Stop waiting to be picked. Pick yourself.
Author, marketing expert, and entrepreneur Seth Godin explains that we’re taught since we were kids to wait to be picked. When we want something, we wait to get permission from those who are in a position of authority: the Human Resources Director, the publisher, the record label manager, and so on.
Look at the following:
- In school you stand around during Physical Education (PE) class waiting for one of the team captains to choose you to play on their team (I remember the agony of this vividly).
- As a senior in high school you apply to several colleges hoping that at least one of them will pick you.
- As college graduation comes near you apply to different companies in the hopes that one of them will hire you.
And the list goes on and on. Well, here’s an idea: instead of waiting for someone else to pick you, why don’t you just pick yourself? Here’s Godin:
“What pick yourself means is that it’s never been easier to decide to be responsible for your own work, for your own agenda, for the change you make in the world.”
It’s never been easier than today to access the wisdom of experts and specialists in every given field. In other words, it’s never been easier to acquire the skills that you need in order to pick yourself. In this post I’m going to show you how to raise your hand and announce to the world:
How I Picked Myself
I’m going to begin by sharing with you how I picked myself.
I followed the route of waiting for other people to pick me for the first 32 years of my life. And that strategy worked out well for me, at first. I got picked for everything I wanted:
I went to the Georgetown University Business School; I graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center; I passed the New York Bar; I passed the Panama National Bar; and I was hired as an attorney by the Assistant General Counsel of the Panama Canal Commission (later the Panama Canal Authority).
Then, the strategy of waiting to be picked stopped working for me. A position that I had wanted for about three years, and which I had been hustling like crazy for, became available.
However—although I was the best candidate for the job—it was denied to me because the General Counsel refused to let me go. He decided that it was in his best interests for me to stay where I was, and the Human Resources Director didn’t have the backbone to oppose him.
I was angry, frustrated, and heart broken. And I decided that it was time for me to stop relying on other people to pick me. I was going to pick myself.
I quit my job and started looking around for something else to do (I had savings). That’s when I decided to hang out my shingle. The problem was that, although I went to business school, I was taught how to be a corporate employee, not how to be an entrepreneur.
Nonetheless, I’ve always had a lot of faith in my ability to learn new things, and I decided I was going to teach myself how to be an entrepreneur. Specifically, I was going to start a blog from which I could sell information products that would show others how to live their best lives. Today I own one of the top 100 Personal Development blogs in the world.
I then decided I was going to become a learning expert. Yes, that’s right: a learning expert. (The chutzpah, I know!)
I designed a method for becoming an expert, and then I followed the method to gain expertise in rapid learning. As I explain in my post on the benefits of learning how to learn, here’s the process that I followed:
- I took MOOCs on the best way to learn;
- I read all the books I could find on the most effective ways to study and acquire skills; and
- I read blogs by experts on the topic.
As I went along, I applied everything I learned. This allowed me to create a learning system. I then tried out my system by learning weightlifting. The next step was to tweak and perfect the system by learning to code. Finally, I fine-tuned the system by learning French, piano, and drawing.
Now, here’s how I describe myself:
Renaissance woman – personal development blogger, entrepreneur, lawyer, runner, book lover, weightlifter, multilingual, learning expert.
I picked myself.
How You Can Pick Yourself
Have you decided that you too will start picking yourself? Good! Here’s the basic formula for picking yourself:
First. Ask yourself these three questions.
- What do I want?
- What skills do I need to acquire in order to achieve what I want?
- How can I learn those skills?
Second. Once you’ve identified the best way to learn the skills that you want, start learning them.
Ten “Pick Yourself” Illustrations
Here are ten illustrations of picking yourself:
- Are you waiting to get a promotion? Find out what skills you need to get promoted and acquire those skills.
- Didn’t get the promotion? Look at advertisements for positions you want in other companies, identify any skills you lack in order to apply, and learn those skills.
- Still can’t get hired for the position that you want? Learn business and entrepreneurial skills, start your own business, create your dream position, and hire yourself.
- Are you waiting for something to happen before you can be happy? Take $30, buy the three best positive psychology books you can find on Amazon, and learn how to be happy now.
- Are you waiting for someone to publish your book? Learn how to self-publish and publish yourself.
- Are you waiting until you have more time before you start working on that important goal? Learn time management, make the time, and get started.
- Are you waiting for life to calm down? Learn how to meditate and how to do yoga and calm yourself down. Once you’re calm, you’ll be better able to deal with the chaos around you.
- Are you waiting until you’re not scared anymore? Start building your courage muscles by learning how to do something that scares you (public speaking, improv, or singing would be good options).
- Are you waiting until you can afford a personal trainer before you start lifting weights? Learn how to weightlift and train yourself.
- Are you waiting to be accepted to an MBA program? Choose the business books and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) that will teach you what you need to know and get a Do-It-Yourself MBA.
There Are no Guarantees
Of course, there are no guarantees that you’ll succeed if you pick yourself (at least not the first time around), but no one will ever have your best interests at heart as much as you do. Therefore, despite the risk, I believe that the wisest choice is to pick yourself.
And, in a lot of ways, it’s riskier to wait to be picked. I trust me at the wheel of my life, not somebody else.
Here’s a quote by diarist, essayist, novelist, and writer of short stories, Anaïs Nin, which I feel perfectly encapsulates the importance of picking yourself:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”