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Book Review: You, Inc.: The Art of Selling Yourself by Harry and Christine (Clifford) Beckwith

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In the introduction, authors Harry Beckwith and Christine Clifford Beckwith tell us the book actually started out as three different books: one on selling, one on career/life advice for new graduates, and one on manners. While it may seem strange to combine these three things — when you consider they all are essentially ways of selling ourselves — it makes sense. Despite a few clunkers here and there, You, Inc.: The Art of Selling Yourself, does a fairly good job of making it all work.

The book is written in bite-sized chunks, fitting 160+ lessons on everything from personal development to too much PowerPoint in roughly 300 pages. It makes for a quick read. How much you take away from it depends on where you started out. At times the lessons are profound and at other times clichéd. Thinking of the book as something for new graduates makes it easier to forgive the clichés, but be prepared: there's plenty here of which a professional person will already be aware.

A few examples will illustrate what you can expect from You, Inc. and why I felt alternately enlightened and annoyed by it.

A great message comes in a series of lessons about positioning yourself, whether that means selling your company to customers or selling your worth within an organization. “What Difference Do You Make?” asks one lesson, and it's a fitting question. If you can't identify where you are better or where you contribute in a unique, skilled way, you're going to miss the sale or miss the promotion. This is a lesson that's easy to forget in the non-stop, no-time-to-talk world we are often faced with.

Under the title “How to Be Fascinating,” the book offers a lesson on listening by relating a story of a man who was deemed a great conversationalist by a woman who had talked to him for 50 minutes. He barely spoke, but listened attentively. I have read this lesson, told in basically the same way, in dozens of books on selling and self-improvement. We all know we should be better listeners. It's time for the writers to come up with some new anecdotes on how to do so.

You, Inc.'s thoughts on speaking and presenting are right on, including Harry Beckwith's repeated lessons on cutting out the fluff from presentations to make them snappy and his reminders to not overly rely on printed slides. His imagined example of Martin Luther King, Jr. giving a speech using a slide titled "Have A Dream" followed by a. Better Life, b. Racial Equality, c. Can See Promised Land succinctly and humorously shows how a presentation can be flattened when the passion is removed.

"Life is not what you make it, it's how you take it" is the closing line to one lesson, and "He and she who laughs, lasts" ends another. To finish off stories of people worth emulating, the book repeatedly offers lines like "Be a Morrie" and "Be Like Raphael." There's nothing wrong with these messages, but at times they come off, I don't know, cheesy.

In the end, this book reminded me of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, not in content, but in the style and in the love-hate relationship I feel toward them. The lessons in both are important and worth remembering, even worth re-reading on occasion. On the other hand, the writing in both tends to drive me a little batty. Just to show you of my split mind on the subject, I can almost guarantee that I will read You, Inc. again at some point, just as I have re-read Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. If you buy it, I'll bet you'll read it more than once, too.

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About Adam Jusko

  • i have not read this book. however, i do like the discussion of what makes you unique and what your unique qualties are. we all have strengths and special talents. we need to harness them and use them to our advantage. sometimes self improvement can be as easy as recognizing this.

  • I can see the similarity to Don’t Sweat the Smart Stuff, good catch. I found Harry and Christine to be very interesting, especially now that I’ve interviewed them.

    I think what was interesting was their point on how “you are who you are, but there’s no assurance someone will see who you are. Instead, we see through our veil of prejudices and stereotypes.”

    Check out An Interview with Harry & Christine Beckwith, Authors of “You, Inc.: The Art of Selling Yourself” on my site.

    Thanks for the book review Adam.

  • I just started reading the book and so far, it’s great.