Is this man the next Elon Musk? You be the judge!
Here’s the beginning of a pitch his publicist sent me:
The pitch goes on from there, but I will answer your most pressing questions now.
Is this person a billionaire? No.
Have they captured the world’s imagination? No.
Are they the next Elon Musk? Anything’s possible, but… probably not.
So why am I sharing this with you? Because you might be doing something very similar to this email, and you don’t even realize it.
This isn’t just a matter of pitching media. We all make a version of this mistake when we apply for jobs, seek personal or professional partners, or do just about anything that involves us telling our story.
The mistake is this: We focus more on what we might do instead of what we actually do.
That’s why I am here to deflate your story.
I am 5’7. If you met me in person, you probably wouldn’t think much about that.
But imagine that I told you I was a giant man. Then, when you met me, you’d think: This guy is really short.
That’s the problem with story inflation. Instead of seeing you as large, people see you as small in comparison to the story you told.
I get it: The world is busy and noisy and we’re trying to grab attention. So what do we do? Exaggerate. Hype. We say what we plan to do, or what we could do — that we’ll disrupt this and revolutionize that! We figure that, sure, maybe we’re over-inflating a bit, but that won’t matter once people start noticing us.
But by the time we get their attention, we’ve set the wrong expectations. We’ve also put ourselves into the wrong mindset. Because when we tell an inflated story, we focus less on showing our real value.
I’ll give you an example of that — this time from someone who applied for a job with me.
First, some background.
I’ve heard from a lot of interested writers. I was clear with them all: I am only considering people who have worked on shows like the one I make. Why? Because it’s a very particular kind of project and I’m stretched thin, so I need someone who can hit the ground running.
Most applicants didn’t have the experience I was looking for, and they totally understood that. Best of luck, they told me. But one writer pushed back. At first, this person just sent me a few links to their work, none of which showcased what I was looking for. When I said so, the applicant wrote:
I said thank you, but that I’m focused on candidates who have more experience. The writer replied:
Maybe they could! And frankly, I might have been convinced! I have often set out to hire someone with a particular level of experience, but was then wowed by someone with less experience who had the right sensibilities, and those been some of the best hires I’ve ever made.
But here’s the thing: In all those instances, the applicants really showed me how much of a match they are. They went out of their way, producing brilliant ideas and displaying a keen understanding of the work. They didn’t promise anything in the future; they executed greatness in the present.
Meanwhile, this writer made no effort to show me what they’re capable of, or that they understood the project. All they did is tell me they could do it, and expected me to take their word for it.
That’s story inflation. They told me a big tale, rather than showing me their actual abilities.
Here’s the point of all this:
Every day, in some way, you are called upon to tell your story. I urge you to tell the true one. Show someone who you really are, and the unique value that you have, and the way that you stand out, and how there’s nothing hypothetical about you.
At that point, it’s not a story at all. It’s just true.
And great truth needs no hyping.