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To toot or not to toot your own horn

Published:Sunday | December 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith

Glenford Smith, career writer

One question which I get asked quite a lot is whether self-promotion isn't crass, undignified and egotistical. The philosophical foundation for this view usually relates to the biblical exhortation in Proverbs 27:2, which says: "Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips."

There is also the view by some high achievers that they can't waste time tooting their own horns, they just need to get on with the job and let their achievements speak for themselves. These deeply rooted ideas, inculcated into most young Jamaicans' minds, have had two highly injurious, if unintended, consequences for many people.

The first is that many people have an instinctive revulsion to anyone who talks about his or her accomplishments or abilities. They are simply 'turned off' by people who won't shut up about their latest promotion, the expensive new car or home they just bought, or how well their brilliant child is doing in university.

The modest majority regards such behaviour as boastful, offensive and obnoxious, and a sure sign of pride. They assert that the bible condemns pride, as "God opposes the proud, but shows favour to the humble" (James 4:6).

missing out

The next consequence of the belief that self-promotion is wrong has to do with the persons themselves who have this belief. In their attempt to be humble, they fail to highlight their excellent achievements and abilities. This prevents them from attracting the favourable attention of their bosses and others who could benefit from what they have to offer.

When confronted on this matter, I readily concede that there are some people at work and elsewhere who are truly arrogant and egotistical. There are people who have an overinflated sense of their own contribution and value to a group or organisation. They talk too much about themselves and sometimes exaggerate average achievements as being exceptional.

I, however, go on to challenge the disciples of modesty with the biblical command which says "Don't hide your light under a bowl" (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV). I assert that it is right and honourable to highlight your achievements, to toot your own horn and for impressing others with your superior abilities. To do otherwise is foolish and naïve.

No one is going to value your great work if you don't. If you believe in waiting for others to recognise how special you are and come pat you on the back or reward you, you could be waiting for a very long time.

In his enthralling autobiography, My Life and Leadership: Hard Road to Travel, Edward Seaga reveals one crucial mistake which he made in his career: "I have always believed that good works will speak for themselves; they did not." Focused as he was in moving on to the next goal, he didn't call press conferences announcing his current success, so very few really knew what he had done.

Don't make the same mistake. Share your successes. Display your award where people can see it in the office. Eschew false humility; promote your abilities and positive achievements. Speak about your good works; don't wait for them to speak for themselves, or you could wait forever.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of a new book 'From Problems to Power: How to Win Over Worry and Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities'.