Day 47: How I learned to stopping worrying and love the art of selling

As an evangelist, I’m constantly selling… by not selling. I usually average 2–3 events per weeks and at least once major event such as a conference or summit. I’m constantly handing out business cards, shaking hands, giving high-fives, and following up with anyone I meet whenever possible.

This is all a far cry from the person I used to be. Both outside of my morals and my comfort zone, I felt disdain towards people who had to “sell out,” “hustle,” or “play the game.” I wanted to pursue a life dedicated to things that would sell themselves, or where the value is self-evident.

I thought sales and marketing were two sides of the same bullshit-covered coin.

I felt the zenith of this sentiment in graduate school, where I trained to find room left of Karl Marx and felt taller than others because I just happened to have read the latest interpretation of some French post-structural critical theorist. “Don’t sell,” I thought to myself, “for ‘the truth’ will set you free.”

Then grant season came along, and I fell flat on my ass. Some close calls here and there, but nobody wanted to support my research.

Why? I didn’t know how to sell it.

In truth, what is selling? I found this video in particular to be helpful, and in many circles, it’s now considered a classic.

Main takeaway: people aren’t compelled by what you do or how you do it, they really care about why you do it. I remember someone gave me feedback on my research proposal and said that “he doesn’t seem really interested in this project.” I was devastated— of course I was interested in my project!

Or was I? Sure, I liked hanging out with the communities I wanted to study and traveling the world, but I didn’t really enjoy the academic rigor. The “dream” of writing articles and books didn’t appeal to me as much as other aspects of graduate school, especially teaching. (Aren’t academics supposed to … hate teaching?)

If I learned anything, it’s that I’m very passionate about education to the point that it’s self-evident to me. I’ve dedicated my life to working creatively and passionately towards improving education, lowering barriers of access and sharing my knowledge as much as possible.

That’s what keeps me going at places like Galvanize and previous education-themed companies I’ve worked at. Work gets tough, and your convictions will be tested. As long as you remember why you’re doing this, whether it’s your passion for the work, the support of people you love, or for some other inspiring motivating factor, you’ll persevere.

If I’ve convinced you of that much, then you’re already sold.

— Lee

Shameless plug: To add, I’m helping organize the Cognitive Builder Faire Seattle on March 24–26 at — where else — Galvanize. We’re working with IBM to provide engaging talks and product overviews for the general data science public, and we’re putting together quite a show for everyone to learn by building.

Tickets are $250, but if you use code ‘GalvanizeVIP’ before 3/3, you’ll get in for free. Yes, FREE (limited to the first 150).

Visit this link for more information: bit.ly/cbfseattlespring2017