Before becoming a Creative Director at Mudd Advertising, I was an actor for more than 20 years. My career included Saturday Night Live, where I worked with an emerging superstar named “Eddie Murphy.”
He’ll never know this, but he inadvertently taught me the greatest lesson of my professional life, and perhaps, my personal life, as well. He taught me that “confidence” is the greatest tool for success that exists. I observed Eddie for over two years as he masterfully sold everything he did by sincerely believing in himself, and his product, which in this case was… himself.
My career since then has been in advertising, which is, in a sense, the entertainment side of sales.
Sales: One of the most used, yet misused words in the English language. It is used to describe the process of exchange between products and consumers; it is used to dismiss that process, as well.
Often “sales” is used to imply a dishonest transaction where something was “sold” erroneously.
“She’s just selling you.”
“Don’t listen to him; he’s just being a salesman.”
“Are you trying to ‘sell’ me on this?”
Yet… “sales” exist in nearly everything we do. We sell ourselves to our friends, our employers, our co-workers, even to our grocer and the toll booth operator. We are in a perpetual state of presenting who we are, usually in the best light possible, in order to improve our situation.
Where we often fail, and where we diminish the reputation of “sales,” is in how we present ourselves and our product. If a product is presented by someone with fake confidence, consumers are inclined to resist. Or when a truly confident person does not sincerely believe in what they are selling, the result is the same.
Confidence is learned, not inherited. We learn it from identifying our achievements, and by raising our self-esteem. And our self-esteem is raised when we overcome our fears.
Eddie Murphy had no fear. Fear of failure simply wasn’t in the equation and he could get in front of an audience with nothing but his own persona, knowing that he will survive whatever happens.
As an audience, we were drawn to that fusion of product and person. He was a masterful “salesman.”
And so… as my pen draws this essay to a close, I offer some advice. It may sound a little pedestrian, but it has been cultivated from a career of “sales.”
- Identify 5 achievements that make you most proud. Finished college? Worked at a Soup Kitchen? Anchored the 880 relay? Every one of us has triumphs; accomplishments that required our ability.
- Face your fears. Fear only grows when it’s avoided. If it’s getting up in front of people: Take an improv class, or a public speaking course. Stand up in the cafeteria and say “Good Morning” to everyone; you’ll be surprised at how well that goes.
- Turn negatives into positives. Go ahead and look in a mirror and call out every flaw you perceive. If you hate your eyebrows, say “I hate my eyebrows.” What you’ll discover is that you really don’t. You become aware of the fact that this is you, and no one else can be the perfect “you.”
- Apply yourself with passion to what you believe in. Work where you want to work because you believe in what you’re doing (and selling).
- Enjoy your inevitable success.
And if you don’t take it from me, take it from Eddie Murphy.