The Susan Boyle Guide to Being Loud and Proud

The Susan Boyle Guide to Being Loud and Proud

Reader Comments (83)

  1. If you introduced yourself to someone at a party and were immediately hit with “…me, me, me, blog, blog, blog, job, job, job…” for how long would you continue listening? Humility 2.0 is coming, trust me. People are sick of infobullhorns blaring 24/7.

  2. Great post Jon! I had been thinking about self promotion and the guilt and shyness that comes with it too. I guess it’s all just internal problems we all have.
    You put it very clearly here and I’m very thankful for your post. Keep on rocking!

  3. I don’t consider humility and self-promotion to be mutually exclusive. You can be humble and still promote the hell out of yourself, but the humility will affect your style.

    I would argue, in fact, that this blog is a great example of the combination. Yes, you self-promote. Nobody has trouble finding your blog thanks both to your own direct efforts, and how (I’m assuming) your more indirect efforts drive others to recommend this blog and its authors.

    But the content of the blog is, of course, what keeps people coming–and that’s where I would suggest your humility plays a role. You have great content, and you’re giving it away…but not with an attitude of condescension. There is a sense of altruism (though obviously the free content drives a fair amount of paying business your way).

    So here’s a heretical thought: perhaps what got in Susan Boyle’s way was not humility, but selfishness–or fear (which often boils down to a kind of selfishness). I’d say her saucy attitude on Britain’s Got Talent didn’t stem from humility at all–she *knew* she had an incredible voice. And she also knew, just as surely, that–based on appearance alone–she wouldn’t be taken seriously…at least until she started to sing.

    So maybe the secret to success is all of the above: a humility of carriage, a conviction in the inherent value of what you have to offer, AND a desire to give that valuable thing to others that is strong enough to overcome whatever fear you might have.

    I don’t think Susan Boyle suddenly became altruistic, but I do think something finally convinced her to give her beautiful voice away. Her physical humbleness, especially combined with a cheeky lack of humility in attitude, attracted us and made us want to fight for her…but the quality of her voice kept us wanting more.

  4. Jon,
    Look at this from the flip side, too. Big dogs on the Internet should be mindful to look out for the Susan Doyles within their communities for future partnering opportunities.

  5. Chris, I don’t think Jon advocated being an idiot anywhere in the post. Even self-promotion has to focus on what’s in it for others, which we say over and over here.

    Why are the knee-jerk negative comments always from people with no site? Why should we take your thoughts as credible when you don’t even publish online (or are too scared to reveal that you do)?

  6. Loved the article, don’t totally agree on using pro-athletes as examples though. Most of those guys got paid first, became famous, and then figured out they can say (almost) anything and get away with it.

    I like using comedians or actors better since they either worked hard to get there (and jumped on the breaks they got) or networked well enough to get those breaks.

  7. I’m not sure piggy-backing an article on a humble old woman who ended up institutionalized due to over-promotion is the best way to make a point about the glory of self-promotion.

    If there is a lesson there it may not be the one intended.

    Negative? Perhaps. If so, I apologize.

  8. I find Susan Boyle a particularly apt example. I suspect she hadn’t made herself heard because she had a sneaking fear that she wasn’t as good as she believed herself to be.

    That split shows up in a lot of bloggers I see. They have something they believe is great, but there’s still the little voice that says Who am I to be great?

  9. Yes its so true untill some one gets loud of what we have no one gets known of that. But does one know that some of us got a talent . May be for Susan yes she had a gr8 voice .. but she never thought untill she came till the main show ..
    We humans are known to be told , even what we have …. we need to be told some times that we have this talent .. then and then only we can outshine .Do not you think?

  10. I would think that the real trick — the truly impressive thing — is to write/do/create something so remarkable people are willing to do the talking FOR you. Yes, certainly self-promotion plays a role. But the real winners, like Susan Boyle, bring something to the table that others WANT to feast upon.

    And frankly, I have little appetite for eating other people’s transparent self-promotion.

  11. Chris,
    Watching Susan Boyle almost made me tear up (again), and steel bending is a hobby of mine. I’ve watched it at least 4 times today. Simon didn’t order me to; neither did Jon.

