Stories Show Substance

June 24, 2020 • written by

After I got hired, I asked my interviewer for feedback on what to improve about how I presented myself.

My interviewer was the CEO of a small recruitment company in Ortigas.

I already signed my job offer.

I asked him about his impression of me and how I can improve it.

I understand that I’ll be talking to other CEOs like yourself.

I’ll be presenting myself well, just like in an interview.

Instead of just selling my service, I’ll be selling our service as a company.

He was silent for a moment.

Then he said, “you have a sales background, so you’re already fairly good at presenting yourself.”

He went silent again.

He then continued, “what’s missing is some substance.”

I didn’t understand.

It’s the first time someone said I lacked substance.

I smiled and pretended to understand then went on with my day.

NOTE FROM 2020 KEVIN: This was my first indicator that I didn’t have substance in 2007. I was operating on a “fake it till you make it” way of living.

The office had internet so I was hoping I could research later.

This conversation was in 2007 before Quora started, so the only search result that stood out were dictionary definitions.

Lacks substance means shallow.

Now I have more questions than answers.

During lunch, I asked, the VP of Operations who was also present during the interview.

What does the boss mean when he said I lacked substance?

I was thinking about an answer and even did some research, but I couldn’t figure it out.

She smiled and said, that’s easy.

During your interview, you shared that you’ve read a lot of personal development, sales, and business books.

You can recite quotes and lessons from memory.

You are still limited to referring to book concepts and other people’s lessons.

Here’s an example:

Do you recognize how some people who are religious give advice using only Bible quotes?

That’s not exactly a bad thing.

If you communicate using Bible quotes all the time, and you share none of your personal stories, your good intentions may be misinterpreted, and some people will find you annoying.

Here’s another example:

Imagine a fifty-year-old business owner.

They probably don’t read books as much as you do, but they have a lot of lessons from personal experience.

So instead of quoting John Maxwell, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, Dale Carnegie, or Tony Robbins, these business owners can talk from experience.

These business owners make their own decisions based on what they learned.

They don’t depend on teachers and books to make decisions for them.

I asked her if this was wisdom.

She smiled again and told me; you’ll learn this as you gain more experience.

I later connected this from my time practicing martial arts and this explanation made the most sense to me.

Some martial artists are great at demonstrating flying kicks and breaking bricks with their dick, but they don’t have fight experience.

Those are two different things.

To have substance, you must avoid quoting and begin sharing your stories.

In 2020, I messaged her on Facebook to ask if I could share this story. She told me she doesn’t fully remember but she did say that at the time, she already understood the importance of knowing “book concepts” vs having “actual experience.”

Thank you for reading this far and thanks for your attention.

I am praying for your success. God bless!

If you made it this far, you should introduce yourself.












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