Stepping Up Versus Showing Off. We Asked Seth Godin.

When you share your successes, people might misjudge you as arrogant, and you will face negative emotions such as jealousy and envy. We asked Seth Godin when saying ‘here, I made this’ can be defined as stepping up, and not showing off. His answer: 'when your work is generous'.

Early lessons

From a young age, our parents taught us to be humble. Showing off is for the show-offs, not for us. At least, that’s what they made (really) clear. Of course, we should be proud of all our accomplishments. But ‘this is something you do for yourself’, was our parents’ message. So, for example, when someone asked about our game of cricket, we didn’t tell them about our runs and wickets and making it to the Dutch youth squad. We just told them that we were having a lot of fun. Out of loyalty and respect we obeyed. Only to find out years later the valuable implications for ourselves.

Real world

In business, our teachers and mentors taught us to be vulnerable, step up, and take pride in your work. If you want people to hire you, or if they ask you to partner up or buy your products, you need to gain credibility first and prove them that you are the real deal (especially in the earliest days of your career). This is why people create profiles, resumés, portfolios and showcases. And they show their media appearances, ratings and reviews. We do, too. We share the news when we launch a new project. We tell the world when we accomplish something great. And we do not hide our faith in making our way to the top.

Selfish or generous?

There is one point of discussion here. What’s the fundamental difference between ‘showing off’ and ‘stepping up’? When you showcase your authentic value, people might think of you as arrogant. This might persuade you to hold back. But when you are on to something, you don’t want to hold back, right? What to do?

We decided to send Seth Godin an email and ask: when can ‘here, I made this’ be labeled as ‘stepping up’ and when as ‘showing off’?

His answer is as simple as it true: ‘When your work is generous.’

When your work is generous, you call it stepping up. When your work is selfish, you call it showing off. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?


Let’s look at some real life examples:

  1. On The Smart Passive Income Blog, Pat Flynn shares his income report. Last month, he earned a whooping € 153.397.47. Some people might perceive this as showing off. I think it is stepping up. Pat wants to show you what is possible. When people see this, they will get disturbed, which will help them make the leap. As Pat says, this is his way of paying forward the amazing things that has happened to him.
  2. I love most of Kanye’s music, but ‘I Am a God’ doesn’t seem generous to me. Perhaps I just didn’t get the message.
  3. In ‘This Might Work’, Seth shares his new eBook and does that by showing the world his amazing crowdfunding success. Is it generous? Yes. Why? Because Seth is desperate to prepare you for the future.

Mom and dad taught us well. Showing off is not for us. But we do step up. We have to. How do we make sure our work is generous? We will write about that soon.

PS. No matter how generous your work is, some people will still judge it (and you) as selfish. When you make it great, jealousy and envy are inevitable. Don’t let that hold you back. ‘You have to let people not respect you’ (John Mayer voice).


by Nawaz

Nawaz (1987) from The Netherlands is one of the two brothers who founded INMWTS. As the secret behind 6 unusual, but successful brands, they live their dream since 2009 and encourage others to do the same. Go, nail your way to success!