Thursday, August 18, 2011

Narcissism can ruin your copy

Here’s a great example of how narcissism can ruin your copy.

A blogger gets an opportunity to interview the renowned management consultant Dr. Tom Peters. What a wonderful start.

The blogger interviews Dr. Peters.

But when the blogger publishes the post, "When Soft is Hard: An Interview with Dr. Tom Peters (Part I)," she talks about herself at length. Below are the first 400 words, color-coded as follows:

green = words about life in general
blue = words about Tom Peters
red = words about the interviewer

Holding ourselves back.

We do this in conscious — and unconscious — ways every day.

When I met Dr. Tom Peters on his trip to Iowa, I was made aware of how I was holding back an important piece of myself.

Perhaps my light-bulb moment will shine some light for you.

Tom is the best-selling author of In Search of Excellence, The Little BIG Things and a dozen other books.

Primarily trained as a behavioralist, he studied under pioneers in our field, including Daryl and Sandra Bem, Albert Bandura, and Philip Zimbardo. These master puzzle solvers showed him that there is a science of human behavior. There are ways people and groups predictably interact and behave.

So Tom is a brilliant scientist who observes and studies human behavior.

And…he is unapologetically, unabashedly passionate about people.

Why was meeting him such an eye-opener for me?

Because when I went through a life threatening illness a few years ago, I came out of the experience softer.

I didn’t know what to do with parts of my identity.

The scientist felt too hard. And the lawyer felt downright harsh.

I felt called to my Best Life Design work and it was an important part of my healing.

Yet, at the time I went to hear Tom speak, I was feeling a growing dissatisfaction with how ‘soft’ this work was beginning to feel. Although I continued to consult with select private athletic and corporate clients, I had drastically cut back on my work as a performance psychologist using science to help individuals and teams optimize performance.

And in one moment (…when the student is ready, the teacher appears) it all came back together for me.

What did Tom say that opened my eyes, reminding me of what I’d forgotten?

1. What’s hard is soft…and what’s soft is hard.

We tend to think of people and life design as soft. We throw values and relationships into that mix, too. Then we have the magic category of hard things, like research, systems, and strategies.

This is why I’d been struggling bringing the science of success that I know so well to the mushy place I’d been sitting in since my recovery. I’d been delighting in the preciousness of living and helping others design their life in a way that supports the greatest use of their gifts. Meanwhile, my inner scientist was shaking her head, questioning why I would [400 words]

The word count:

Life in general: 13 words
Tom Peters: 127 words
Interviewer: 260 words
TOTAL: 400 words

The Takeaway: Narcissism can ruin your copy. Don’t let it. Unless you’re writing a memoir or a personal essay, strictly limit your presence in the text. Your readers want to read about your subject, not about you. If you keep popping up in the text, they may conclude that you’re a flibbertigibbet and decide to stop reading.

See disclaimer.

Shown: A section of Echo and Narcissus, by John William Waterhouse, 1903. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool.

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