glowingly of his products at Apple. He used superlatives such as revolutionary, amazing, breakthrough, and so on. We got the idea that he was making great stuff. And that he was a genius.
Jobs’ potential heir to the throne in the kingdom of innovative technology is Elon Musk, the driving force behind Tesla Motors, Solar City, and SpaceX. The technology he is creating will have a tremendous impact on the world. But you wouldn’t know it from listening to him. When introducing Tesla’s new Model X SUV (which you can see on Youtube) he used these words:
“something I think pretty special”
“there’s no other car like this”
“this is a product you’re gonna love”
and his closing line: “Alright, so, the Model X….”
At one point he even said “a little unwieldy.” With that kind of lukewarm self-endorsement he might as well live in Jonesville. Or Chernobyl – motto: We’ll be radiation-free in only 80 million years.
Maybe Musk is not yet comfortable in his role as world changing dynamo. Maybe he tries too hard to appear humble. He should watch some Steve Jobs videos and learn how to sell great stuff.
You also have some great stuff to sell. Don’t be so modest. Talk about the great stuff you do, and people will think great things about you.