As a somewhat cynical twenty-something, I looked down on people who promoted their work. To me, they were walking infomercials, always selling something. On a deeper level, I may have thought of these people as lacking humility or not trusting in God to provide.
Times have changed, though, and now I’m that guy. About once a week I’m criticized for promoting my books (haven’t done that in about two years though) or our movie, or the Storyline conference. About every fifth blog is an invitation to take part in something I’m doing. But I don’t feel arrogant about it at all.
Here are a few reasons I promote my work:
1. MY WORK ISN'T ABOUT ME, IT'S ABOUT OTHERS
As I’ve gotten older I’ve lost interest in making myself look good and become more interested in creating great experiences for people or changing culture. To me, this is more interesting. It’s still my name on the cover of the book or in the titles of the film, but I spend less money on clothes and haircuts because I’m distracted. Ever notice how people who don’t promote themselves have an image of being cool and aloof that they spent months creating and practicing?
2. I BELIEVE IN MY WORK
I’ve seen the stuff I’ve done change lives, provide mentors for kids, make people feel less lonely, save marriages and all that stuff. It took years, but I actually started to understand that in the way a doctor could help somebody with a medical problem, I could help them through an emotional problem. I promote my work because my work helps people.
3. I WORK WITH TEAMS
I remember years ago being late turning in a book and about that same time my publisher let a bunch of people go. I was partly responsible for that. I cost people their jobs and it was a terrible feeling. I’ve decided to be a writer and to write with a publisher and that means I work with people. To not get out there and tell people about my work is arrogant and selfish. People are depending on me.
Conversely, here’s the reality about all that cynicism about self promotion.
Here are some reasons people don’t promote their work:
1. THOSE WHO DO NOT PROMOTE THEIR WORK USUALLY LIVE OFF THE BACKS OF OTHER PEOPLE
I hear from a lot of ministers we should only promote Jesus. But if you’re a minister, business people who promote their real-estate agencies, insurance agencies or their skills as a plumber are feeding your children. If you think you should only promote Jesus, you should stop taking money from anybody who advertises or works for companies that do. Lets be consistent, here.
God Himself created farming and created our bodies in such a way we have to eat. That means we have to work and the fact anybody can sit around reading books all day sharing their ideas (don’t forget, that’s exactly what I do) is a complete and total luxury. Not only this, but if we work for a large corporation, we’d better hope they advertise and promote the products we are making, otherwise we’d be out of a job. Not having to promote, in other words, is a luxury and should be seen as such.
2. PEOPLE WHO DON'T PROMOTE THEIR WORK MAY NOT BE HUMBLE AT ALL, IN FACT, THEY MAY BE TOO PROUD
I used to think I was humble, but then I realized I didn’t want to be one of those info-mercial guys and so my motivation was anything but humility. I was the opposite, I was proud. Too proud and too cool to sell anything. I was also poor and offering nothing to the world except my latest variation of a stupid mustache.
3. PEOPLE WHO DON'T PROMOTE THEIR WORK MAY NOT YET BELIEVE IN THEIR WORK
If you’re a new singer/songwriter, you may just be figuring out whether you’re any good. You may have doubts and so are sheepish. But people who know they are good have no problem standing in front of a crowd telling them they can buy their CD in the back. After all, if it’s a good CD, who cares. They’re actually offering a service.
4. PEOPLE WHO DON'T PROMOTE THEIR WORK AREN'T LOST IN THEIR WORK
For me to get up in the morning and build the next piece of Storyline or work on the next chapter of a book is a thrill. I lose myself in the work. Working on a creative project is the best and most healthy way to escape, especially if you’re working with a team. Far from being self centered, doing creative work for a living is a wonderful way to break free from constant narcissism.
5. PEOPLE WHO DON'T PROMOTE THEIR WORK DON'T HAVE EMPLOYEES AND ASSOCIATES
If you’re a small businessperson, you likely have employees who count on you to get your name out there or the name of your products. Working with teams is a blast and we come to love those we work with. They’ve given their lives and their skills to you as a creative person or businessperson and you owe it to them to take confidence in your work and get it out into the marketplace.
6. SELF PROMOTION IS NOT UNHOLY
Occasionally I’ll encounter some well-meaning religious person who thinks self promotion works against the fame of God. I whole-heartedly disagree. In his day, Billy Graham spent millions promoting himself and his crusades, all so people could come HEAR HIM TALK ABOUT GOD. Those who know Mr. Graham would never see him as arrogant. He was over himself. But that didn’t mean God didn’t give him a personality and a mouth and later a microphone. Flowers bloom and mountains tower not to take attention from God, but to display His glory. So if you’re a dancer, dance, a singer, sing and if you write books, write them well. Lose yourself in the work and play with God in the creative process. And please, cut the false humility and religious crap about how you only promote Jesus. It’s annoying. Get in touch with your own depravity and realize you’re a scumbag like the rest of us and stop talking about how humble you are all the time. Learn to dance or something.
Of course, there are those who really are in it for themselves. I know, I know, they can be annoying. But don’t roll your eyes at every artist who tells you about their new album or book or business. People have to feed themselves and their families and other people’s families. And for heaven’s sake, if you believe in your work, share it with the world.
What project do you want to share with our readership? Share links in the comment section below. Let’s see what you’ve been up to. It’s time to believe in yourself. God made that mind of yours, show us how you’ve taken responsibility for that amazing fact and let us see what you’ve done with it.
Donald Miller is the CEO of StoryBrand and every year helps more than 3,000 business leaders clarify their brand message. Combined, Don’s books have spent more than a year on the New York Times Bestsellers list. His books include: Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and Scary Close.
Don is widely considered one of the most entertaining and informative speakers in the world. His audiences are challenged to lean into their own story, creatively develop and execute the story of their team, and understand the story of their customers so they can serve them with passion. Don’s thoughts on story have deeply influenced leaders and teams for Pantene, Chick-fil-A, Steelcase, Intel, Prime Lending, Zaxby’s, and thousands more.
Don lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Betsy, and their chocolate lab, Lucy.