Time to Rethink “Waiting to be Picked”


waiting to be picked

We’ve all heard the entrepreneurial mantra, “Stop waiting to be picked.”

Coined by Seth Godin, the phrase has taken on a life of its own. It’s not surprising that people have latched on to it. It’s great advice.

But like many buzzwords, catch-phrases, and bits of wisdom borrowed from our heroes, people tend to either miss the true meaning or change it all together as time goes by.

And in this case, not getting the whole meaning could cost you opportunities.

Lost in the Translation

The phrase, I’m sure, was meant to encourage people not to wait around for some authority figure to tell you that you’re allowed to pursue your dream. That you should start making things happen for yourself. At least that’s the way I read it.

But based on what I observe online, I’m convinced that a lot of people are only half understanding the message – and may be missing out on opportunities to succeed because of it.


Warning: Deconstruction Ahead

Let’s do what word geeks like me do. Let’s pick apart the sentence and analyze it.

“Stop waiting to be picked.”

It’s a directive, right? It’s telling us to stop doing something we shouldn’t do. But what is it that we shouldn’t do?

Most people would answer, “wait to be picked.” After all, that’s how the sentence ends. And to a degree that would be an ok answer, but more specifically…

In that sentence, what word is the word “stop” referring to? The one word that it’s pointing to?

Stop waiting.

Waiting is the bad thing we’re not supposed to do. Don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself and hoping someone select you or tells you you’re allowed to do something significant.

But somewhere along the line getting picked was thrown on the pile along with waiting as a “bad thing.”


Quit Picking on “Picked”

Being picked isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s a wonderful thing! Waiting around for it to happen is the bad thing.

Artists, for instance, have to self-promote their work. If I’m a talented sculptor and I wait around in my studio for some famous art collector or museum curator to stumble in and accidentally see my work, I’m doomed. I’ll never be discovered.

But… if I promote my own work, make contacts, join groups of like-minded people, and continue to do amazing work over time, then someone may very well notice me. And when they do, I might just get picked because of my track record.

And what’s wrong with that? Nothing at all. So stop picking on “getting picked” already. Hear the real message behind the phrase and start focusing on the important part…

STOP WAITING TO… (do amazing things)


Put Yourself in Position

Since we’ve established that waiting is the real villain in this whole scenario, what do you say we give good old “getting picked” a chance to break away and have a life of his own?

Besides, in reality “getting picked” in the dramatic cinematic fashion (like most of us think of it) almost never happens. Very rarely is someone scooped up from obscurity and placed on the top rung of their field overnight by some generous benefactor.

But that doesn’t mean that in time you can’t work and earn your way into a position to be picked.

Part of not waiting includes doing great work and putting yourself in places and situations that will allow you to be noticed if and when the opportunity presents itself.

If you can put yourself in a position to be noticed time and time again as someone who does stellar work, you can and will eventually be picked out of the crowd.

It’s not magic or luck. The opportunity to be noticed and chosen is earned through exceptionally good work and perseverance.


Are You Positioning Yourself?

No matter what your work is, stop and ask yourself…

Do you constantly looking for opportunities to sharpen your skills and learn to do better work?
Are you taking classes, reading books and seeking the help and advice of others? I don’t care how experienced you are in your field – you can always learn more. There is always a different way to look at things and different ways to approach a familiar problem.

If you think you’re done learning, then you may just be… well, done period. If you ever find yourself thinking that you already know everything, then that should be a red flag that you’re deluding yourself.

Do you belong to associations, mastermind groups or online groups in your field?
Not only is exposure to like-minded people in your area of expertise good for you educationally, it provides an opportunity to meet new people, hear new ideas, and commiserate with other people just like you.

I personally belong to two online membership communities that have been invaluable to me. I’ve received training, built strong friendships, made business contacts, and I’ve been presented with opportunities because I’m active in those circles. If people in your field don’t know you, then they can’t possibly think of you when opportunities arise, can they?

There are so many resources available out there on how to start a great blog and building a thriving audience base. These days, if you want to be noticed anywhere you really should have a strong online presence.

So… Seth Was Right

Not exactly a surprise ending, is it? I never promised you a twist.

Listen to Seth’s advice. Don’t wait to be picked. Go out and be excellent, take chances, and put yourself in a position to be noticed. (and maybe eventually picked)

Your turn to share.

Tell us about a time when you put yourself in the position to be noticed or picked… or share your opinions in the comments.


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Time To Rethink “Waiting To Be Picked”

About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

13 Replies

  1. As an indie writer, I can totally relate. I went out with a book in the early days of self-publishing completely green. I’d barely started a blog, didn’t have a mailing list, etc. Now I know how much hard work it takes to get your book noticed and I’m backpedaling some before releasing my next book. But it’s all a learning process I’m very much enjoying it. Thought-provoking post, Gary!

    1. Hi Debra!

      I’m happy to hear you found it thought provoking. It sounds as if you’re no stranger to putting yourself ‘out there’ and taking action on your own behalf. Thanks for sharing and I hope to see you back here soon!

  2. “Waiting to be picked” gets at the heart of the mindset shift between jobbers and entrepreneurs.

    When I decided to jump into entrepreneurship after my MBA, I would postpone promoting a new service until I researched it a little more or got it just right.

    It took me the longest time to realize it, but I was waiting for approval, or the go-ahead, from some undefined authority. But then I sorta figured out the only person who could give the go-ahead on throwing something out there was me.

    The problem with negative commands like “stop waiting to be picked” is that it doesn’t suggest what to do instead. I think your post is saying, “just get started,” and that is fantastic. My take on what to do instead is to “pick yourself.” You don’t have to wait to take what you have right now, as ugly as it may seem, and throw it out there to see what happens.

    Hey, does anyone want to go jump in a tar pit with me? No? Awesome! I’ll be back with a better idea!

    The mindshift is not sudden, or easy. At least it wasn’t for me.

    School trains us to raise our hand first. It runs deep. The only way around it is to practice jumping in first, even though it feels weird.

    Funny, I just discussed dealing with our strong herd instincts and standing out in my last post: http://falconerwebmarketing.com/working-harder-is-not-a-strategy/

    1. Thanks for the insights, Aaron. And I agree – it’s not easy. It’s very counter-intuitive for most of us.

  3. Jim Bessey

    You are so right, Gary.

    I did it by accident, with no specific intention of making anything happen.

    Back in 2007 I joined a writers’ website, to have a place to publish some odds and ends. Once I got interested, I stopped in to visit the site’s forum boards and started out with Introduce Yourself Here.

    Over time I got more and more involved — answering questions, offering feedback, joining in various discussions, and greeting new members. Along the way, I got to know many fellow writers, and my efforts drew the attention of board moderators and site staff.

    The time I invested there eventually led to an offer to become a member of that site’s “virtual staff” as one of just four Senior Editors recruited from over 10,000 active members. That position opened a lot of doors for me, doors I didn’t realize even existed. I made a fair amount of money, too!

    Your prescription is spot-on, Gary. “Waiting” won’t get you very far. Putting yourself out there, being sincere and helpful and interested can take you places that weren’t even on your radar.

    Great advice!

    1. Great example of ‘putting yourself in position to be picked’ Jim. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. More great stuff, Gary! For me, just being consistent with my blogging and my message helped me get picked by a literary agent! She saw my writing on another blog, tracked me to the Bounce blog (my own blog) and asked me if I’d like to work on a book project with her. Uh . . . yeah!

    1. That’s awesome about the book, Bobbi. Congratulations! I’d love to hear more about that.

      And see? Picked isn’t bad… it’s a good thing. Very happy for you!

  5. My short hiatus from blogging gave me the space and time to focus, but also to realize that I could write on whatever I want, when I want. I’m just going to enjoy writing and I’m going to quit paying attention to metrics for awhile. I’ve got so many irons in the fire that I don’t need to turn blogging into anything but something I enjoy!

    1. Sometimes just working through and doing what you enjoy can provide clarity. As can walking away for a while. I know that (as much as it’s very difficult for me personally) not forcing things has helped me. Good to see you, Mike… And thanks for the comment.

  6. Usually I do not read post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me
    to try and do it! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, quite great article.
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