Not lying: Talk yourself into advancing

Maybe it's time to set aside all those "know yourself" advice books and try lying to yourself about who you are:
• You are a finance whiz.
• You are a sales guru.
• You are a brilliant writer.
Any successful careerist needs to be these things. But most of us are not really all of them. The skills are too diverse even for the mind of an overachiever like you. Why not try telling yourself you’re all these things and see what happens? After all, the first step to being great at something is to believe that you are great at it.


You can say you don't like selling. You can say you're above it. But you may never get the chance to know because people who can't sell themselves can't get jobs. (Singles, take note: Dating is the most important sales game of your life.)
The hardest thing about sales is taking the time to understand what the person you're selling to cares about, and in which scenario that person is a good listener. People who say, "I'm bad at sales," are people who, for the most part, refuse to take the time to understand people. How embarrassing. So even if you are bad at understanding people, don't announce it to the world by saying you can't sell. Call yourself a salesperson and practice all the time.
I first learned the importance of faking it when I had to present financials to my angel investors. I had to pretend that I did not score in the bottom 20 percent of the math section of the graduate record exams, the GREs. I had to say confidently, "Oh, I have everything explained in an Excel spreadsheet." And then I had to hire someone to teach me to use Excel.

Today, I don't run numbers as fast as a real finance wiz, but I have confidence because I told my investors I knew what I was doing, thereby forcing myself to learn.

You need to understand broad corporate financial goals in order to place your own projects in context. You need to understand how to manage a dynamic budget without tripping on the question, "How did you get to the number on line six?"

Most CEOs did not move up the ladder via financial positions, but you never hear a CEO say he's bad at finance. So don't ever say you don't do numbers.


If you send a disorganized report to your boss, she won't understand it. If you have typos in your resume, you'll lose interviews. Everyone's career is dependent on their talent for communication. And in the age of email, everyone's a writer.

So take responsibility for your own communications, and function like you are a top-tier writer. This means outlining first so that you’re organized, writing to the point, and proofreading. A few of you will need to take a class. Some of you will need to take ten classes.


So lie to yourself. Tell yourself you are great at sales, writing, and finance, and you might not be great, but you will get a lot better. And even a small improvement in each of these skills will add up to a large improvement in your career trajectory. Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more. She penned this column several years ago, but she's so busy  now that she doesn't have time to write new things.