By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
In the latest episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, I featured Mason Harris who joined me from Maryland, USA. He’s used to getting noticed because he has “chutzpah” as he calls it. Citing insights from his book “The Chutzpah Advantage,” he shared how it helps entrepreneurs get recognition.
What is Chutzpah
Most people are familiar with chutzpah though they can’t particularly define it. I associate the term with someone who has the courage and the grit to go and get something done — someone who has ambitions and sometimes takes a risk in terms of offending people.
Mason pointed out that there’s frequently a negative side to this term. When someone says “I can’t believe the chutzpah on that guy,” it could mean that the guy is being rude and dishonest.
For him, chutzpah can be both positive and negative. It’s a skillset; a blend of personality traits and learned skills that combine to provide exceptional results. These results can be constructive (in terms of how it helps people) or destructive.
If two people take classes on computer programming, they’d end up leaving with the same skills though the other might be better than the other. Using the same knowledge, one of them could choose to create an algorithm to help in healthcare (e.g. track the benefits of the different types of treatment for the COVID-19 pandemic) or an application for businesses. The other person, meanwhile, could use the exact same skills to create ransomware. While the skillset is the same, there’s a difference in how people choose to implement it. This is how Mason looks at chutzpah.
The Chutzpah Advantage
Chutzpah is a combination of genetics and learned behaviours. Mason pointed out that everyone has their own personality characteristics that we’re almost born with. We also learn along the way. But according to him, the latter comprises the greater part of chutzpah.
In his “The Chutzpah Advantage” book, he discussed the eight key behaviours and characteristics that are part of the Chutzpah model that he identified.
These behaviours are not secrets; people have been doing it since the beginning of humankind. However, the advantage that he discusses in the book is how he put the model together and combined them to achieve either of these goals: For the readers to acknowledge that they need more chutzpah in their personal lives and at work, or for the small business owners and entrepreneurs to realise that it has taken them chutzpah to get to where they are — now, how do they create a culture of chutzpah among their teams and colleagues? This way, the behaviours that made them successful will be able to create more success within the company, allowing for more creative thinking and willingness to take calculated risks, not stand still, and always think in terms of scaling upwards.
The Opposite of Chutzpah
For Mason, the opposite of chutzpah is a person who allows the world to happen to them instead of them influencing what happens to them. People are subject to both good and bad luck at some level. However, there are things that are within our control. For example, we can’t necessarily control how people treat us or the bad or good events that happen to us, but we can use them to leverage into more success or we can squander away.
Mason recently read a story about a lottery winner in the US who won millions of dollars. Within four years, that person went bankrupt because his family and friends basically encouraged a spending spree. Instead of using that money to get educated, possibly invest in a franchise, or start a company, he spent it as if there would be no end. And of course, there is an end.
This shows how good luck today doesn’t always portend good luck in the future — it’s how people leverage it. In the same way, bad luck can also be leveraged into something positive. The antonym of chutzpah, as he reiterated, is somebody who allows things to happen and lets the world decide what’s going to happen to that person’s life.
If you have chutzpah, on the other hand, you’ll be someone who’d move forward. You have ideas that you want to implement and though you may not succeed on every single one, you can handle a little bit of failure because you know that risk is necessary for reward.
The Eight Elements of Chutzpah
In Mason’s book, chutzpah is an acronym for the eight elements that he identified. His model is a circle divided into eight parts that represent each element.
- Carpe diem. The element for C is based on this term or a concept that goes back to the days of ancient Greek philosophers. It’s a Latin term that most people are familiar with and it literally means seize the day or take advantage of the day. Sometimes, people refer to it as seize the moment. In essence, people with carpe diem have an objective. For instance, you want to write a book. You got it all figured out and you know that it’s going to happen when you find the time to do it. In reality, finding the right time to do it is pretty slim because you have no plan and you only have a vague objective. But as the Nike slogan says, carpe diem dictates that you have to just do it. Outline your book, think of what you might put in the chapters, and start writing. When should you do these? Today’s as good a day as any other, Mason stressed out. At some levels, all individuals have objectives. Carpe diem is about seizing the moment and moving forward.
