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Flower Made of Sugar
Do you ever impress yourself? Maybe you should!
A question came up today while I was talking with my wife as she created a masterpiece before my eyes. I asked her “do you ever impress yourself?” The natural answer that most people will give is “No, that sounds too arrogant.” She was not too off the mark from the popular answer, but based on her level of mastery, it puzzled me. It made me think deeper about a conversation that has taken place between myself and many clients in their boardrooms.
I want to explain that my wife is indeed a master at the work she does. She has many years of experience as an artist, and she deserves all of the kudos she receives for her work. In the instance of my question to her today, it involved her work in our cakes and confections business. She was creating flowers from scratch. She took sugar and turned it into flowers. I do not mean flowers like the average iron worker or Internet geek would make from sugar. She was creating lifelike flowers with petals, pistols, stamen, sepal, and other parts that many of us do not even realize flowers have. They are really delicate … like a flower.
I had to ponder why she would ever feel like she was not doing something spectacular. I mean, how many people do you know who can make a flower petal from sugar? Can they put it together with a whole bunch of other sugar petals and all of those other hard to pronounce flower parts and make them look like a real flower, and then sell them to people for the cake served on their wedding day?
This got me to thinking about the many times I have witnessed clients from my standpoint in my field of marketing who just don’t have a good handle on their value proposition. Their fear is often not so unlike Peggy’s concerns that she would seem arrogant, cocky, conceited, too confident, or whatever strangely negative twist you can put on doing something amazing that other people can see so clearly.
I think a lot of people have felt a bit kneecapped by the fine line between confidence and the point where it is distasteful to others. In the case of Peggy, just like so many others, they draw back so far from that line that modesty comes to take away their hopes and dreams. Modesty, when taken too far, can be devastating in a marketing campaign. I see it all the time that out of some deep-seated sense of modesty, a company culture will make it seem nearly impossible to reflect the true quality of their product.
In the course of this lengthy inner conversation, I had to confront myself. I am a race car driver, and in racing, I have always felt a bit shy with the flattering things people say when I come off the track. I know that other drivers are trying very hard to drive fast, and I want them to feel great about themselves. I don’t want to be the jerk to take away their glory, so I kind of hunker away and forget how well I drive.
YourNew.com Racing Corvette Z06: Driver Mark Aaron Murnahan
Confidence Perceived and Confidence Worth Stealing
I am a wickedly badass search engine optimizer and marketer … I can let that fly freely here on my marketing blog. I can whip the best of them, and I can quantify it in real numbers. Yes, I can back it up! What is profound to me is how the things where we seek the greatest gain in life is where we feel the most doubt. I love my work as a search engine optimizer and marketing consultant, so don’t get me wrong. I have done it for many years, and earned a handsome living following that passion. However, in my inner thoughts, I still feel that my big accomplishment will come from racing cars. I feel a confidence by driving fast, just as much as I do in the business which makes me money. In fact, before I lost millions of dollars in contracts during 2009 (and most of my ass with them), I was planning to retire next year and create a racing school to follow my passion.
How Money Changes Perception
It seems confusing and downright wrong how business endeavors make people more self-conscious than something perceived as a hobby. Noting that I am considering driving as my ultimate business endeavor, it really only makes sense when you examine how our modern society will criticize you more by things they perceive will matter to you or benefit you. What I mean is that I can tell you I am a badass race car driver and you do not feel threatened, because I am not trying to sell you a ticket to my next race or recruit you to my racing school. Racing does not pay me at this point. It actually has a cost to me of about $250,000 per race season, and a scheduled squillion-bazillion dollars to open a race school if I am done with this wicked-badass marketing gig before I am 300 years old.
You have no perception of loss just because I am fast, and I can even tell you I am fast. I am not a bad guy for being fast. Now if I told you that I am a badass at something which pays me money and feeds my family, you will be far more likely to take me to the ropes and beat me until I beg for mercy. How screwy does that sound, really?
Passion + Profit = Critics
This has all forced me to question how the things we feel the most passionate about are the easiest things to become modest about, and it is magnified if we actually receive a perceived benefit. I love racing. If I had to put this in terms for the average race fan without showing my modesty, I am one of the fastest men around a track you will ever meet in your lifetime. I have driven at speeds you will never comprehend and pulled off split-second saves, just inches from disaster that would have killed 99.9999 percent of people behind that wheel when the brakes got weak at 170 miles per hour. Now, if I tell you I have done the same thing and it helped me to buy a bag of groceries to feed my kids, it is strangely easier to criticize. OK, leaving the groceries and the kids out, if I said it makes me money, I am just a bit more of a bad guy. Don’t deny it … you see what a bastard I am if I charge money for my talents compared to doing something equally as passionate, but doing it for free.
Now then, why should Peggy feel awkward to express confidence about work done exceptionally well? Why is it easier for you to accept confidence about her work when the message comes from me rather than from her? Why is it even more exciting and acceptable to enjoy her mastery if you are far outside of her market area and you know she cannot sell you a cake? By the way, cakes are very hard to ship!
Why should I be so modest about the fact that I can own, manage, and drive for a race team that can take a track record on the first visit to a track? Why should I be so modest about the fact that I wrote three really good books in just three months during 2009? One of them (”Living in the Storm“) was written as my ass was falling off in business, but I completed it because I sincerely believed it would benefit others. Why should I be modest about the fact that more people read my work each month than reside in the city of Topeka, Kansas, where I live? Why should I be modest about the fact that I can rank my clients at the top of search engines for things which 99.9999 percent of the world’s competitors cannot achieve?
Well, I suppose that our reasons are not so unlike yours. Sometimes we just have to accept the talents we have developed and stop downgrading ourselves with the fear of the few jealous antagonists who will call us wrong for it while our fans are still waving our checkered flag and reveling in our winning the race.
I asked a few questions here, but what I really want to know is what you propose to do to stop acting like a Mark or Peggy? Maybe I can help. If this is the case, I will admire you for being uncommonly able to see beyond the perception of somebody having to lose just because somebody else gains.
If you like what I have to say here, please share it with others, regardless of whether I gain or do not gain. Your sharing of this line of thought with others may make a difference in not only the bag of groceries I bring home for my kids, but perhaps it could really help somebody else to gain a better view of their marketplace as well. Besides, if it helps you feel better, the vast majority of people it can help cannot afford to hire my services … marketing, racing, or shipping a four tier wedding cake. Oh, and I did not even mention the cost to have me write a book, but if I mentioned buying one for ten bucks, it would be even easier to see me as a bad guy. You see, that sounds kind of silly to not recognize your own contributions, right?
I don't just write about marketing - I do it professionally, and I'm delighted to help. If you like what you found here, take a moment and get to know me. I welcome you to contact me here, or on any of my favorite social networks.