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Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Do you remember the last time you started searching for a book or solution to help take your business to the next level?  Many times I will gravitate to a book strictly because of the title, which was in the case of Cal Newport’s book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”.  This book advocates that to be successful we must acquire a skill through professional training and practical experience, rather than pursue our passions.

The book outlines cases of people who pursued their passion, yet regrettably failed achieving business success. According to Newport, they fell short of possessing the necessary business skills to bring their product or service to market.

For any of you who have followed my articles, or read my books, you will know that I believe that you must have a good mixture of not just passion, but also training and experience to build a successful travel business.  Where I do agree with the author is that many people who get into selling travel assume that because they enjoy or have a “passion” for traveling themselves that they will really like doing it as a job or career.  As much fun and as exciting as traveling is, selling travel, working with finicky clients, and building a business are completely different.

Regardless of our different philosophies about business, it still was the title of the book that stayed in my mind, so when researching I found out that it was the comedy genius Steve Martin who coined the phrase, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”  He was delivering advice to budding actors at the time, yet managed to strike at something more relevant than theatrical guidance. Martin’s advice to become the best at what you do is echoed in the sentiment that when you are great, the world has no option than to take note of your “greatness”.
Here’s the actual quote from Steve Martin:

“Nobody ever takes note of my advice because it’s not the answer they wanted to hear. What they want to hear is: ‘Here’s how you get an agent’ and ‘Here’s how you write a script.’  But I always say, ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’ ”

This quotation from the multi-talented Steve Martin is easier said than done, but is nonetheless a great goal to have. You don’t have to be great at everything, but if you’re amazing at something you’ll stick around in the memories of those you meet.

Attend webinars and conferences, hone in on a specialty or destination, seek out industry experts, mentors, and those who can help you improve in any number of ways. Small improvements over time combine to yield surprising results. The idiom “cream rises to the top” is used to show that these efforts will not go unnoticed.

It is widely known that athletes have an indomitable will to succeed and oftentimes their entire training hinges on a performance spanning no less than a ten-second event. They understand all too well the gap that separates success and failure. As unforgiving as it may seem, gold medals are never awarded for second place. To be good at anything, including building a successful business, needs training and discipline.

The first step in marketing your business is to capture attention and avoid the inevitable “ignore” button. Remember, if you follow the herd, you’ll never be heard.  You must know that your first order of business is to get their attention. This means doing something to stand out from the crowd, something that will make them pause long enough to hear what you have to say.  Think half time Super Bowl commercials and how over the years they have become more and more creative.

Like Steve Martin said, maybe all of this is not what you want to hear, but success does require complete dedication.  But as is often the case, you can devote countless hours to your pursuit, make necessary sacrifices and still not hit upon success. Perhaps at some point you should consider that you may need to acquire additional skills in certain areas outside of travel, such as negotiating, communication, and sales.  Mastering several skills will give you the tools to help you accomplishing your goals and not giving anyone the opportunity to ignore you.

All business owners share the same basic struggle as every other business in America – big or small, mom-n-pop, corporate, or a celebrity like Steve Martin. We all need to get attention and we need to make the right people pay attention. So, whether you’re just starting out in your travel career or trying to get to the next level with your business, your goal should be to be so good at what you do to the point where people can’t help but notice.


Anita Pagliasso is the author of “How I Made A Small Fortune as a Home-Based Travel Agent” “From Home-Based to POWERHOUSE” and “Anita’s Toolbox for Home-Based Agents CD” (www.redticketproductions.com), President, Host Agency Ticket To Travel (www.travelagentathome.com), Travel Agent Forum Conference Director, and PATH President & Executive Board Member

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