I was recently invited to be one of four speakers in an event that took place in a small town in the Dominican Republic. Since the invitation came from a very humble, passionate young man, whose main driver is to bring hope and support to young entrepreneurs in his home town, I immediately accepted. I knew it was going to be pro-bono, and that I’d probably have to cover my own travel expenses too; but boy, was it worth it.
The audience was magnificent. Young men and women who were looking for inspiration more than support, who wanted some kind of signal that their dream wasn’t as far as they had always been told and learned to believe.
I loved having the opportunity to tell them all about my biggest screw-ups, and every time I made a bad decision and had to live up to the consequences. They laughed so hard. They were genuinely sympathetic with me for all the embarrassment I put myself through.
After I shared my story, I gave them a few pointers that I had gathered over the years, which had helped me become more resilient every time I fell.
I was shocked to see how undeserving they felt. They seemed to believe that they were never going to be able to break the poverty/misfortune cycle they felt had reigned over their lives. What struck me the most, however; was the need that some of the other speakers felt to reference their own “success”. They literally exaggerated the long and excruciating path that was ahead of any of the attendees, if they dared to dream of achieving the level of “success” the speaker in front of them had achieved.
You could see from my face how irritated I was. If you’re attempting to inspire people to try, to dare, to accomplish; and specially if your crowd already feels like the underdog, the LAST place you want to start at is your own “success”. And the reason why I scare quote “success”, is because I strongly feel that in general terms, “success” can only be measured by the standards and goals that each person sets for themselves. What entitles anyone to sell themselves as successful? Why would you lead your crowd to form their questions starting with “if I want to be as successful as you”?
Whenever you’re trying to inspire someone that feels that you’re way ahead then they are, the best approach is to be humble, and to help them see that you are both the same. If they cannot see you as approachable, or as an equal, you’re just feeding their own insecurities, which in the end are their biggest hurdles.
If you’re really trying to inspire others, never make it about yourself.