Common childhood advice that is simply wrong


It’s not enough to just be good at the work you do.  You also need to cultivate the perception others have in your work.

Perception matters, whether your aim is to educate prospective customers, woo your lover, or seek a promotion from your supervisor.

Like so many others growing up in rural North Dakota, I was taught that my actions will speak for themselves, and that I should not boast about my accomplishments.  This is a sentiment which we tend to appreciate in people but as professional advice, it’s misguided.

While it’s true that bragging about one’s self is not an attractive trait, if you are not willing to toot your own horn, how can you expect others to spontaneously sing your praise?

Be your own advocate.  If you are truly as good as you think you are, it won’t take long for others to advocate for you too.

Share your achievements when it is appropriate.  This is where it helps to learn tact and subtlety versus overt boorishness if you want to come across as authoritative and not arrogant.

RaeLea:  Before Frank’s advice on this topic, I would often find myself frustrated with being passed up for advancements. Not because my “competitors” were better qualified but because they were better advocates of themselves.

Speaking aloud my achievements has yielded far more positive results than quietly standing by awaiting for my actions to speak for themselves.

About Frank Hurt

A woman once told him, "Frank when you grow up you're going to be brilliant and handsome."

It turns out Frank's mother is pretty good at predicting the future. Almost as good as Frank is at writing his own bio in third-person perspective.


  1. Munkeh Sister says:

    Brilliantly done Brother BIg and Sister RaeLea! Look forward to the next installment!

  2. Sheila Hlibichuk says:

    This is a topic that comes about during our Hero Study in Senior English. After we read how Beowulf boasts about his achievements in his effort to persuade King Hrothgar to allow him to fight Grendel, I have the students write boasts about themselves. The process is a very painful one for them. We often have to talk about where and why they changed from when they were in kindergarten, and they told EVERYONE about everything they could do to feeling like they are arrogant now when it’s important to “toot their own horn” for scholarships and jobs. I love the word “advocating”. I am going to steal it when we have the conversation again this year. Thanks!

    • Wow, what an inspiring task you set your students to! I adore how you apply that most ancient of story’s theme to contemporary living. I have to admit I never thought about it in that way, but of course you are right:

      Before Beowulf could be the champion of the people, he had to be the champion of himself.

  3. Munkeh Sister – Thanks!

    Sheila H. – (Or, if I may be so bold, Mrs. H.) I have been following your comments and found myself envious of your students.

    I have been wrinkling my brain trying to trace my own timeline as to when it became less acceptable to boast of our achievements and had the epiphany that it was around the same time I began to excuse compliments given to me. “Oh, thank you, but…”.

    To this day I still have a difficult time accepting compliments. Anyone else with this predicament out there?

    • Raelea, I totally get what you are saying. It’s a very fine skill to be able to toot your own horn and not sound like you are bragging. I sure haven’t achieved that ability yet.

      • ‘Cisco, I admit, it’s still a work in progress for me as well.

        For me, the first (and most difficult) step was to give myself permission to speak aloud my own achievements.

  4. You are so correct in your thinking on this subject. Especially now days with the promotion of everyone needing to be a team player an individuals accomplishments can so easily get lost in the cracks.

    • That does seem to be the “happy medium” doesn’t it? To be a team player but to still be recognized for our individual achievements.

      Thank you for the affirmations!

      • I had always been lead to believe that if you were to excel at being a team player one cannot boast of individual achievements. How many have heard the saying, “There is no ‘I’ in team”?

        I find a certain level of comfort knowing we are allowed to be positive advocates for ourselves.

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