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Show, don't tell


"A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions."

~ Confucius


Which teachers do you remember from school?

Although I've got a patchy memory from my early childhood, I can tell you the name of my teacher when I was seven years old: Mrs Perkins.

I remember Mrs Perkins not only because she was a very nice person, but she was also the one who, when I said I wanted to be an astronaut, helped me write to NASA.

Later on I found Spanish much easier to study than French and enjoyed learning about gravity far more interesting than anything else I learnt - and promptly forgot - from my other science classes, purely because of the teachers.

I remember these people and remember what I learnt not just because they were good teachers, although they undoubtedly were, but because they were excellent at showing rather than telling.

In French classes I studied pages of vocabulary and verb conjugation charts; in Spanish the teacher showed us how to have conversations. He brought the language to life by showing how it was used in the real world.

Whereas many teachers would dismiss a seven-year-old's dreams of becoming an astronaut, Mrs Perkins showed what I'd need to do to get there.

When learning about gravity in high school, the teacher had us throwing things around to show us how the theories he was talking about really worked. He went on to give us examples from the world around us.

Now think about some of the things you see or read about marketing, design, consulting, entrepreneurship, living your passion, or the myriad of self-help literature there is out there. They'll tell you how their new scheme can help you, or how you can harness the power of your thoughts to achieve great success.

But more often than not, they're just telling you, not showing you.

I encourage people to be healthily sceptical, to ask questions and seek quantifiable answers. Don't be afraid to answer tough questions and (politely) demand answers.

Somebody who is sincere in what they want to share with you should be able to show you what they are talking about. Those who don't entirely believe what they are selling will go to great lengths (literally) to talk you into something, but they have little to actually show you.

A great product or service shouldn't need a page of big yellow highlighted copy telling you why you simply must buy now. Showing why the product is worth buying is far more effective.

Superior products, services and people don't need to shout from the rooftops or use a hundred words where ten will do: they show how they excel.


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