    Over-promotion didn’t get the video 70 million views. The story itself did. This is my 3rd comment today. Understand?

    Jon uses the story to teach a lesson. That lesson is:


  12. Shane, 🙂

    I would say the moral (which Jon illustrated very well, IMO) isn’t “be a blowhard,” but “show up and stand tall.”

  13. Susan is actually 47 but….. she does look a lot older. I too posted on my blog about the business lessons that could be learned. But since I posted various not so good things have happened to Susan Boyle – like being pressurised to perform in the final of Britain has Talent because of course if she had pulled out it would have brought the viewing figures down, she ended up having a little breakdown and being in a clinic in London for a week. So fame has a price and those who are not are tooting their own horn are potentially less likely to be able to cope with the strains and pressures that fame brings.

  14. Hmm. What I see emerging here are differing views of what “self promotion” means. Some people see it as being a braggart. Others (like me) see it as a form of marketing, which has nothing to do with being a braggart.

    Interesting. Maybe I should write another post to set that one straight.

  15. What an appropriate example of the point you are trying to make make. Being humble does not mean that you should not be proud and loud about what you do well.

  16. (Brian, “old” was in Chris’s follow up comment.)

    Boyle had a lot of trouble with the British celebrity press, who are merciless jackals. Fortunately, I don’t know too many bloggers or information entrepreneurs who face that kind of relentless hounding. If Godin’s not having breakdowns because of public scrutiny, we’re all probably safe.

    If you’re saying to yourself “look what happened to Susan Boyle, guess I’d better stay quiet,” I would submit that you might be engaging in a not-very-rational justification of your own fears. Which, of course, is something I enjoy myself from time to time. But know you’re doing it.

  17. (“merciless jackals.”

    I think I heard them in concert, Sonia…:))

    Seriously though, at some point there’s a sweet spot of confident articulation about ourselves that rings very true with others. And of course when our actions match that in degree, how can anyone call that bragging?
    Be good at something, really good, and let people know what it is. And of course what’s in it for them…. and enjoy it. That spreads like crazy.
    Issac Stern once said that people don’t come to watch him play the violin, they come to watch him enjoying himself playing the violin. And he was very clear about his abilities and talents and the work it takes to pursue them, so no empty bragging there. He had a lovely mix of humbleness and ,um, assurance in his artistry.

  18. In today’s competitive world, one has to promote oneself to succeed. As long as you do it the right way and don’t go overboard. You should be able to experience positive results of self-promotion.

  19. I used to be shy myself, when I had a FB fans page I was very afraid of inviting people to join, even till now I preferred paid Ads than sending invitation to my FB friends who I don’t know all of them personally, thinking that they might consider me .. (you know).

    I’ll be giving it some trails to promote myself with no fear! Thanks for the tip, though!

  20. Marketing IS self-promotion. I can’t see anyway around it.

    From the way I see it, as long as I’m focused on my customers and their needs, I won’t lose my humility, and I won’t forget that my customers are the reason why my business is around.

    The key here is to be constantly thinking about the customer, not just yourself.

  21. I wonder if there aren’t two things going on here. First, as someone who is closer in age to Susan than perhaps others, is this “humilty/humbleness” a generational thing? I can attest that I have great difficulty “blowing my horn” for fear of being seen as a braggart. It was a lesson from my parents.
    Secondly, as a dual (Canadian/American) I think there may be a cultural issue. My perception is that many who were raised in a “British” tradition have a reticence in self promotion.
    Whatever the cause, I wish I was more comfortable doing it.

  22. Not everybody feels comfortable to promote themselves – sometimes to their own detriment. Should Susan not have been given more support as the territory was new to her and she must have been overwhelmed!! If in her shoes – how would you have reacted?

  23. I struggle with this all the time! One part of me hopes no one will notice my blogs and the other part wants to yell from the rooftops. Sitting on the fence will get you middle-of-the-fence results. You make an excellent point about the cost of humility. Thank you so much for the inspiration to be loud!

