From the Field: The Shoulders of Giants

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Sir Isaac Newton, in a letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1676

This piece of advice comes from a student, Benjamin Gera.

After being rejected for several jobs, Ben received a piece of advice from one of his interviewers. When he applied this advice in his next interview, he was immediately given the job.

What was this powerful piece of advice?

Whenever you’re speaking about your successes, begin by talking about those who helped you achieve them.

As Ben notes, by talking about the giants whose shoulders you stood on, you immediately convey humility and differentiate yourself from everyone else who appears boastful. As long as you first acknowledge those who have helped you, he reports, you can pretty much boast about yourself as much as you want, while still coming across as humble. It’s the perfect solution to the dilemma of expertise that I discuss in The Science of Speaking.

Another benefit of Ben’s technique is that it sets you up to tell human stories, rather than just rattling off a dry list of accomplishments. And as we saw in a previous blog post, this can help the audience feel they know you, which will lead them to see you as even more trustworthy.

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