The Mischievous Art Of Selling Yourself

I’m currently re-reading ‘Life’s a Pitch…‘ by Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity. The strapline is ‘how to be businesslike with your emotional life and emotional with your business life’!

To get a feel for their approach, here’s an extract on this provocative topic by Bayley, taken from The Observer:

A certain audacity in conversation, a reckless promiscuousness with reference, are other elements of the self-invention package. It is said the recipe for happiness is good health and a bad memory, but a good memory works better. I learnt that powerful recall and an ability to quote quotes and cite dates gave a persuasive simulacrum of high intelligence. I discovered at university that a certain lecturer’s notes were taken verbatim from a standard work (I used to amuse chums by running my finger along the lines in synch at the back of the auditorium) and this taught me that very few people are truly in possession of the intellectual or academic authority they claim. This was an invitation to boldness. If you have the nerve to say it, something like, ‘There’s a charming little panel by Valdes Leal in the monastery at Elciego’ has an impressive effect. There isn’t, but who will refute you?

Stephen Potter advocated a similar device in the notoriously tricky area of wine snobbery. He recommended saying something completely meaningless, such as: ‘This wine has great corners.’ But the important thing is to say something interesting. There’s a wonderful self-portrait by Salvator Rosa in London’s National Gallery. It carries the inscription ‘Aut tace aut loquere meliora silentio’. Shut up, or say something useful. They do a very nice postcard of it. I have used lots.

It is said that we are all three different people: the person we think we are (the one we have invented), the person other people think we are (the impression we make) and the person we think other people think we are (the one we fret about). You could say it would be a lifetime’s quest to reconcile this battling trinity into a seamless whole. Maybe, but for the time being I am convinced that, in Kurt Vonnegut’s words (there I go, quoting again): you are what you pretend to be.


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