“I change lives.”
During my recent trip to SXSW, I overheard these three words often. Someone would ask a person what they did for a living and more often than not, the person would brighten, smile and chirp up the answer.
“I change lives!”
And I would think to myself, “Well, now. That’s kind of dumb.”
Sorry, but it is. You’re a human being. You change lives all the time, every day. You change people’s lives when you smile at a passerby or hold the door open for someone or scold your child or answer an email or buy onions in the grocery store.
Changing lives is that easy. We live in a ripple-effect world.
Here’s what really makes me roll my eyes, though: If you’re in business, changing lives isn’t an elevator pitch. It’s redundant.
You’re in business. You’re supposed to change lives.
People are plunking down money for this – they want results. They want web copy that sells. Design that gets attention. Blog posts that attract comments. Marketing that brings in clients. Socks that warm their feet. Food that makes them feel good. Books that entertain them. Courses that teach them.
Changing their life is expected. It’s a default.
Claiming you change lives doesn’t really make you special, or worthy, or even interesting. You’re no different than anyone else. This isn’t a unique selling proposition. You sound as authentic as a crystal-ball gazer holding a snow globe.
It gets worse, though. I’d hear people utter those fateful “I change lives” words, and then I’d watch things fall apart. It was nearly painful. People would blink, look polite and say, “Oh? How does that work?”
But the life-changers couldn’t give clear, succinct answers. People had to ask more questions. They seemed confused. They didn’t understand what “I change lives” mean.
And no one could sum up the business in a handful of words.
Oh, they tried, though. The life-changers would grab their fu-fu and slide on a mystical, knowing expression, as if they had ancient shaman wisdom into the way the world works. Then they’d spout off some vagaries in an attempt to make a grand impression.
Fail. People would nod and smile politely, but that was about it.
And that’s what happens when you don’t have a clearly defined business. You don’t generate many sales. You won’t get many clients. Because most people sense when you’re handing them something that’s as wispy as the wind, and they’re not going to take you seriously as a professional if you can’t take them seriously and give them straight answers.
The solution is pretty easy: Get yourself a good elevator pitch, and be ready to give people concrete answers when they ask you questions about your career.
Oh, and drop the life changing angle… it’s just not working for you.