Playing the Game

Okay, this post starts out with a sigh. Can you hear it?


That’s me letting out a big intake of breath. Maybe it’s accompanied by a slight vocal rumble. But you know what a sigh sounds like, right?

I’m sighing because I get so tired of playing the game.

Sometimes it seems like there are a series of games set up for us to play, a daily/weekly/monthly chess match with arbitrary rules written by…I don’t know who, actually. Some mysterious expert who decides that this is the way things are done, and then constructs a reality around it that we all accept and fall in behind.

I’m lucky, though, because I don’t have to play the game very often anymore.

But many of my clients are certainly confused and sometimes terrified by the games and rules that seem non-negotiable. Like the ones about getting work and selling yourself. Today I’ve been thinking a lot about those, because I happened upon a website that’s all about helping you present yourself correctly and well.

What I’m talking about here is the venerable old ELEVATOR SPEECH or ELEVATOR PITCH.

If you’ve never heard of that, it’s basically a very brief (and often highly crafted) self-introduction that’s meant to wow your listeners in the space of a few seconds. Back in the day, it used to be 30 seconds; this most recent version advises you how to do it in 15 seconds.

Yikes, 15 seconds.

Do you know what happens to me when I think about that? I mentally travel back in time to all those meetings, greetings, interviews, conferences, workshops, events, and what-not that I’ve attended or participated in during the last ten-plus years.

And I can’t think of one person, not one, who presented him or herself this way.

Yet most of these people were proponents of the elevator speech, perhaps even experts. So you’d think if ever there was a chance to get your socks knocked off by an elevator speech, it would be there.

(And I’m not saying I didn’t get my socks knocked off by the people I’ve met over the years, but more about that in a minute).

Anyway, the only time I can remember people actually presenting themselves this way is when I taught a class where I asked my students to create their elevator speeches, or helped my clients to do the same. So you see, I’m guilty of buying into this particular game, and others like it, hook, line, and sinker.

In fact, there was a time when I believed there was no other option but to play the game.

That’s because early on in my life I learned to be the Good Girl, the one who doesn’t rock the boat or make waves. So I had a lot riding on playing the game and following the rules. Getting the gold star. Wearing the masks that others expected me to.

But years ago one of my drama teachers challenged me on this.

We were at a cast party and it was late. He was probably drunk and I was likely a little tipsy myself, and there was a moment when he looked at me and I knew he saw right through me.

And very quietly (and lovingly) he said: “You know, you could be really good if you’d just let go of the pretense.”

Now, years later, I get the point he was making: be real, be yourself, drop the masks.

Which brings me back to what I was saying earlier about getting my socks knocked off by people I’ve met over the years. Those who’ve made the biggest impression have been real, genuine, and without masks, as far as I can tell. No matter how brief our encounter, whether talking about themselves or listening to me talk, there’s a palpable connection that I experienced with them. They made me believe that there was no where else they wanted to be in that moment. And although I rarely remember the words they said, I fully remember their energy and their humanness.

So here’s what I think I know about making a true connection, without all the games and masks. 

It’s not so much about words, because people can’t fully process what you’re saying in 15 or 30 seconds. They need time to decode and decipher. So making a true connection is actually about being open, genuine, real, enthusiastic, and warm.

Coming from your essence.

Taking off your masks.

Speaking from your heart.

Letting go of judgments.

Being fully present.

Focusing all of your attention on that moment in time.

And probably ditching that canned elevator speech.

It occurs to me that this is much more complicated than stringing together and manipulating a 15 second batch of words. But it’s all in you right now, it’s who you are, there for the taking.

2 thoughts on “Playing the Game

  1. Unfortunately… It isn’t easy to be yourself when you’ve been pretending for so long….. But the freedom you’ll have when you’re YOU…. amazing.

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