  24. A plugin that I use on The Casual Observer is CommentLuv. This allow my commenters to easily promoted a particular recent post of theirs. More than anything, this leverages upon an ability to write a catchy headline.

    I have a few articles that I have promoted on other sites, because I felt they had value – such as this compliation of great baseball web sites, which I personally used as a portable “favorites” list ->

  25. Well-said, Jon!! As Seth Godin would say, the world is waiting for anyone to lead them, and effective bloggers have as much opportunity – perhaps more – to fill the voids.

  26. I agree with you, 100%. There is a greater difference between telling the world how wonderful you are and bragging–if you’re telling the truth. If you brag, you’re arrogant and/or haughty (or you’re full of buppies). Why can’t you tell the world how thrilled you are with your accomplishment(s)–i.e. your books/other works, and how happy you are, without being arrogant?

    I like your terms, “celebrate” and “dance.” Isn’t that what I did when I received word that a publisher wanted to buy my book? That’s exactly what I did! And how many of my friends, family, and business associates did the same thing right along with me when I told them and repeated my performance?

    Humility may be [considered] a virtue, but if you walk around deferring to people all the time, how are you going to get anywhere?

    I guess it all depends on your goals. If you’re shy, introverted, or humble (unlike moi) and still want to market and promote yourself, I say: Pay someone who ISN’T shy, introverted, or humble to do it for you!

  27. [Interior shot: darkened auditorium, silence. Single spotlight turns on, lighting small area of center stage.]

    [SFX: footsteps from stage left. Cat appears carrying wooden soapbox, which she carefully positions in the circle of light. Stepping up, the spotlight narrows further, drawing the attention of everyone seated before her.]

    Cat: “If no one has applauded you today, for your courage to believe in your product or service and what it can do to help someone do more, be more, accomplish more than they ever imagined … may I be the first of many to recognize your worthiness of tooting your own horn so others may come to know of its benefits.”

    [Cat begins clapping and the audience adds their own applause.]

    Cat: “Bravo, Jon, a post worth tooting about!”

    [Cat steps off the soap box, and picks it up.]

    Voice Over Announcer: “This comment has been brought to by a regular Copyblogger reader, and occasional comment poster, Cat Wagman, who personally scripted this comment for your reading enjoyment.”

    [Cat bows and exits stage right, with the spotlight following her off stage.]

  28. Fabulous post. I wasn’t a fan of the Susan Boyle hoo-ha, but your excellent message made the trip worth while. Many thanks, Jonathan! P. 🙂

  29. My career goal at age 12 was to become a hermit. Instead I became a biologist, which led to teaching, which required some self confidence and self promotion. I realized that if I don’t feel worthy of being in that room then it feels like a huge waste of time to my students. Now in addition to teaching I am starting an ebike business, so I am thinking about what marketing is and how I should promote myself. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, and thanks to all for the ensuing comments.

    As an aside, I wanted to post a comment, but almost didn’t because my business website is currently an ugly skeleton–but I decided that drawing attention to ourselves is a quick way to stimulate self improvement. I think it takes some humility to self-promote because no one is more aware of our shortcomings than ourselves and we have to be willing to stop hiding those shortcomings (and our successes) from the world.

  30. A good post and interesting follow up discussion but, if I may add my bit, I’ll always choose humility + no money over lack of humility + money. Fame and money are not at all anywhere at the top of my list of priorities.

    And I don’t consider strutting sportstars to be the true giants of the world. I much prefer the Dalai Lama, Steven Hawking, Aung Sang Su Ki, the Australian aboriginal man who declined millions so his people could retain traditional ownership of their land, kind people, people who feed people, people who make a real difference – big or small ..and other humble greats.

    (apologies for any incorrect spelling of names)

  31. Very nice article and good advice – I thank you for it.

    Actually Susan is 48, and if you’ve seen her recent performances on the BGT tour she now looks about 35. She has wowed all her audiences with her glorious voice and charismatic stage presence. She has cut the first track of her upcoming CD, which Simon Cowell has described as “fantastic”. We should be seeing that at least by Christmas and her fans are breathlessly awaiting it.

