About 7 years ago, a nationally syndicated radio personality made a public request for volunteers to help build a website for a charity he intended to launch. An email address was provided to enable those interested to contact the show. As a budding web developer and a fan of the show, I immediately sent an email to register my interest. A few days later, I was invited to a conference call scheduled to discuss the needs and requirements of the website.
I was extremely excited that I had been chosen and without thinking too much, I began to mock up what the charity website could look like. I did not have any information about the specifications of the site, but I felt compelled to build something nonetheless, so I could more easily communicate my ideas about how the task could be accomplished.
On the day of the conference call, I was surprised to discover that more than 100 people had responded to the public request and had also been invited to join the discussion. After the initial introductions were made, a highly technical discussion ensued about what type of hosting would be required to support the website’s traffic. This was not my expertise and that became very apparent when some of the contributors started to throw around their decades of experience in network traffic management. Others talked about their experience building websites professionally and how that made them especially suited to help with the project.
I immediately began to feel out of place as I conceded my inexperience and inadequacy. Up till that point in my career, I had built only one website professionally. This was definitely not a job for amateurs. As the discussion got even more technical, my interest in the project began to wane and the voice in my head finally broke the news by audibly yelling, “you are not the right person for this job”.
Nevertheless, I stayed on the call until the very last minute, at which point I decided to say something after convincing myself there was absolutely nothing to lose by speaking up. I asked the host of the call, in a somewhat timid voice, if he would be willing to check out the mockup I had made for the site. I gave him the web address and he navigated to it.
To my surprise, the tenor of the entire discussion changed. My mockup became the center of attention because it gave the host the ability to visualize what a solution could look like. It finally moved the conversation out of the weeds into something tangible and relatable. Suffice it to say, I was chosen to lead the frontend development of the site and was mighty proud when in a short eight weeks the site was launched to the world. Since the launch, the charity has gone on to do great things and has blessed tens of thousands of lives around the country.
I share this experience not because I see myself as some sort of master strategist in the art of persuasion. In this particular situation, I was quite the contrary. I was definitely not the smartest person in the room. I could not hold a candle to the decades of experience represented by those in the meeting, and yet I stood out of the pack, why? Because I did something that no one else thought to do. I was the only one out of more than 100 in the meeting to take action, and that action, albeit very basic, was enough to convey what was necessary to get me on the team.
The oft-cited cliché, “actions speak louder than words”, is especially applicable here. You live in a world increasingly filled with so-called experts who have no qualms about publicly flaunting their great wisdom and experience. The competition is fierce. Everyone has an opinion about everything and that may leave you feeling intimidated and inadequate. Like me, you may feel out of place. You may feel the odds stacked against you because of where you come from or what you look like. You may feel like wading through the sea of life without creating any ripples that may draw attention to your inexperience. The truth is, almost everyone has experienced this feeling at one point or another.
So how do you gain the confidence to stand up boldly when you don’t have the experience to back it up? How do you set yourself apart from the competition? How do you persuade others to take a chance on you? How do you convince others to see your potential? For me, the answer is simple:
“The most effective form of persuasion is action. In the absence of great skill, talent or experience, taking action will almost always suffice in persuading others to see and believe in your potential.”
Remember always that the distance between where you are in life and your desired destination is the action required to get you there. So focus your efforts on identifying opportunities to take action. Don’t plan to act tomorrow. Start today. Always think, “what can I do”, rather than “what can I say” to convince or persuade someone. This principle has served me well over the years and opened doors I did not imagine could be opened.