If you have to talk about your success, then you aren’t actually successful.

If You Have to Talk About Your “Success,” Then You Aren’t Actually Successful

These days, there is no shortage of people talking about what they’re doing and how successful they are. You see it all over social media:

  • Gurus.
  • Experts.
  • Growth hackers.

It’s a little overwhelming, isn’t it? But are these people as awesome as they claim?

In college, I had a friend named Seth who was the smartest guy I ever knew. We had the same major, so we shared a lot of the same classes. The difference between the two of us, though, was that I was always running my mouth and he never said a word.

I thought I knew the answers, so I would share them. Seth would just listen. Then, every once in a while, he’d say something that blew everyone’s mind, including the professor’s. It didn’t happen very often, but when it did, we all were amazed.
 I think we would be better off if the world was filled with more people like Seth.

The Inverse Relationship Between Talking and Doing

I have a theory about this.

There seems to be an inverse relationship between how much a person talks about what they’re doing and how much they’re actually doing it. So my conclusion is this:

The more you see a person talking about something, the less they are probably doing it.
How does this work?

Well, talking takes time. It requires mental bandwidth. When you’re talking, you’re not thinking. And if you’re talking, you’re trying to get recognition. Which is not necessarily the same as doing things worth noticing.
What exactly are these talkers talking about? Mostly, themselves. What their business is doing. How great their family is. And why you should be doing what they do. They love dishing out advice.

The most successful people I know, though, are practically silent on social media. If they’re talking, they’re not bragging about what they’re doing. They’re too busy taking action. Helping people. Creating something.

Building a reputation.

Reputations Versus Resumes

When people used to ask serial entrepreneur John Saddington for his contact information, he would give them a business card with a picture of a Google search field with his name in it.

That’s it. No phone number. No email. Just a picture of Google.

If you know how to use Google, you can find him. And if you don’t, then he doesn’t want to connect with you. I can relate.

I don’t have a business card. What’s the point? If someone wants to know who I am or what I do, they can find out pretty easily. And if they aren’t that resourceful, then a business card isn’t going to help them.

That’s why I have a website and why I’ve spent the past six years writing over 1000 articles on that website. Instead of handing out business cards, I’d rather build a body of work that makes it easy for the right people to find me.

Let’s talk about resumes for a minute.

I haven’t updated that dusty old document in years. A much better use of my time is spent building a reputation and portfolio of work. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Today, resumes are practically irrelevant. The best jobs are not found via a well-manicured resume. They’re found by you doing important work, then letting people talk about it.

It’s better build a reputation than a resume.

As a full-time writer and teacher, I often hear people say that they don’t want to promote themselves. “I just want to write,” they say.

I totally get that.

Without question, the best kind of promotion is the kind other people do for you. What’s more convincing? When a person tells you how awesome they are? Or when someone else tells you?

If you spend your time doing things worth taking about instead of talking about what you’re doing, you won’t have to worry about how you market yourself. You won’t have to self-promote.

Other people will do it for you.

Lead with Experience, Not Expertise

Which brings me back to Seth.

Today, I’m telling you about the smartest guy I ever knew. He doesn’t need to speak for himself because he has countless others doing it for him. Rather than trying to look and sound great, he spent his time listening, thinking, and focusing on the work.

This is something we can all do better.

The people with the most experience lead with experience, not expertise. But those with the least experience tend to lead with expertise.

Why is this?

Because those who lack experience rely on advice and oversimplified to-do lists that make them seem more experienced than they are. They’re trying to pass themselves off as experts.
Whenever I’ve attempted this, it has almost always blown up in my face. You can’t replace experience with vague expertise. It doesn’t work that way.

Experience creates expertise. And no amount of talking can replace the difficult task of doing.

You can’t argue with experience. If you consider yourself an expert, trying your experience instead of convincing us you’re the expert. Results speak for themselves.

As does your body of work and the reputation you’ve built in the process.


So, in summary, here’s what I’m trying to say:

Stop talking about how awesome you are, how cool your thing is, how great your life is. And just get to work.

Don’t waste your time talking about the work. Do the work. Spend your time learning, listening, waiting, and doing things worth talking about.

Help people whenever you can, as often as you can. And if you do this, you won’t have to worry about self-promotion. Other people will do the talking for you.

At times when you feel frustrated or forgotten, realize this is the slower path to success, but it’s a longer-lasting one, as well. Those who rush to the finish line don’t always look pretty doing so.

Instead, take your time. Build a body of work worth talking about. Sure, there will be days when you don’t get the attention your work deserves. But if you stay the course, if you focus on quality over time, people will notice.

And if you jump from one thing to the next without much thought, if you run your mouth even when you don’t have anything to say, that kind of thing gets talked about, too.

Just not in the way you would want.

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