  32. Great post.
    I’m a Kiwi and as a nation we have a real problem with Tall Poppy Syndrome. I think younger generations are getting better at celebrating peoples achievements but the culture is still rife. When you’ve been raised in that environment it’s pretty hard to get into the mindset that you need to tell people about what you’re doing or else they won’t know.

    I’m known (by my few “followers”) for having a straight down the middle no bullshit way of writing, but I can’t seem to get that out when promoting or talking about myself!

  33. Loved the post. Come on you have to self-promote! If you don’t, you are underestimating how competitive message-drenched the real world is. Just have to use some common sense and have something worth promoting that people can really benefit from.

  34. Fan-freakin’-tastic! You’re absolutely right! And I’m going to take a page from your book right now and do the thing, but for modesty and lack of self confidence, I should have done long ago. Thanks for the inspiration!

  35. Clearly a topic with some heat, but first, let’s clear up your assumption that Susan Boyle “believed…career was something only the young and beautiful could hope for…” I followed this pretty closely and don’t think that’s what held her back, and haven’t seen any evidence that she said that. It had much more to do with a very small-circle culture and having to tend a sick mum for years. She’s just service-oriented. She did sing on a CD for charity ten years earlier, and magnificently.
    What’s amazing to me is that the community around her knew her tremendous talent, and no one was ever enterprising enough to, say, trundle over to Glasgow with a recording? So one lesson is to look around us and see who we might help — which happens to be a fantastic way to further your own cause, as I’m sure you know.
    Still, the issue of humility, which Susan has in spades, and its possible effect of shrouding our gifts and squelching our potential, is a big one.
    I think one good path is to think in terms of grass roots – really develop your local community around the offerings you have – but also remember that with exponential technology, that grass grows sky-high – and keep launching those offerings into the cloud. My direct experience has been that meeting and speaking and sharing locally, getting face to face human responses, has created a springy launching pad while helping me develop my material. I know my stuff works. People come up to me after talks and tell me directly. There is nothing that builds self confidence and a sense of a personal mission like someone saying “Now I finally understand. Thank you.”
    Or, in Susan Boyle’s case, a massive audience standing up and screaming for more. She just had to make a few little adjustments in her energy field. Now she is recording. The universe applauds.
    You always give us juicy bites, Jon. Thanks again.
    Suzanna Stinnett

  36. I have a notion, since Susan Boyle auditioned only after her mother died, that her mother either didn’t support Susan’s dreams or needed her at home or some such. She said she wanted to prove to her mother that she could sing. Le sigh.

    I appreciate this post very much, being one of the introvert persuasion. My mom was my cheerleader and I *still* didn’t “sing out.” I like encouragement to get out there and use my talents, whatever they are. So, thank you, Jon.

  37. Awesome point Jon! I think the big problem is too many people think they’re not worthy or deserving of attention.

    Screw it! If you genuinely post valuable, interesting content, get it out there & jump out of that comfort zone of yours. If you do, you’ll build confidence in what you do which will contribute to better results, PERIOD

  38. while i see the validity of all the points in this post (and in the comments as well), i’d like to think that you CAN overpromote yourself if you’re not careful. i think that there’s tasteful promotion, and then there’s promotion that’s just jarring, unsettling – the kind of self-promotion that you found irritating when you were in high school. not everybody can be a jock, in my opinion, and not everybody will like being a jock, or like jocks, for that matter. so i guess people should draw the line at what makes them comfortable and what doesn’t, because if you just shamelessly sell yourself and you start getting in the way of other people, then that’s marketing without morals.

    now, the question here is WHO draws line? 😀 but i’m thinking something along the lines of a condom ad in, so i could be overdoing it. if i am, my apologies. 😀

  39. Nice post. I do agree with kilawinguwak, though, that you can overpromote. I think of one community to which I belong. One member there promotes his game server at every turn, to the point that it is a bit of a running joke among everyone else, and a few people have gotten so annoyed with him that they’ve sounded off. So, it is possible to overpromote if you are annoying about it.

  40. That’s a very nice idea. I wish I could do the same. Although I believe there is a fine line between self promotion and bragging.

