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The myth of shameless self-promotion

Posted in the following categories: Personal Development

I get notified of online reviews of my book Think Like a Rocket Scientist. In one of them, the reviewer wrote “Despite the shameless self-promotion, the insights from the book still made this one of the best nonfiction books of 2020 that I’ve read.”

By “shameless self-promotion,” the reviewer refers to a link I included at the end of each chapter that directs readers to my website to download a free workbook with worksheets, challenges, and other exercises to implement the strategies discussed in the book.

I never got the concept of “shameless self-promotion.” The phrase presumes that self-promotion is normally shameful. And that if you’re promoting yourself—if you’re putting your ideas and your work into the world—you must be shameless.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t promote yourself, no one else will.

Life isn’t Field of Dreams, and you’re not Kevin Costner. If you build it, and do nothing to promote it, no one will come. You’ll just be a weirdo who built a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa.

This doesn’t mean you spam people or take advantage of them. It means you promote with kindness. It means you promote with respect. It means you promote to people who’ve given you permission—who’ve raised their hands and said, “Yes, I want the thing.”

Your job as a writer isn’t done when the book is written. As strange as it sounds, you have to write more words and speak more words to describe the words you just wrote.

If you don’t do that, the readers won’t come.

If you don’t promote your product or your service, the customers won’t come.

If you don’t promote yourself, the job offers won’t come.

The days of submitting a job application, sitting back, and waiting for the phone to ring are largely over. Unless you’re proactive about standing out from the crowd, your resume will get lost in an enormous pile of exceedingly qualified applicants.

Self-promotion is not an act of shame. It’s an act of courage. To promote yourself is to be vulnerable. It’s to say “Here, I made this. Will you take a look?” and risk the possibility of mass rejection in response.

The alternative to self-promotion is to hide.

It’s to come up with ideas and not execute on them.

It’s to write poems and not share them.

It’s to create things and hoard them.

It’s time to take the shame out of self-promotion.

If there’s any shame, it’s in not promoting something that can benefit others and enrich their lives.

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