Fans of ABC’s Shark Tank, where investment-seeking entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to the cast of multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons (the sharks), have seen this scenario play out on the show. The sharks are interested, but on the fence, questioning if there’s enough potential in this business to earn their time, money, and attention. Sensing that he or she is at risk of losing their potential deal, the entrepreneur tries to tell the sharks what sets them apart.
“I’m relentless. I will not give up.”
“You won’t find someone who works harder than I do.”
“I am passionate about this!”
I’ve seen almost every episode of Shark Tank, but I’ve never seen any of these statements alone lure a shark to make an offer.
Persistence, hard work, and passion are prerequisites for entrepreneurial success. And just because you do those things doesn’t necessarily mean you have a viable business.
Would an NFL coach be swayed just because you claimed to practice hard?
Would a potential romantic partner be swayed just because you claimed to be a nice person?
Would a recruiter at Google or Apple be swayed just because you claimed to be passionate about technology?
In each of these cases—and on Shark Tank—showing works a lot better than telling does.
If you want to see how showing versus telling is done, scroll to 3:50 of this Shark Tank clip and watch entrepreneur Nathan Holzapfel. In just 20 seconds, he gets the sharks interested, not by telling them that he works hard and he cares and he keeps going, but by actually showing them. 20 seconds is all it takes for him to get billionaire investor Mark Cuban to belt out, “I love you—I LOVE you!”
When you’re writing your college essays, don’t just tell colleges that you’re resilient or hard-working or passionate. Show them.
And if you’re working your way through high school, remember that the best way to be successful and to get into college is to put your natural strengths to the best use so you have something to show for them.