Positive Paranoia: Is it possible that some things you believe about yourself may not be true?

As a professional speaker I was in the airport the other day getting ready to fly to Las Vegas. (I’m there more than Cher.) I was relaxing at the President’s Club, eating cheap cheese and old fruit with all my elite-status, high-mileage brethren. The gentleman who sat down beside me wore a baseball cap that read “NYC Police.” He proceeded to tell me he was an undercover cop, so I had to ask, “Then you only wear this hat on your days off?”

I think a great number of people have no idea how they appear to others. You could fill a large psychiatry office with all the books that have been written about how we perceive ourselves. But few books have any real impact in the area of how we are viewed by others. Taking a look at how others see us is not an easy thing to do. However, if we want to have enough personal influence to make all the communication skills and brilliant ideas we have succeed, willingness needs to raise its ugly head. For example, if you sit down to put on your rollerblades and your spouse calls out “Honey, please be careful,” it means you do not skate well! If people look at your artwork and say things like “Wow, you sure used a lot of paint!” or “This would look awesome in the garage,” it means you don’t have any talent.

Getting honest about who you really are to others is crucial to success. It’s a practice common among top businesspeople. In our 10-year survey of 5,000 top professionals, Wynn Solutions found that the most successful – the top 1% – had a realistic view of how others perceived them. This dose of realism serves them well because they can influence others only as far as those others will allow. So if the great self-portrait I’ve painted in my mind far exceeds the exhibit I’ve put on display to the public, I’ll struggle to convince anyone of my genius.

Believing in yourself is great, but you need others also to believe in you if you hope to motivate or lead people in the direction you want. It’s good to have confidence, and certainly self-esteem is important … but if I believed I was OK regardless of society’s opinions, I would be at the grocery store in my underwear.

We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that something’s true if we just believe strongly enough. I believe the speed limit on toll roads should be 100 mph. That’s slower than the no-speed-limit autobahn, so it seems fair to me. But the cop who pulled me over last week believed I should go to jail. So what I believe is often not only irrelevant; it’s illegal!

Is it possible that some things you believe about yourself may not be true? Can you ask a very close, give-it-to-you-straight friend how you come across to others? This may sound to some like an invitation to developing a slight case of paranoia. But spending your life obliviously unaware of what is preventing you from being seen as valuable is much worse. Being worried about not being OK makes you human and relevant. Showing up to the big board meeting in an ’80s dress with shoulder pads could make you (literally) history – especially if you are a man!

17 Responses to Positive Paranoia: Is it possible that some things you believe about yourself may not be true?

  1. Garrison, I learned so much, not just for your blog post which was great but from your blog page and all that you have on it. I’m such a babe at all this after having been off the circuit for years. So I’m grateful to see another NSA’er having so much together here. Thanks for being out here leading the way!


  2. Roz Bennetts says:

    Love this article. This whole area is something that is very close to my heart (when you read this please can you let me know if it’s ok to republish on my blog? (Roz Bennetts – about.me). My blog is about public speaking, sales and anything that I find interesting.

    One of my favourite quotes is this one: “Whether he likes it or not, a man’s character is stripped at the poker table; if the other players read him better than he does, he has only himself to blame. Unless he is both able and prepared to see himself as others do, flaws and all, he will be a loser in cards, as in life.” Anthony Holden

    Whilst that quote is for poker players I do feel that it applies equally well to life in general and kind of makes the point you were making that you have to see yourself as others do in order to get along.

    You ask: “Is it possible that some things you believe about yourself may not be true? Can you ask a very close, give-it-to-you-straight friend how you come across to others?”

    I too sometimes wonder, (as you apparently have) how to get someone to tell you how you come accross. Asking a friend is one way but I’m always struck by the fact that as a friend I’d be extremely reluctant to point out the flaws in one of my friends’ character even if invited and even if it was ‘good’ for them. I don’t suppose there’s any best way. Perhaps if we look at the results we create (or feedback we get) then we get an idea: did I make the sale? Did the audience like my speech? Did I communicate my complaint to the supplier constructively? Do people like having me around?

    Honestly with oneself is one of the hardest things to cultivate, particularly when we screw up. Being able to apologise and mean it, being able to see the other guys point of view, being able to climb down in an argument are all things that we struggle with from time to time.

  3. Mark Viola says:

    Yeah, I have to admit, when I started internet marketing I was really scared to tell people I did it because I would feel that they would think less of me for some reason. But now that I have I get a lot of support from these people in my life and it’s REALLY uplifting to have friends and family that I can talk to about this, opposed to just the internet world.

  4. Brenda says:

    OK, the hat is very funny. This is a topic to really think about. Much easier to judge others than yourself. Business, no matter which one you are in, is all about perception. If you aren’t perceived in the correct way, your message will never get out.

  5. Music Blog says:

    Being up front and realistic on who you are and remember that just because you think you are someone doesn’t mean other people do too. Great article, that music to my ears.

    J Note

    Music Blog – Note Noted

  6. So what would be your step two if the people you ask for feedback shrug their shoulders or look at you blankly?

    I’ve recorded myself speaking before, and done some webcam work to understand how I come across in certain situations, but those are very limited opportunities for feedback.Have you discovered a way to get this valuable insight when those around you are less than helpful?

  7. Liz says:

    It’s like marketing – you want to be true to the facts, but present it in an effective manner. Easy to get lost in translation – even when dealing with ourselves!

  8. Hey Garrison, just read your book and stopping by to say great job. I learned a lot!


  9. It is true that believing in yourself is one thing but getting others to believe in you is totally another. If the people your are supposed to leading you don’t believe you can do the job, then you have lost them even before you start.

  10. Ever since I can remember, I’ve worn shorts pretty much year-round. Granted, I work from home as an editor and proofreader so this isn’t a big deal, but in college it drove people crazy. And at the grocery store these days, too.

    Do I care about what people think of me wearing shorts? No. Do they take me seriously? In all likelihood, no. As you imply, I probably won’t be influencing these people tomorrow or a year from now.

    Basically what I’m saying is that we need to pick our battles. If you’re interacting with people all the time, you need to take note of social norms; this is probably one of the most important concerns you have. If you’re like me, however, as long as you don’t arbitrarily move editing and proofreading deadlines just because you feel like it, you’ll be doing OK with your customers.

    So like you say, we all need to be honest with ourselves and try to see ourselves as others see us, and then decide whether we agree, how it may be positively or negatively affecting us, and whether we care enough to do something about it.

  11. jasoncruz52 says:

    Hi Garrison Wynn,
    I am writing just to introduce myself. My name is Jason, and I have a blog related to memory improvement.The URL is http://www.nutsaboutmemory.blogspot.com.
    I found your content very interesting, and I will
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  12. Inever listen about positive paranoia this is the first

  13. It’s interesting that your statements so different than other spakers had ever told me that, “if you believe, you can do that.”

  14. very true. You must be realistic on every part of your life because you think you are someone doesn’t mean other people do too.

  15. Steve Gaye says:

    You are a very good speaker, Mr Wynn. I enjoyed your last book as well.

  16. HI,
    Thank you for sharing the great article for us.You must be realistic on who you are and remember, that just because you think you are someone, doesn’t mean other people do too.

  17. newway says:

    very true. You must be realistic on every part of your life because you think you are someone doesn’t mean other people do too.

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