How do you talk about your success without being try-hard?

In today’s article: How I was about to become “Sweden’s young entrepreneur of the year”, messed up, lost the nomination and made a fool out of myself in front of Sweden’s business elite.

(By the way, I’m curious to know if you’ll be able to spot the mistake I made?)

Here we go:

I was 1 of 3 people who had been nominated “Young entrepreneur of the year in western Sweden”

If I won, I could become the next “Young entrepreneur of the year”.

I approached a 5-star hotel where I was about meet some of the founders of Sweden’s biggest companies.

show off success

The “Elite Plaza Hotel” in Sweden where things were just about to get awkward.

My pulse smattered away at a rate that would make any cardiologist nervous.

I knew I had 30 minutes to mingle around and convince everyone to vote for me.

So, I tried to share as much about my accomplishments as possible to as many business owners as possible.

To my delight, the other nominee was much more chill. He had everyday conversations and didn’t even talk that much about himself.

I was sure he would lose.

At the dinner, I got concerned. People seemed to be more interested in him than me. (Despite that my CV was more impressive.)

Later the evening, the results were announced: I had lost.

At the moment when my competitor was announced as the winner, I realized that I’d made a fool out of myself.

You see, there I was talking on and on about my accomplishments, showing little interest in these business people.

Imagine owning dozens of businesses literally turning over billions of dollars, and this little prick does nothing else than talks about how good he is?

I wanted to sink through the floor.

My competitor talked about himself, too. But he did something I’d totally forgotten: He balanced up his self-promotion by also showing interest in others.

He’d realized that for people to vote for him, he had to be LIKABLE (something I hadn’t thought of).

And how do you make someone like you? By having a normal, relaxed back-and-forth conversation where you get to know each other.

Lesson learned:

Promote yourself when you need to, but BE JUST AS INTERESTED IN THE ONE YOU’RE TALKING TO.

I could have asked:

“Enough about me, what do you do?” (And indulge what they have to say and TRULY forget about me and my story for a few minutes.)


“I know that you’re very experienced in ABC, so I’m curious to hear what you think about my business when it comes to XYZ.”

Even at a job interview, when we’re in the mindset to talk about ourselves, it’s smart to be interested in the interviewer:

“I know you’ve been here for many years. Do you have some advice for me you wish you’d heard when you were new here?”

Let me know what you think in the comments!

David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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