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  • Writer's pictureJohn Selzer

Shark Smile

My, what big teeth you have.

When you are in need of a boost, an injection of expertise or a lifeline, “How can I help?” is the most beautiful sentence in the English language. (I can almost feel the comfort and sense of relief washing over my body as I type it.)

But sometimes, there is a silent word in that delightful string of prose. That if you were not really paying attention or looking closely enough you would miss entirely.

What was really intended to be said was, “How can I help (myself)?”

It takes a lot of courage to show weakness. To acknowledge that you cannot do it alone. That you are human. That just makes it that much worse, then, when the one offering assistance really only has their own best interest in mind. Or they are just trying to sell you something.

We have all had it happen.

That moment when the discussion shifts from your needs, concerns or troubles and their true intentions slink out of the shadows and into the light. It is only then that you notice that the toothy smile was a little pointy and menacing all along.

It can take many forms. An offered solution, a term sheet or an introduction to be made that on the surface seems like salvation, but is dripping with one-sided self interest. Maybe you’re just a commission to be earned. Or, it may be fantastically un-subtle like a printed list of your LinkedIn contacts with names highlighted emerging from a briefcase. (I wish I were making that one up.)

Each one stings a little. The air gets sucked right out of the room and you struggle to catch your breath. Your hope turns quickly to disappointment, and an already shaky confidence seeks out new lows.

It sucks. I know.

However, it is important to remember that it is not personal. Sharks are predators - eating is the only thing on their mind. You just happen to look a lot like their next meal.

The worst thing to do is to turtle up and never put yourself out there again. What a tragedy that would be.

Awareness, not absence, is the greatest shark repellent. The food chain works out better for those on the menu when they know that noise from the bushes is a rumbling tummy.

Listen closely.


Shark Smile by Big Thief

This is such a chill song. The soft-spoken lyrics sit perfectly atop the constant beat. An intermittent messy trill of the electric guitar add a layer of complexity. This song is equally suited for a smoky club over beers with friends as it is for an afternoon in a comfy chair with a pair of headphones..

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19 jul 2018

Hey John - you wrote "fantastically un-subtle like a printed list of your LinkedIn contacts with names highlighted emerging from a briefcase. (I wish I were making that one up.)" I know you're not, it happened recently to me - met someone for coffee who was interested in shifting out of financial advisory into speaking - had a list of a number of my LinkedIn contacts, many highlighted, wanting to know if I'd be willing to make introductions for him. This from someone who on several occasions wanted me to speak for free for their firm because "I can introduce you to so many people...". My coffee was still hot when I put it in the cupholder in my car…

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