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!