Derek Sivers
You, Inc - The Art of Selling Yourself - by Harry Beckwith

You, Inc - The Art of Selling Yourself - by Harry Beckwith

ISBN: 0446578215
Date read: 2008-07-26
How strongly I recommend it: 8/10
(See my list of 360+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

One of my favorite authors, and a massive inspiration for my e-book. This is his newest, but read anything he’s done. It’s all top-notch insights on making life easier by being more considerate, whether you call that marketing or just life.

my notes


We assume the first rule of communication is, "Communicate so that you are understood." It's not. The first rule is, "Communicate so that you cannot be misunderstood."

The first 15 words are as important as the next 1500. Give listeners a compelling reason to listen, but without giving away your ending. Like audiences for movies, listeners lose interest in a story when they know its ending.

Once you open with a strong lead and provide some detail, you need to jump-start it with the next lead. Reclaim their attention. ("But wait - there's more!" "But the best part is what happened next...") This prompts the audience to rise up and ask, "Now what?"

Most impressions used to be made face-to-face. Now with email, your communication skills are like your appearance. Clarity becomes more important as time has become more valuable. Ambiguity is expensive. Power comes from the words of the communicator, and the most potent words are those that are expressed succinctly and vividly. Those who can express themselves in words that cannot be misunderstood have more power and more value.

Make yourself clearer and people will think you are an expert.

All good stories have a hero, and two other key elements:
1. A serious challenge.
2. A hero dealing with the challenge and learning something as a result.
But make sure you put the audience, not you, in the hero's shoes.
People identify with themselves. They want solutions to their problems. They are interested in making their own lives better.

Simplify. What we want is certainty and simplification gives us that. Less options.

Constantly edit your story.

Find your message, keep it simple, and repeat it often.

Whatever you write, read it aloud. Edit. Revise every memo and revise it again.

Advance just one strong argument. You cannot say too little. Get your listener's attention first with that one argument, then wait for them to ask more.

Don't say "solutions". That's plural. People want one.

Your friend tells you an unfunny joke. You laugh anyway. That's natural. You're being kind.
Same thing happens when you send someone a clever self-promotion, encouraged by the people who laugh out of manners. So you keep trying the gimmick.
Same thing happens when you tell a joke in a presentation.
False consensus effect: assuming others agree with us when they do not.
Many people feel uncomfortable with your implication: that they lack sophistication, are easily fooled, and may even be frivolous.
A gimmick also makes it appear that you have nothing important to say, so you are relying on bad puns, word play, and tricks instead.


When you listen to someone, pause a full second before replying. It signals that you have listened. If you start immediately, it gives the impression you've just been waiting for them to stop, so you could get to the important part : your words, your thoughts.

A great presentation must be motivational.

A poor teacher describes.
A good teacher explains.
An excellent teacher demonstrates.
A great teacher inspires.

Slide presentations with bullet points strip all emotional context. Imagine MLK speech:
a. better life
b. racial equality
c. can see promised land
Would Lincoln at Gettysburg have fared better if he had visual aids?

You know you gave a great presentation when people say, "I wish he would have spoken longer."
Leaving a group wanting to hear more, and you have sold something : a second audience with them.


Top law firm in Minneapolis got to the top because they do something amazing : they say, "If your problem falls outside our specialty, we'll help you find the best firm for that issue."
Position yourself as the solution to almost everything, and everyone will see you as the solution for nothing. People want specialists.
But you can offer something valuable in this age of so many choices, so many people, so many possible solutions : you can be a source.
You can be seen as someone who can solve the problem - or find someone who can.
Be the person who has just what they need - or knows who does. Get to know all the top people.

Be consistent in your hours, habits, and behaviors. We are most comfortable with people whose behavior we can predict.


Don't think outside the box - (most people can't) - just grow your box. Bring new things in. Tinker with your box. Buy an orange sport coat and red suede shoes. See what changes. Study different cultures.

Education does more than prepare us for careers. It enlarges our world - the number of people with whom we can connect. The more you learn, the more people you can engage.

Do what you love.
The money may follow and please you.
The money may follow but pleases you less than you expected.
The money may follow but pleases you only briefly. (Maslow said humans are only capable of temporary satisfaction. Once something satifies us, we move on to our next unsatisfied desire.)
The money may not follow, which might disappoint you.
But if you're doing what you love, you will have loved what you've been doing.
That will satisfy you so deeply that the result must either be called success or recognized as something even more enriching.

If an idea doesn't make you at least a little uncomfortable, it's not an idea.

A little discomfort is a good thing. A lot usually proves to be even better.

No one gets out of here alive.
There is a term for those who live vitally, with passion and humor : élan.
Italians give special praise on people who ignore the weight of life's burdens, and live with its lightness. sprezzatura (roughly translated as nonchalance)
Sprezzatura is the signal trait of successful people.

Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time. When you see someone else, you only see the part of the iceberg above the water.

A financial planner raised his fees by 40%. The first year following that increase, his income increased 65%. Today it's up 150%.
A Canadian decorator charged $75/hr for years. Raised her fee to $125/hr, and the effect was immediate. Inquiries increased, from people eager to work with the region's "premier interior decorator". Her conversion rates improved. Once prospects believed they were dealing with the area's best decorator - the conclusion they came to from her fee - they were more apt to say, "When can we start?" Sales took less time.
The fee increase also meant her more affluent clientele paid faster, more willingly, and without fail.