Sunday, October 16, 2011

Don't Claim Your Own Awesomeness

No one likes a blowhard. That's not a revelation. It's well documented in the most published book in history:
Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men;  it is better for him to say to you, 'Come up here,' than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman.
Proverbs 25:6-7

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.
Proverbs 27:2

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 14:11
My business partner and I recently decided to use the "Co-Founder" title instead of "President" or "CEO." A lot of small companies use "C-level" titles but do they really need chiefs if they aren't yet leading a tribe? Some companies set up huge booths at conferences trying to appear bigger than they are. Others seem to expect more recognition than they receive. Don't get me started about the companies that do this and don't yet have any revenue, let alone profit.

We all seek recognition and significance, but what's the best way to go about it?

Don't pull a Ron Burgundy and expect people to know you're a "big deal." If you have to tell someone you're important, to them, you aren't yet. Let them figure it out on their own. They'll be super excited about the discovery. Same idea for retweeting compliments... a few here and there are fun for your friends to celebrate with you. If you overdo it, you come across as insecure.

As for your brand and your company, work your butt off to become known but do it with a phenomenal product and incredible customer service. Instead of expecting people to know who you are (and being disappointed to find out otherwise), see how good it feels to be pleasantly surprised. There have been numerous times over the last few years where I've been at a conference meeting new people and when I answer the "What do you do?" question, I get a super encouraging, "We love FoxyCart!" response.

Just yesterday, Brett and I were walking back to my car after BarCamp Nashville and someone in the parking lot stopped us as we walked up the stairs to say, "Do you guys work for FoxyCart?" (We were rocking our company t-shirts.) We got to meet and be encouraged by Chris from Site Mason. He had just parked and hadn't attended the conference we just sponsored. Brett and I felt like rock stars because we didn't have an expectation that our logo would be recognized by someone on the street.

In summary:
  1. Be humble.
  2. You're not Ron Burgundy. Don't try to convince someone you're a big deal.
  3. Given enough time (and excellent service), your brand will be known for its true value.
  4. Stay focused on serving others and improving your product, not on being recognized.
  5. Set your expectations to be regularly encouraged instead of frustrated. 
The tortoise always beats the hare. Take things slow and steady and by the time you're ready for the big stage, your character will (hopefully) have grown enough to handle it. To be clear: I don't have the answers. I struggle with pride, insecurity and man-pleasing, but I'm learning over time and as I do, I plan to share my thoughts here.

For more great posts on humility, check out Kenny Silva's blog:
How do you feel about humility, significance and building your brand? Please leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter or Google+ to start a conversation.


Joel Fortner said...

Great post! Not claiming our success or knowledge is so hard, but you're dead on here. I've actually given this some thought lately after noticing a few people doing this. It is so often insecurity speaking and you get the exact response you're going for.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Joel! I'm happy for your comment on multiple levels because I switched over to Disqus recently and wasn't sure if it was working correctly. :)

One of the reasons I like blogging this stuff is it helps remind me in moments I start to slip back into old patterns.

danblackonleadership said...

Humility is often overlooked but I think it is key to living an effective life. Great points here.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Dan! I really appreciate you stopping by and commenting. I wish more people thought about making life "effective" and on purpose.