Rarely am I the source of the value you see here. I am but a vessel for yours.
I certainly hope this notion isn’t conveyed with a tone of arrogance, but I would be lying if I expressed any element of surprise for the outcomes of last night’s meetup.
As expected—no doubt a result of poor planning and lack of promotion—the gathering prompted a small turnout and intimate conversation. I sincerely appreciate King M, Joey S, and Ian N. for sparking such meaningful dialogue and the foundation for today’s email.
As Joey jumped out of his Uber, he caught me arriving with Piper to claim my free parking.
Side note, I’m in serious need of a GoPro to film the experience of riding a motorcycle in Los Angeles traffic. It’s a bit like dropping acid… you’re not really going to understand until you do it. Not only is it a faster commute, but it’s far safer than most people think.
Joey and I walked in to meet King who had arrived early for dinner. The awkwardness seemed to melt away as instantaneously as the choice beef of King’s burger, which—after the emphasis of his description—I will undoubtedly be returning to experience. As we shared the colorful experiences and dashes of failure that amassed to create our pasts, something became clear and remained a topic of discussion throughout the evening.
The ability to make mention of multiple narratives establishes a curious authority.
Like the wrinkles on the face of a sage philosopher, the stories of our past foster an apt perception of our expertise (of which we often feel unworthy). Joey, both an entrepreneur and badass of business development has a bank account that’s now keeping pace with his experience and hustle. King on the other hand would say he’s “just getting started.”
Seeing the assessment process happening in Joey’s eyes, I prompted King to share the story of his past — something he’d outlined to me last week. In less than a minute, King told the story of how he manipulated the media—before it was cool—to build a multi-million dollar consumer packaged goods company. While that is exactly as impressive as it sounds, King had struggled (and still struggles) to take ownership for that brilliance as the title he held at the time was “intern” and he eventually separated from the company.
As I’ve told King before—and reiterate again today—ownership of the company is not tied to the ownership of the deeds that built it. He owns the experience, the final outcome is largely irrelevant. The surprise in Joey’s eyes was a reflection of the power within his story.
As the conversation progressed, King made a few attempts to downplay the importance of his deeds and I wouldn’t allow it. This evolved into a discussion of perceived authority versus internalized expertise. What was realized was as powerful as it was simplistic.
The more (intelligent) references you can make, the more authority you acquire.
While you acquire the authority, it’s notably challenging to internalize it as actual expertise because you “know the truth” about the outcomes. Thing is, these are usually irrelevant.
You don’t need experience in developing a million dollar e-commerce business to establish conversational authority on the topic. I shared a story about how I’d once “worked with” a chain of sex stores. Their company had been around for four decades and had an audience of raving fans which was extremely under-capitalized. The majority of their $7M in annual revenues were generated from newspaper ads (mind you this was in 2015).
The story’s color makes it a fun one to share as the conference calls at the beginning of relationship included this statement that still hangs vividly in my mind:
We’re ranking on the front page of Google for ‘dildos’ but we’ve slipped to the second page for more profitable terms like ‘vibrator’…
The fact that ‘dildos’ (yes, plural) is a commonly searched term was among the seemingly endless reasons I spent the majority of those calls on mute to mask my hysterical laughter.
Here’s the part of that story I don’t often tell. It’s not because I’m hiding something, but because it’s rarely relevant to the conversation. That client was the prospect of an agency within the partnership that brought me to Los Angeles, one that I’m no longer a part of. We had a difference of opinions for how our mutual owned ventures should be run and I opted to split before things got (more) messy. They ended up closing the client and the team still executed the strategy I’d outlined on the initial sales calls. Still friends with those that did the execution, I know how they built upon my outline and the key metrics of their success.
I didn’t acquire the client. The strategy I “created” was merely a construct of casual conversations in an attempt to sell the client our services, and I didn’t do the execution.
While I claim no ownership of their success in these initiatives, my ability to communicate this experience in an intellectual manner affords me conversational authority on topics like search engine optimization, e-commerce, conversion optimization… and sex toys.
You don’t need ownership of a positive outcome to develop authority.
The magic is in the story, not the subject matter. It’s the ability to think critically, analyze objectively, and share openly that effectively expresses expertise. When encapsulated in an entertaining story about sex toys, people aren’t aware you’re selling your authority. As we uncovered in our conversations, the person that’s often the most unaware is you.
As the night went continued, so too did this thread within our discussions. Diversity of one’s experience that is communicated through—honest and entertaining—stories establishes a (warranted) perception of expertise. Joey, King, Ian, and I shared the randomness of our experiences and the entertaining stories with which they originated. While none of us could reach in our pockets and produce the vibrant red key to our Ferrari as substantiation for the expertise our experience implied, we were clearly none-the-less skilled.
Everyday you leave the house, you gain experience in this thing called life.
It’s not what happens as a result that defines your expertise, but rather how you reflect and review. Introspection and contemplation will often garner an authority equivalent of results.
This doesn’t come to you magically, you create it within yourself. Thoughtful exploration and intellectual exercise—in any context—foster story that establishes authority. Why do you think I’m so in love with the notion of drunk ideas? The concepts may originate from intoxicated absurdity, but the intellectual investments made into researching their validity develops more than possibility… it develops your knowledge, skills, and experience.
When you don’t pursue ideas for logical reasons, it still communicates intelligence.
The conversational authority that this patchwork of experiences affords is often proceeded by new opportunities to exercise your skills. People (i.e. clients and employers) are drawn to those with an ability to think critically, act intentionally, and review objectively.
When was the last time you hashed out a concept purely for fun? What did you learn?
P.S. When I started, I wrote myself a note at the bottom of this email as a guide for how the stories and concepts would be interwoven. As I now proofread my work (still with Rich R. on mind), I’m happy to see that I’ve stayed within the bumpers that that rough guide provided. A few of you have asked how I write so I’ve left it in below. The (parenthesis) are notes added in after the fact to explain what I’d imagine only makes sense to me.
Story (setup and appreciation), Joey (assessment), prompting King (sharing his past), sex store (my story), opportunity (for creating this leverage), conclusion (prompt to readers).