This is an old article I wrote back in 2009, but hopefully it’s still relevant in 2020:
Today I’m going to ask you to put yourself in the position of someone that needs to hire someone to do whatever it is you do. Completely imagine that you are this person. For instance, I design software systems, and I usually sell my services to other IT people, so I’ll put myself in the shoes of an IT Manager, or a Project Manager who needs an architect like myself.
Putting myself in their shoes, I have a good feel for all the technical skills I think an architect needs. After a lot of legwork, I finally finish interviews with two different people, and their technical skill sets are so good and so close I can’t tell the difference between them — they’re technical twins!
Yes, they are technical twins, but they’re not emotional twins. In fact, there are some major differences:
- Person A seems tired, disorganized, keeps taking a deep sigh every time I start to ask another question, and they seem to have the attention span of a gnat.
- Person B, who seems enthusiastic, interested in my problems, organized, and a real problem-solver?
Hopefully you’ll agree that all things being equal, Person B is the one you would hire.
Look at yourself
Your next task is to take an honest look at yourself, and ask, "How do I come across to other people? Am I more like Person A, or Person B?"
Don’t lie to yourself — be honest here. You don’t have to be perfect. Nobody is perfect all the time. Heck, if we were, life would be really boring, wouldn’t it? But if you tend to be a lot more like Person A than Person B, this could be a big reason why you’re not landing the big accounts.
It may be that you’re a very nervous person, and you’re letting your nervousness get the best of you, and so you come across as Person A. Or, it could be that you don’t like your job, or you’re burned out, and you need some time off, or a serious change of scenery. In any case, if you’re coming across as Person A, I think you can understand why people aren’t hiring you.
How I raised myself from failure to success
Now, assuming that you don’t really hate what you do for a living, and you’re not burned out, I highly recommend reading the book "How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling", by Frank Bettger. I have a 1949 version of this book (wow, 60 years old!), which I was fortunate enough to receive from my wife’s grandfather. Although the book is mostly about selling, it’s also about human nature, and how to change your own nature for the better — and the first chapter on enthusiasm is worth the price of the book many, many times over.
In that chapter Mr. Bettger writes about being nervous, and how that nervousness used to hold him back, until he learned to channel it into enthusiasm. I had the exact same problem, and that first chapter was a life-changer for me. I just re-read it now, and it still gets me fired up.
In another important chapter on life, Mr. Bettger writes about Benjamin Franklin, and the struggles Mr. Franklin had with his own caustic personality, and the steps he went through to become much less abrasive, eventually becoming the great statesman he’s known for being today. Just like the first chapter, this chapter is again well worth the price of admission.
A little card in my wallet
Until re-reading that chapter just now, I had forgotten that for years I walked around with a simple little card in my wallet, a card that I made myself, in part based on this book by Mr. Bettger. On that card I wrote one little statement:
I will be the most positive and enthusiastic person I meet today.
Several times a day, especially when things were at their worst, I’d pull that card out and read it to myself over and over again. Let me put it all out here: I attribute hundreds of thousands of dollars of my own personal income to Mr. Bettger’s book, and to this card I created. With this book and with this card, I changed my mind (my way of thinking), my approach to business, and my approach to other people.
The 80% rule
I don’t know the exact numbers, but I think it’s correct to say that 80% of people are either fired, or not hired, because of non-technical reasons. When I say "non-technical", I’m being polite. What that really means is "because of personality issues."
I won’t go into any personal stories that I had with employees, but I have to agree with this statement. I can’t think of any employee I ever fired strictly for technical reasons. Actually, if you count "inability to finish a project" as an emotional problem and not a technical problem, I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever fired for purely technical reasons.
I’m not here to try to solve every personality issue in the world. Shoot, I don’t even want to. I love the music of Guns N’ Roses, and you probably won’t associate them with "positive and enthusiastic". But I’m also not interested in buying their consulting services — and I definitely wouldn’t want to live anywhere near them.
But what I am here to point out is that if you want a job as a high-paid consultant, you need to work through whatever issues you have, and you need to be a positive, enthusiastic, problem-solver.
In closing, I highly recommend that you work your butt off to cultivate the following personality traits:
- Be an honest person, with others, and with yourself.
- Be the most enthusiastic person you know.
- Be a positive, can-do, problem-solver personality type.
- Be the hardest worker you know.
If you’ll strive for just those traits alone, I believe you’ll find your income will go through the roof, just as mine did.