    However, until you show the world what are you made of. nobody’s going to take notice.

    Sometimes being at the right place at the right time helps too!

  41. I longed to read something like this for myself. I know that I have a lot to give to the world… and still lack the confidence to do it. I’m damn scared of the criticism I might encounter.

    There are many who languish with the same mindset that they’re not so good. There are others who’re better than them and they stand no better chance. They die a silent death.

    In the process, their talents die with them and also help some not so talented person take the limelight and achieve success.

    As someone said in the comments – there should be some local talent search groups to promote rare talent, and take initiative to show these marooned gems in the clouds of mud and show their worth to the world. (for those unfortunate who couldn’t read copyblogger and this article!)
    Truly a great post and an inspiring read !

  42. So true.

    Whenever I see someone who refuses to market themselves, I can’t help but doubt them. If they don’t have enough fire in their belly to show confidence in their message, then why the hell should I?

    Great article.

  43. Great post, I think you’ve said it all. Many talents are still going unnoticed because of people not thinking they fit in against the bigger competition. Allowing your talents to be recognised isn’t about showing off, it’s about letting people see what gift you have. I think many people are afraid of crossing that line.

  44. I think there’s something within many of us that balks at the idea of self-promotion, but there’s clearly something to it! I guess the trick is learning to identify your best work or the ideal ways to promote yourself rather than just pushing everything you do to everyone you meet. Or, worse still, getting so caught up in promotion that you forget to actually create something to brag about.

    All that being said, and in the spirit of shameless self-promotion (which I must admit I’ve never done on a comments section before), here’s a link to my latest post “Does Sweating Help You Lose Weight”

  45. Good post, I think Susan Boyle is a good example.

    Self promoting really only works well if you have a good product. Your product is a skill you personally have that you are good at like singing or dancing, playing a sport, acting, writing, coding, motivating people, teaching, etc. The people who are perceived as being the best at their chosen skill all make millions of dollars every years (there are lots of singers, dancers, jocks, writers, coders(who develop and sell software, uhhh…bill gates and thousands more), motivators, and teachers who make millions of dollars every year. Once you have a good product, all you’ve got to do is set a price, and then promote it.

    The total amount of money individuals make (who live in first world countries at least) is a product of the skills they are good at, and the amount of self promoting they do (whether its selling their time to another company at an hourly rate or yearly salary, or creating their own product and selling it).

    Look at Michael Jackson for example. His skills were singing, dancing, and writing songs, and he got so much attention because he was so good at those skills, and he had great agents who promoted him very well (his dad made him a child star through supposedly forcing him to develop his dancing and singing skills and self promotion him like crazy, which helped eventually to lead Michael into becoming one of the richest and most popular people in the world, I’ve been alive 22 years now and I never remember hearing so much about someone dieing, impressively popular human).

    Think of what you are really good at, monetize it, promote it, profit.

  46. Confidence rocks, arrogance doesn’t.

    One should never be afraid to say, I am magnificent, nor should one ever be afraid to act the part as well. If you do not believe in yourself, why should others?

  47. Thanks for a great post. It’s just the pitchfork in the rear I needed.

    Also, I think Susan Boyle is in her late 40’s, which is surprising given that she looks like she’s in her fifties. Not sure I have that right though.

  48. I needed to hear this, too. I’ve become a slightly better self-promoter over the past couple of years out of necessity (I owned a local business for a bit), but I still struggle with it. I’ve been doing some promotion for a new blog project now. I’ve done my research and I think what we’re doing is superior to almost everything out there in our category (blogs about thrifting and secondhand culture, believe it or not), but I still hesitate to say hey, you should check this out.

    Working on it, though.

  49. He didn’t get Susan Boyle’s age right! She’s 48, not in her mid fifties… He’s right about “heartbreakingly beautiful” to describe Susan’s singing of I Dreamed A Dream, though, is he not?!? Wow!

  50. It’s the same theory as advertising. There are tons of great products out there that none of us have ever heard of and just happen to stumble upon once in a while in the bargain bin at the dollar store. Unfortunately, have to advertise yourself of no one will hear of you either.

