What’s in a Name?

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:

  1. You have to toot your own horn because no one will do it for you.
  2. 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.


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