The Why of Pitching — and the Five Constants

There’s an important piece I should have hit when I started this series of articles about pitching:

Why you have to pitch — or market — yourself.

A scientist I spoke with this week said her peers go out of their way to avoid media exposure. To them, scientists who do a lot of press aren’t taken seriously.

That perspective is why important work dies in academia and why certain sectors are plagued by consistent wheel-recreation. The messaging gets lost or forgotten. Unfortunately, the scientists aren’t the only ones doing it.

If you want to make an impact, doing the work isn’t enough.

A few years ago I wrote about artist Arthur Pinajian, whose work, according to the New York Times, is mentioned by fans “in the same sentence as Gauguin and Cezanne.” Yet, the Gauguin and Cezanne comparison didn’t arrive until after a life as a hermit and death preceded by Pinajian’s advice to just throw away all of his work.

At the end of a second New York Times article about Pinajian this quote appears:

“He thought he was going to be the next Picasso,” Mr. Aramian said. “They believed he would become famous and this would all pay off for them one day, but it just never happened. So he became frustrated and withdrew from everything and just painted.”

Fourteen years after his death, two of his paintings were on the market for $87,000 and $72,000.

Would his work have emerged as it did if he had been known, if his lifestyle was different? Or would his work have increased if he’d had the fans he has now?

What would have happened if he’d continued sharing while painting?

Whether your goal is to be rich and famous or to make an impact on the world, you have to share your work. “Being there” isn’t enough.

A few weekends back, my father and I spoke about medical residents he’s mentored. He’s 40 years in as a family physician, yet still receives some eye rolls when he advises the next crop of docs to reach into the community, telling them that being a doctor isn’t enough for them to survive within their profession. If they want to be successful, they have to do more.

There are tons of doctors. Why would someone want to go to you?

What do you offer that can’t be found elsewhere?

Why should a patient remain loyal and recommend potential patients to you?

Why you?

Why should anyone choose you?

Same thing goes for other entrepreneurs and artists and scientists, and pretty much everyone else, period.

If you want to be famous (or infamous) and make some cash, you can strip down and dance naked, and mix in some other stupid crap, and throw it up on a monetized YouTube channel — and then repeat the stupidity, and hope for more views and money.

If you want your work to grow, to last at least a few decades, you’ve got to share your work and you’ve got to message it in a manner that is accessible to the rest of the world (basically everyone who is not you).

What’s that message?

Dad advises the residents that within their careers they “will see many technical changes. Five constants, however, will remain as they were in the days of Hippocrates.”

The following are his five constants (with his words in italics), which hold true no matter what your work.

I. Kindness
There is no wisdom greater than kindness. Kindness goes a long way to promote effective communication with the patient, the family, and the healthcare team.

With the rise of the internet and trolls, emotional disconnects have grown. More than anything, most people simply want positive connections and validations — whether that comes from you saying thank you, listening to their idea, just being flat-out nice. You don’t have to personally care about every customer, but you have to show that you value them.

II. Passion
Patients respond well to a clinician possessing passion for the chosen profession of healing.

In the film Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella approaches Dr. “Moonlight” Graham, who played in one major league game before saying goodbye to the boys of summer and becoming a doctor.

Ray Kinsella: Fifty years ago, for five minutes you came within… y-you came this close. It would kill some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they’d consider it a tragedy.

Dr. Graham: Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes… now that would have been a tragedy.

It sounds like the real Dr. Graham wasn’t much different, that his passion for medicine still is impacting his community today. Baseball was a dream for him, but medicine was his passion.

III. Social Responsibility
Ways must be found to make medical advances available to all patients.

I’m a few pages into When Books Went To War by Molly Guptill Manning, which is the story of the War Department and publishing industry joining together during WWII to donate “120 million small, lightweight paperbacks for troops to carry in their pockets and rucksacks in every theater of war. . . . Soldiers read them while waiting to land at Normandy, in hellish trenches in the midst of battles in the Pacific, in field hospitals, and on long bombing flights.”

And from all the free books, which offered servicemembers a mental escape from Hell, came something unexpected:

“After the war, the accessibility of mass-market paperbacks — together with the GI Bill — helped build a new literate middle class, spreading reading to a wide and democratic public. The wartime book programs had made The Great Gatsby into a classic, engaged dozens of authors in pen pal relationships with thousands of soldiers, and touched the minds and hearts of millions of men and women.”

IV. Affordability

Patients have limited resources and medical care must remain within their economic reach. This will be the greatest challenge for your generation.

Whether you’re Sal Kahn, providing free education, or a publisher providing a free book, or a restaurant offering a complimentary meal, making your product available to a wide range of individuals increases social capital. The investment in free goodness yields high returns.

Marking up a life-saving drug 5,000 percent won’t earn you friends.

V. Leadership
Community physicians are leaders within the healthcare system. As technology advances, the patients and families want a physician advocate to provide guidance with navigating the maze of healthcare options. They also want a physician leader to provide direction for the healthcare system.

You are the expert in your field. There’s a different dynamic between a painter and a doctor, but on the other side, both can be leaders within their communities and both can give back, which… Yep, you guessed it, will return to them.

Bottom Line

You have to share your work. You don’t have to do it via the five constants above, but you’ll find if you do give them a shot, you will build social capital, which really does have a nice rate of return. These five have been paying off since Hippocrates’ time — in every industry, not just medicine.

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  1. Mary Doyle on April 8, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Thanks for this beautiful post Callie! It transcends pitching and writing – these are five constants to live by, and they serve as a great reminder for all of us. Thanks for sharing your dad’s wisdom.

    • Callie Oettinger on April 8, 2016 at 10:10 am

      Thanks, Mary. Am thankful he granted me permission to rip off some of his work! 😉

  2. Joel D Canfield on April 8, 2016 at 6:12 am

    I’m with Mary. First word that came to my mind was beautiful.

    Not only do these five increase our impact and connection, they keep us grounded to a purpose. Promotion that forgets purpose might as well be those naked YouTube videos.

    • Callie Oettinger on April 8, 2016 at 10:16 am

      Thanks, Joel. I’m glad you mentioned “grounded.” That’s a big one. A few year back I watched an author implode, as his ego grew with his books sales. It wasn’t pretty — and it happens all the time. The artists lose their purpose and footing, and then… Embarrassing YouTube videos…

  3. Mia Sherwood Landau on April 8, 2016 at 6:29 am

    Well, this may or may not be appropriate, but I was struck by the underlying Torah principles reflected in your dad’s advice to physicians. Kindness, passion, social responsibility, affordability and leadership… We should all aspire to have those qualities to share!

    • Callie Oettinger on April 8, 2016 at 10:19 am

      Thanks for this comment, Mia. You’re right. Good qualities to share!

  4. Michael Beverly on April 8, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Great post, I repeat my advice from previously.

    I’d add another to the list: Integrity.

    I have one tattoo, it’s the word Integrity, written in script on my inner wrist.

    There is nothing harder than living with integrity as your life’s theme.

    My next tattoo is going to be:

    Omit needless words.

    I know that one is a hopeless cause, but I attempt to minimize damage as often as a can.

    • Michael Beverly on April 8, 2016 at 7:52 am


      …no edit button…

      Well, lesson learned: triple and quadruple check before hitting publish and perhaps I should drink my coffee BEFORE entering the internet.

    • Callie Oettinger on April 8, 2016 at 10:22 am

      Michael, When, and why, did you have “integrity” added to your wrist? What was the inciting incident?

      • Michael Beverly on April 8, 2016 at 8:24 pm

        I added the word integrity to my wrist several years ago after seeing a similar tattoo on the wrist of a fellow church goer at a fundie miracle service.

        I meet Jesus on the cross that day. He told me to forgive those that harmed me and I got the tattoo to commemorate the event.

        Shortly after a visitation by the Paschal Lamb my oppressors upped their violence against me which lead me to Richard Dawkins, et al.

        Integrity works both ways, like tracers in a machine gun battle, and viola, I became an atheist because truth is truth, even when found in muddy waters, and especially when it means you must give up your most cherished and deeply held convictions.

        The tattoo means more to me these days.

        I suppose I’ll write a book about all this someday but right now it’s too big of a story for me to handle properly.

  5. Robin on April 8, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Knowing the “why” behind your pitch is the most important part of the pitch, not so much in terms of the actual words used (though it could be), but for its effectiveness in helping me keep my pitch and/or that of my clients honest and in integrity with objectives, goals and most importantly, values. Michael is spot on with his suggestion. I also appreciate your viewpoint Callie, for all the thinking of done on the topic of “why” and pitching, I haven’t thought about it before in terms of all 5 constants. It’s wonderful.

    • Callie Oettinger on April 8, 2016 at 10:25 am

      Thanks, Robin!

  6. Gwen Abitz on April 8, 2016 at 11:30 am

    LOVE IT,Callie and what a MESSAGE of AFFIRMATION/CONFIRMATION that pertains to THE WORK and GOAL I have been striving to accomplish in the Medical Health Care System since the early 1990’s. I KNOW I cannot give up on being the captain of ship that feels like it is has sunk many times.

  7. Brian on April 8, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I almost deleted this because it is kind of long…and a little personal. Then I remember that your main point before the 5 constants–was to do more than show up.

    So, I reconsidered, and below is what I wrote immediately after reading your fantastic post.
    I cannot believe the timing of this post. Great post, and it helps me ‘coming to terms’ with my current place in life. As I’ve mentioned, Kelly and I do this race up and down stairs at a local stadium. It is grueling. I love it…it appeals to the ‘smash-mouth Soldier/Athlete’ in me.

    For the past 5 years, I’ve marketed as this really hard race. Along the lines of Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, etc–trying to, I now understand, copy the same pitch.

    What finally hit me this past year is that only about 5% of our participants are the ‘super athletes’, with whom this resonates. The vast, vast majority are just the ‘rest of us’. Normal people. All ages, all fitness levels, all makes.

    But there is something magical that happens when normal people, and super athletes, and everyone share a common hard experience–egos disappear, biases, prejudices, and judgments fall away(that shit is way too heavy to carry on the stairs)–and we are connected.

    So we added a theme to our race this year:
    Grit City Effort (Tacoma is Grit City) + Shared Struggle = Kindred Connection.

    We are deliberately trying to build a unifying and identifying event. We’re reaching out to each demographic: white, black, asian, military, local governments, schools, businesses, clubs, churches, LGBT centers, political parties, etc, getting representatives of their ‘tribe’ and attempting to bring us all together through this shared struggle/suffering. It is a window of time, an opportunity for everyone to see each other authentically.

    I realized a couple of months ago, that this is how I’ll serve my community–and I felt chills reading the 5 constants. Kelly and I realized that we have an opportunity to try to do something meaningful and important for our community, not simply to ask for money for our animal rescue (beneficiary of race proceeds). All that will likely happen if we can create something of value that serves our neighbors.

    As I was reading the whole blog, I could identify the queasy feeling of ‘putting myself out there’ that I get when I talk about or think about the race. I believe in it to very fiber of my being–but I sense Resistance telling me ‘Who are you to do this, middle-aged, middle-class white boy?!?’ They will laugh at you. There could be fights…ad nauseum.

    It’s not the critic that counts…

    Thanks again for the post. It provided some mental/emotional scaffolding for me.

  8. Lynn Jericho on April 9, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Hi Callie,
    So glad you put KINDNESS first. I spent many hours contemplating kindness last year. We are all so vague about what it is. And in these times where acts of violence are occurring everywhere, we need to bring at least equal attention to acts of kindness.
    Every Christmas since 2004, I choose a theme of universal interest and individual expression and write twelve brief emails offer twelve perspectives on the theme and givng my readers questions to contemplate. I call it Inner Christmas.
    Kindness was the theme for last year. I began with wondering what is the purpose of kindness. ” Kindness is an act that cultivates, establishes and nurtures the circumstances and environment for the flourishing of an individual and the whole of humanity.” Some of the acts of kindness I explored were: cultivation, connecting, protecting, promising, enlivening, and enjoying. You can find my thoughts on kindness here
    Many thanks for this inspiring post. your writing is an act of kindness. And it encourages me to pitch my book on kindness!

  9. Nícia Cruz on April 10, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Callie, you can’t imagine how much hope this post just gave me.

    I’m an advocate for kindness, above everything. Love is my first currency. And I always receive so much back in return.

    Marketing with love seems odd, but is also the only way I can do it. I’m glad there are others like me. I’m even happier that it is the best way to build a business/to be known.

    Thank you for the bottom of my heart. <3

  10. Sean Crawford on April 13, 2016 at 7:36 am

    As Jewel said in her song, “Hands,”
    … In the end, only kindness matters.

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