When I was 12, I was desperate to be a supermodel. I remember reading in Seventeen Magazine that Nikki Taylor had been discovered while she was waiting at an airport, so for years after that, every time I flew, I would get breathless with desperation for some talent scout to pluck me from the traveling masses and plaster my face on billboards and magazines. (Thankfully – and no disrespect to supermodels – my older sister reminded me that I have a powerful brain and should do something more meaningful with my life. Phew!)
But that idea that I had to “be discovered” stuck with me. I wasted a good few years of my life, even as an adult, waiting to be chosen, wishing for recognition, waiting for nominations, and wishing for accolades. And I wasted even more of my life feeling deflated when they never came.
What an idiot.
Because what I realized with time and experience, is that the world doesn’t work that way. We are led to believe that if we are good at something or have something to offer or create something worth sharing, that others will magically find out about it and find out about us. “If you build it, they will come” and all that.
But that’s utter nonsense.
A lot of the time, the people on things like Forbes’ lists get on those lists because they apply to be on them. A lot of the time, the companies that win awards are the ones that put themselves forward for the awards. A lot of the time, the speakers who deliver key notes at conferences are the ones who pitch themselves as speakers.
They’re not discovered. They do the work and give themselves a chance, instead of relying on chance.
If I had really wanted to be a supermodel all those decades ago, I should have gotten a headshot, gone to auditions, threw my hat in the ring and done the work – and kept doing it and kept auditioning – instead of being passive-depressive about it.
Because as wonderful as we all may be and as much as we all may do, no one else is keeping track. No one is tallying all the amazing things we accomplish. No one is talking about our many wonderful ways of giving back. And they (almost) never will.
For example, over the past few years, I have volunteered 800 (yes, 800) hours of my time to my alma mater through free mentoring, coaching, and workshops. Is anyone chasing after me with a medal for my service? Is anyone nominating me for some sort of recognition? No, and no. But, if there is ever an opportunity to nominate myself, will I do so? Yes. And, of course.
Does that make me a self-promoting jackass? No. Because I did the work. I volunteered the hours. I didn’t do it so I could get recognition, but if the opportunity to be recognized arises, then I’m going to recognize myself for how much I contributed and put myself forward.
That’s what we all need to do. If you did the work, apply for the award. If you meet the requirements, put yourself forward. If you lived the experience, pitch for the story. If you have the product, ask people to buy it.
There is nothing holy about obscurity. There is nothing holy about anonymity. And there is nothing unholy about not staying obscure or anonymous.
Put yourself forward. Put yourself out there. Put yourself in the race. It doesn’t mean you will always get what you want. But trying sure as hell beats waiting for someone else to discover what is wonderful about you or your business when you already know it is there.