Staking A False Claim

One of the worst pieces of advice I hear floating around the online business world is, “Stake your claim.”  This is where someone basically decides to give themselves an illustrious title that means nothing and can’t be verified.  The notion is predicated on the idea that if you keep saying it enough, other people will repeat it and some people will believe it, so, therefore, it becomes true.

Rubbish.  Not true.

I got an email today where someone said they are referred to by others as the “World’s Greatest” expert in their field.  I’ve never heard this person referred to by anyone as anything, never mind an expert in this area let alone the “World’s Greatest”.  This is a case of enough people telling this individual to “stake his claim” and he believed them.  Worse, he did it badly and came off looking like a dumb ass.

If your mom and your spouse refer to you as the greatest in the world at something, that doesn’t count.  If it did, I’d be the “World’s Greatest” at some things that I’d be pretty proud of and in fact, I’d probably have t-shirts made and hand them out to strangers in the middle of Sydney.

It’s like those people who post those pictures of themselves with “As seen on…” and a whole bunch of television outlets.  They’ve merely bought a press release that got auto-posted to a website belonging to the Fox affiliate in Chattanooga, they weren’t on Fox News.  Unless Bill O’Reilly interviewed you while Sean Hannity rode around the studio on Neil Cavuto’s back during your segment AND you have the video to prove it, don’t say you appeared on Fox News when you really haven’t.

Come to think of it, you may not ever want to say you’ve appeared on Fox News, even if you had, but that’s a different story.

Onwards and upwards…

I think humility is important.  It’s not sexy from a marketing perspective and being humble probably means you miss out on some opportunities.  On the other hand, you don’t look like the lead paddler of the douche canoe, so I think that’s a pretty good trade.

Being a legend in your own mind is actually really dangerous.  I see people running around all the time telling people how awesome they are and in the background, they’re quietly asking for help from people to teach them how to walk and chew gum at the same time.  The problem it causes is that you end up behaving in a way to fuel your own ego which inevitably will lead to poor decisions.

You exacerbate that problem when you tell everyone else how awesome you are because then you have to live up to that billing.  Instead of making smart decisions, you make showy decisions designed to draw more attention to yourself.  This just throws the spotlight on your own stupidity.

Being an attention whore is one of those things in life that seems good at the time while you’re basking in the warm glow of the spotlight, but what you’re really doing is placing a large target on your own back.  Everyone wants to tear down the Kardashians because they’re talentless attention seekers that bask in the spotlight too much.

Don’t be a Kardashian.

I prefer to be a good human being and do my own thing without having to give myself some grandiose title.  Call me crazy, but I value doing good work and being a decent human being above being “internet famous” for something that I made up about myself.

When other people begin to refer to you by a moniker of respect and admiration, that’s worth so much more.  I’ll give you a couple of examples from copywriting circles.  John Carlton is universally referred to as a “legend” of direct response copywriting and Gary Bencivenga is often called the “World’s Greatest Living Copywriter”.  Do you think either of these two gentlemen needed to “stake their claim” to those titles?  Of course not and as a result, they carry more weight.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I think you should earn things in life.  Promotions, success and accolades from your peers and colleagues, those are things you earn, not things you claim.  And when you earn them, they mean more not just to you, but to other people.

So ignore this nonsense people tell you that it’s “good positioning” to anoint yourself as something in your field to give yourself extra gravitas.  If you want to be known in your industry, do something valuable that’s worthy of people talking about with respect.

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