  51. I’ve never struggled promoting the “day job” business, but have a hard time even mentioning my “other job” – which happens to be writing books for kids (middle grade / young adult). Maybe ’cause I waited ’til I was 50 to put my creativity to work & now it (promoting) seems like bragging?

  52. I appreciate this post so much. In the past, I have been the humble, quiet, and meek person who waited for good things to happen. Not any more; I’m promoting my blog, my book, and my life as much as I can. For a long time I felt unworthy and questioned my “qualifications” to write for a public audience. Well, I’ve been encouraged by many wonderful people; now it’s time to fly!

  53. Tell me your story…cock-a-doodle-do.

    Visit my website if you care about your mother.

    However, it’s better is you email me your story than send it through the site, since that avenue removes formatting…

  54. “Visit my website if you care about your mother?” Until I read what your website is about, you had me wondering if this was some sort of veiled threat. Not sure if that’s brilliant copywriting or not, but it sure got my attention… in a bad way.

  55. I’m so sorry Jon. It makes me feel terrible that I got your attention in a bad way – my intention was the opposite of that. To me, someone thinking that my comment was a veiled threat, makes me cringe. I’m passionate about encouraging people to write a short memoir “honoring” their mother. I hope people will sing their praises and celebrate their voices like Susan Boyle. I have a lot to learn about how comments are taken…Anyway, I’d love to have you write a bio-vignette about your mother to honor her as an individual.

  56. This is a surprising subtle and important observation. I think part of it, though, is humility serves you until you have something worth promoting. The humility behind Susan’s years of church singing and your three years of blogging in obscurity was worth something. Now not only do you have hard won confidence, you have a narrative.

    I tried the lack of humility when I first started as a singer-songwriter. I lost a lot of credibility to bad first impressions. Those are ears I have to work ten times as hard to win back now that I am a more confident performer. Now I self-promote more cautiously.

  57. I will comment on the “blogging is dead” concept. It’s silly. That’s like saying wheels have gone out of style. That’s my opinion but blogging is too solid, too useful, too personal, and even too traditional to ever die. It is actually a continuation of traditions that have gone on for centuries, but in a digital form and with less red-tape or bureaucracy, or politics attached.

    But, if those who aren’t really suited for blogging are more easily turned away based on this new funny idea, I can’t really complain. Means more breathing space, more room to move.

  58. Thank you, Jon, for your direct email. It was greatly appreciated. You all at Copyblogger have integrity and professionalism and provide continuously intertesting content.

  59. your post coupled with the video brought me to tears at work. thanks for making my day and inspiring me. can’t wait to read more. you’re awesome!

  60. Very interesting. But I am curious to know how you got from “writing in obscurity” to being “a shameless self promoter” ?
    I myself am shy on self promotion, so how did you become the opposite of, well, you?

  61. Self promotion takes practice, like anything else. When you are putting out content you know others like you would want to read, there’s no shame in letting them know it’s out there.

    It’s getting over the fear of failure, really. But by not promoting yourself, you are actually increasing your chance of failure. It’s just like a job interview. You talk about your strengths in a positive light. Don’t be afraid of self-promotion. Be afraid of doing nothing!

  62. while i agree with the message in this post, (and think your blog is fantastic) i would just like to say that i have my suspicions that the susan boyle phenomenon was a very clever marketing/manipulation ploy which imitated the success of paul potts a few years earlier – the formula being: enter stage left the humble underdog presenting in such a way that the audience assumes they will not be able to sing a note, then suddenly they burst out with an amazing voice… cameras then roll to jaw drops of surprise and the rest is history. as this this scenario plays out it invokes the ‘david defeats goliath’, or ‘the underdog wins’ feeling which resonates strongly in people and causes them to bond and identify with the susan boyle brand so to speak – because we all love to see the underdog win… simon cowell is smart enough to know this… and has made a huge success of it.

  63. I am an inspirational speaker here in the Philippines. Before I thought that it was enough that I am passionate about my subject and very good in my delivery.

    But people did not contact me. I learned that it is not enough to be a dynamic and passionate speaker. I have to be visible.

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