The best way to get people to talk about you is not to keep talking about yourself, but to have achieved something worth talking about.
Most of the time, this means spending decades to get to a level of wealth or achievement that becomes very difficult for most people to surpass.
Before Steve Jobs and Apple catapulted into the limelight, they were just another small Microsoft competitor. An underdog even. For decades, Apple stood in the shadows of bigger companies like IBM and Microsoft.
But when the iPhone was launched and shipped by the millions, the light pulled away from Microsoft and landed on Apple and its eccentric founder.
It took Steve Jobs decades to go from his garage days with Steve Wozniak, creating products like Lisa, before coming up with the iPhone.
Steve Jobs became a household name overnight, now even posthumously, I imagine his fame equals or even surpasses that of past rival and Giant Bill Gates.
Another example from a different time zone is that of the now famed story of how an English teacher who touched the internet for the first time at the age of 30 became one of the richest and most influential people today.
Of course, we are talking about Jack Ma.
Jack Ma’s Alibaba spent 10 years in obscurity, a website most people found but only a few used because it looked fishy. The idea that ‘Alibaba is a scam site’ was a common idea in their first decade of operation.
For the first ten years, nobody talked about Jack Ma. A few people might have, but he had nowhere near even 1% of the fame he has today.
And then, again, overnight, with Alibaba’s footing in B2B expert e-commerce became more and more pronounced, the name Jack Ma catapulted into the limelight.
Today, Alibaba is everywhere. I mean everywhere. They even have a semi-automated supermarket now in Shanghai.
I could go on quoting examples, but I think you don’t need more examples.
The point is that it takes a long time, much longer than we’d like, to get achieve anything meaningful.
It doesn’t take just one, two or three years. Not even ten years sometimes.
But here’s what I think is the biggest irony of all:
The most famous people never did the things they did so as to became famous and well-known, or even influential. They did it because they had the drive to do what they chose to do and do it well. They cared for fame, of course, but much less than you think.
A side note on social media
These days though, most people are willing and wanting to take a short-cut to feeling like someone famous and influential.
They share every small triumph on social media, get likes, congratulations and feel good. The hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of likes make them feel like they have really made it.
Of course, there’s some value in this kind of interaction. But it is also dangerous. It makes you feel like you’re already done. It chips away at the reality of the work ahead. It makes you sit back a little bit, whether you’d like to admit it or not.
The more you celebrate victories achieved in a few weeks or months, the slower you get, the faster your quiet competitors race ahead.
Warren Buffett is one of the world’s richest man and best-known capital allocators. His portfolio often beats the market and he has the billions under his management to show for it.
Now, imagine if Warren Buffett had a Facebook account. What do you think he might share?
One thing I don’t think he will be sharing are his quarterly capital gains. Things like ‘Oh look, I helped my clients gain 50% in capital this month’ might even get him 100,000+ likes but… these are unlikely the best measure of his achievements.
What he does instead is he writes a 20+ page annual report about what happened the entire year for public consumption.
Instead of getting likes on social media, Warren Buffett’s reports are accessed and read by millions of investors and hobbyists around the world.
The reports even get printed into books. Do you think we’re likely to have our Facebook posts printed into books?
While social media interactions have led us to believe that we can validate and measure our success using the metrics of social media, they are ultimately false signals.
You can always measure them, you can always use them, but never be fooled by them.
To move ahead faster, measure something else.
The less you measure false signals, the faster you move, the closer you get to becoming very, very famous.
(But, is becoming very, very famous really the best thing in life to hope for?)