What's the difference between confidence and chutzpah?

| 24-min read

I asked "The Chutzpah Guy" -- listen to find out what he said

You see, for a while now, I’ve been saying that it was chutzpah, not confidence, that enabled me to be successfully self employed for 34 years now. And I stand by that.

But what the heck is chutzpah anyway? Are you born with it or can it be cultivated? Is it good or bad or something in between? And how do you spell it anyway?

Well those are the questions I tackled with The Chutzpah Guy, Mason Harris, author of “The Chutzpah Advantage.” 

Listen here (or below) and scroll down to read the transcript.  

But first, take this baby step

Mason suggested: "Carpe diem – seize the day (or the moment) – stop waiting for something good to happen and do whatever you can to make it happen."

My version of that is: "Do something you wouldn’t normally do and see what happens."

And if you like what you hear, we’d love it if you write a review, subscribe on Apple Podcasts and sign up for Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor. 

Transcript for #449 with Mason Harris, The Chutzpah Guy

Ilise benun

Hi there. This is ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor. And this is the podcast for you, if, and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind, and I mean for good.

People tell me they see me as a confident woman, and maybe I am, but I don't think about it that way. For a while now, I've been saying that it was chutzpah, not confidence, that has enabled me to be successfully self-employed for 34 years now. And I stand by that. 

But what the heck is chutzpah anyway? Are you born with it or can it be cultivated? