One of my biggest fears in life is becoming a blowhard.
You know blowhards. People who love to step up to a soapbox and bloviate about, well, anything. In my circles, it’s usually business or parenting advice wrapped in false humility, inane ignorance, or downright shellacked in humblebrags.
(And the great irony in writing an article about being a blowhard is, in fact, becoming a blowhard.)
The term ‘blowhard’ implies using a lot of force to accomplish absolutely nothing. “All bark, no bite.” “All sizzle, no steak.” Or, to quote the great philosopher, Mike D:
A lot of people … they talking about me, but that’s just cause they haven’t got a thing to say.
You’ve heard blowhards before. They say things like:
“Money never solved anyone’s problems,” while they, themselves, have solved many problems of their own with money.
They dispense advice — or, what’s worked for them — as PRE-scriptive (“this will work for everyone”) instead of DE-scriptive (“this is what worked for me”).
They talk about “hustle” and “grind” and “crushing it” without knowing the pain of missing a payroll, or setting a budget, or having anything real at risk in their own businesses.
This is the “financial advisor” who barely has two pennies of his own to rub together, yet wants to take the reigns of your financial future whilst spouting off Warren Buffett quotes. (He also rarely holds his own money in the same financial vehicles he’s asking you to park your dough in.)
This is the dropshipper who spouts syrupy-sweet business advice after launching a sales funnel and made a mint selling cheap plastic watches from China, only to go bankrupt 3 months later (true story).
These are social media influencers who are famous for being famous. (Or, rather, “famous”.)
Blowhards love to mock and tear down certain hallmarks of success, only to celebrate those same hallmarks when they reach them later. (I once knew someone who mocked successful business owners who bought nice cars for themselves, only to go and buy a custom import for himself after finding success. This, by definition, is a blowhard.)
There are four stages of learning/understanding (full disclosure: I don’t know where these came from originally, but I first heard about them via Tim Ferriss):
Stage One: Unconscious Ignorance. Simply put, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Stage Two: Conscious Ignorance. You understand what you don’t know and/or understand you don’t know it all.
Stage Three: Conscious Competence. You understand you know something and have some level of mastery.
Stage Four: Unconscious Competence. You are not aware of how much you know; you are “blind” to your own expertise. (This is not unlike a fish being “unconscious” to the water they swim in.)
Blowhards love to hangout in Stage One. Of course, they don’t know they’re in Stage One. They believe they’re in Stage Four. But a prerequisite of being in Stage Four is having passed through Stages One, Two, and Three. Blowhards are exposed in Stage Two, but will often willfully retreat back to Stage One to avoid the embarrassment (or so they think) of admitting they don’t know it all.
#1: Thou shalt choose humility. Avoiding blowhards means constantly staying in the seat of humility. Choosing to place yourself in a position of constant learning, seeking, and understanding. It’s making a pact with yourself to never “arrive” at a destination, but to choose placing yourself back in Stage One when/if you reach Stage Four.
#2: Thou shalt choose perspective, not prescription. If you’re like me, your natural tendency is to share what you’re learning. There’s a good way to do this and a blowhard-way to do this. The blowhard shares what he’s learning as a prescription to truth. His way is the way to do it. A non-blowhard (a blowsoft? Gotta be a better term than that…) shares what she’s learning as a perspective to truth. Her way is a way that worked for her, but it is not the only way.
#3: Thou shalt shut your mouth. Blowhards are fast to talk, slow to listen. Choose the opposite. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
#4: Thou shalt refine your ideas. This goes hand-in-hand with #3, but when you are prompted to share or speak, hold onto the idea for a step or two longer. See if you can distill it down even further. Seek clarity. Refine your ideas until the unmistakeable light of wisdom gleans through the prism of your thoughts.
#5: Thou shalt not engage blowhards. Blowhards love an audience. You will not give them one. Do not engage. Do not correct. Do not compliment. Do not listen.
#6: Thou shalt not reward blowhards. When you spot a blowhard, do not reward them monetarily. The marketplace is the ultimate judge of blowhards — it is truly the only corrective force available to knock the wind out of the blowhard. The blowhard’s superpower
#7: Thou shalt confess your blowhardedness. I know so much about blowhards because I have been the blowhard. And I’ve been duped by blowhards. Admission of this sin is difficult and painful, yet necessary. When you confess your blowhard tendencies, you’re better able to spot them in others.
#8: Thou shalt demand fruit. Blowhards make up in volume of words what they lack in volume of results. Demand to see the fruit of their words. Don’t settle for the words themselves. (The flip side of this are blowhards who over-focus on results in an attempt to assuage their own guilty consciences. This is the most dangerous type of blowhard.)
#9: Thou shalt seek out non-blowhards. Game knows game. Some of the most humble people I know have the lowest profile. Blowhards seek status so people will listen to their words. Non-blowhards shun status until their words have power (which gives them status). Seek these people out.
#10: Thou shalt seek the difficult path. Blowhards love (LOVE!) to make things seem easy. “10x your business overnight…” or “how to double your leads in 24 hours” or “get an infinite return on THIS investment with just a few clicks of your mouse…” Here’s a secret the blowhards don’t know: nothing worthwhile is ever easy. It might be simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy. Seek the path of most resistance.
I’m sure there’s more I could say. But I won’t. Then I’d just be a blowhard.