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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.