The well dressed man in the BMW with his swagger, new shoes, the money clip full of bills and the nonchalant comment that anything is obtainable.
The pretty girl with her long flowing hair, new designer handbag, casual elegance and a pace that suggests she has all the time in the world.
It’s easy to be lured into the image of others and base our self worth on that – it’s what you call evaluating your interior by someone else’s exterior. The lustrous image of what we ‘see’ when really it’s more about what they want us to see or what we want to see. Otherwise known as perception.
Having spent years in advertising, marketing, product design, sales and so on, I learned to become very good at understanding people and then pitching the right dream. It’s about telling the story the listener wants to hear and relying on their ‘listening’ (aka what they’re looking for) to deliver the conversion/punchline/result.
I didn’t mean to become adept at this skill but I just did and how ever many years on I developed an overwhelming sense to put this to good use rather than to flog more product to unsuspecting consumers.
When you think about it, the marketing and advertising messages all around us communicate one major point – you’re inadequate. From not having the latest gizmo to the desire to be more like ‘that guy’ or to even just ‘keep up with the times’, we are faced with a constant barrage of evidence to suggest that unless we follow suit, we’re going to not only be excluded from society but we’re without. We’re less of a person for it.
As a side point for my friends, I know that my unashamed Apple allegiance is a result of this marketing and well what can I say, perhaps I need to go to iRehab!
So on the surface it all seems quite benign. I mean you spend money, you make money, you buy some stuff and life seems somewhat normal. Sure you rack up some debt but then you pay it off and hooray you have an iPad2 and life seems good.
But it wasn’t until recently that I started to think about the deeper social issues that this type of ‘inadequacy marketing’ does to our entrepreneurial spirit, our ability to take risks and more to the point, our self confidence and self worth.
It creates doubt, fear, insecurity and reluctance to go out on a limb away from the crowd. It also creates fear of change because ‘kinda working’ feels safer than ‘stop, risk losing what you have and find a way to make it work well’.
Every day I’ve met wonderful and inspiring people. Yet many (not all) of them lack the confidence or knowledge to actually be more than average achievers. And I’m not just talking about careers – I’m referring to relationships, health/fitness, arts, education and beyond.
Sure they talk big but when it comes to execution they try hard but fail often at times not always due to inability, but due to confidence and security issues. I know because I was also one of them not too long ago. Whether it’s asking out a beautiful girl, performing in public or perhaps it’s just taking off your shirt at the beach, we all have our things that we prefer to ‘avoid’ due to confidence issues, even if our core ability is already there.
I’m curious as to whether this inadequacy marketing that teaches us to doubt ourselves and feel less-than-perfect had something to do with this. I know so many brilliant people with bucket loads of potential who are likely to end up doing nothing with their lives, forever too afraid to take the plunge because of what someone else thinks they should do or for the fear of failing and feeling even more inadequate. After all, who will want them if they’re broke or they fail? That’s not what the magazines show as success.
It saddens me beyond belief so I decided to start being the difference rather than being another muppet just suggesting one. It’s a slow start but it’s about genuinely helping people read and tell a better story. A story that is their own and free of the bounds of inadequate marketing.
It starts with evidence, validation and enabling. Three major components (but not all) to taking someone from one track of thought to another. Converting them from A to B or keeping them on A and forever preventing B from occurring.
It’s about recognising what their motivations and concerns are and ascertaining whether they are personal, social, political or environmental perceptions. By working to understand where these beliefs have originated and how they’re being validated, you then have a clearer idea of why their thinking is the way that it is and how to create and find relatable stories/evidence to validate or change their thinking. And don’t be surprised if you also learn a lot about your own perceptions in the process!
Sounds deep? Try this for me. This weekend take the time to catch yourself passing judgement (good and bad) of others and yourself. Write down that judgement exactly as you heard your brain say it and then question why you have that perception and if it’s really what you truly believe or if it’s your fear/inadequacy talking?
We all want ‘happiness’ as subjective as that may be. For some it’s found in a BMW, some it’s found in a bottle and others it’s found in creating things. To really be a best friend and mentor and to help others overcome the fear of inadequacy, you first have to understand and embrace the power of perception and see it as a tool of change not a weapon of fear.