A man with zero military or political experience has just been elected as US president for the first time ever. The ultimate example of winging it all the way to the top. Despite multiple hurdles and blows to his campaign he went from rank outsider to winner. What does this say about hard work, ambition, luck and success?
1. Authenticity comes through candour.
Donald Trump has said truly unacceptable things. His speeches have rambled and gone wildly off-script. He’s a raw, unedited maverick. But when he repeatedly says he’s going to build a wall, people believe him.
Ever been to buy a car and the salesperson has candidly told you about something minor that’s wrong with it? A wonky mirror that’s easy to fix. You’re highly likely to believe everything else they tell you after that. It’s a classic sales tactic.
In business or politics many people have polished their speech and presentation skills until there’s no authenticity left. That’s great for people like Trump. He got to play the ‘real’ guy, with nothing to hide and who really means what he says.
But… you don’t have to be a dick about it. Be candid. Be open. Be vulnerable. Be unedited. People will like, trust and care about you.
2. Accept that not everyone will like what you do. Some will hate it.
Ask someone to name the most hated bands on the planet and people will say “U2, “Coldplay”, “Nickelback”. The list goes on, and funnily enough it closely mirrors the list of most successful bands.
Chris Martin of Coldplay has to wake up every day knowing that people literally loathe his music. It clearly doesn’t stop him making more of his music because lots more people love it, and making it is what he feels born to do.
Trump faced an unprecedented amount of hate in the media. Yet he ploughed on regardless. He seemed to thrive on it at times. You need to do this on your level too. Perhaps your own work should make more people angry, at least make them feel something.
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
3. Having qualifications is never enough. Connect.
Hilary Clinton is widely thought to be the most qualified candidate for US president ever. Yet the loudmouth barged in and won the job. Is this because Hilary’s a woman? Quite probably. But it’s also because the most qualified person rarely gets the job.
When you go for a job or opportunity, the people assessing you just want to know you can do it. It doesn’t necessarily help if you also have a masters degree and have authored books on the topic. Sadly, that probably makes you unlikeable.
Beyond basic capability it’s about personality. About connecting with people. Trump convinced disenfranchised America that he listened and he cared. That he was on their wavelength and not that of the political elite. This mattered far more than any experience or qualifications.
4. Say something new.
A useful brainstorming technique in advertising is to try and list all the things that client’s sector would never do. The big stinking no-nos. A beer brand talking about getting blind drunk, or a car maker talking about speeding.
They create fun jumping off points that lead to some of the best and most surprising ideas. But ultimately it’s a way to craft a message that you’ll be the first to say.
Trump’s policies sound like the kind of thing they find in a mass shooter’s notepad when they posthumously search their bedroom. Or at least they used to. Now they’re his actual presidential mandate.
His unorthodox policy promises were hard to believe at first. But they provided a breath of fresh air to people who had tuned out from politics. They said “yeah, we gonna fuck some shit up” and people responded to that.
5. Listen. Listen. Listen.
If I had to praise The Donald for one thing, it would be his harnessing of disenfranchised America, through listening to them and playing their concerns back to them. He’s an accomplished salesman and this is how sales works. A politician doesn’t think like this and that’s why he won.
This wasn’t about poor vs rich, black vs white, men vs women. It was about voters sticking a massive finger to the political elite in Washington, who don’t really listen to ‘hard working people’ — a phrase they constantly chant but never truly understand.
Just like other right wing political elements in the UK and Europe, Trump identified a huge gap between politicians and citizens. And with nothing more than populist, polarising words he stepped up to podiums and closed that gap.
Bonus tip: My money is on Michelle Obama being elected US president in 2020 😉