- Handling objections. Every single day, people have ideas and we need to communicate them with others. Sometimes, it’s our family members and colleagues. Sometimes, it’s the people that we need to persuade at work. However, as Mason pointed out that we’re not their bosses, persuasion has to occur for there to have a sense of alignment. And every good and bad idea has an objection. If you’re in sales or you’re the head of a company and you want something, you’ll get objections to every idea that you have. For instance, you’re in sales and you’re saying that you have a PR plan in place for a client. The client may say that he can’t afford that plan, or that he’s already tried one before and it didn’t work. There are objections that you can count on or plan for. And there are those that come about from a developed questioning strategy.
- Uncovering need, pain, and opportunity. Mason said that we all have needs. It makes sense to address that need in a proactive way but sometimes, we wait until the need becomes a pain. Sometimes, as a result of this, we see opportunities. This is similar to how dentists and people know that everyone should get their teeth cleaned once, twice, or four times a year. But a lot of people skip teeth cleanings and regular checkups. When they wake up with a toothache, that ache becomes a pain that needs to be addressed immediately but at more cost or at the expense of something else. The opportunity, however, comes when you can think outside of the box. For example, in terms of transportation, most people think that there are already a lot of methods for it (e.g. taxi cabs, limo services, buses, trams, and trains). However, there’s a large group of people who would be better served by the convenience of using their phones to call for a ride when needed. And the people who thought of that idea created a company out of it despite all the objections that they received. It’s all because they saw an opportunity.
- Trailblazing. Trailblazing is basically a willingness to fail. Trailblazers want to strike out on a new path and go to where others haven’t gone (either because they haven’t thought of it or they didn’t do a good job and failed). They know that not every decision they make and not everything that they implement is going to work, but they’re still willing to take a couple of losses because they know they can recover from them. They’re going to trailblaze and try something different.
- Zigzag. This is what happens when we run across obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. And it really reflects how persistent we can be. As an example, Mason mentioned an author based in the UK who was turned down by 12 publishers. The 13th publisher said that they don’t really do books like hers but they gave her a chance. The publisher said he’d let her daughter read it and see what she thinks. A day later, the publisher said that it’s the best thing that they’ve ever read and asked for the next one. That author is J.K. Rowling who wrote The Harry Potter series.
- Purpose. Bad things happen and get in our way. The pandemic, for instance, has caused the deaths of millions across the world and bankrupted several businesses. It caused people to live off of their savings because they couldn’t get to work. It also brought forth a lot of emotional issues. But it is our purpose that will get us through these things. Mason recommended Viktor Frankl’s “Man Search for Meaning” as a read for those who want to understand purpose and how it can get people through the deepest and darkest moments in their lives.
- Ambiguity elimination. The A element is about how people get by and work with a model to help them make decisions more quickly, efficiently, and correctly.
- Humility. Calling it as one of his favorite elements yet one of the most unexpected, the last H in Mason’s chutzpah model stands for humility. People with chutzpah, particularly those on the constructive side, know how to share the success with those who helped bring them there. There’s an old adage that he cited, “Success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan.” A person who’s successful knows that it’s the team that he or she built that got him or her to success. If a person won’t acknowledge that, he or she will lose his or her best people.
On Getting Noticed
Mason is a public speaker and an author. “The Chutzpah Advantage” serves as the second book that he published. When asked about how he gets himself noticed, he said that while the tools he uses for public relations and reaching out to people change, the objective is always the same.
He previously mentioned that chutzpah is a blend of personality traits and learned skills that can provide exceptional results when combined. In the same manner, effective PR is a blend of strategies, media options, and proper implementation that combine to also give exceptional results. However, he clarified that what works for him might not work for somebody else.
Currently, Mason is focused on podcasts. For him, sharing valuable information and skillset will help people move forward. And doing podcasts is a wonderful way to do it.
He also writes articles. He has his book and he posts on LinkedIn and Facebook. Based on his market, which comprises business people, he found that LinkedIn is the best platform for him.
He’s also currently learning video because video is becoming more prominent in his world. He created a YouTube channel and recently launched a four-part series on a US-based platform called Superpeer.com The live series, which runs 45 minutes each, is an avenue where he discusses “The Chutzpah Advantage,” the rules, and stories that resonate so that people can get a better sense of it and be able to better implement, share, and teach it. His goal is to help his audience create a culture of chutzpah in their own companies.
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.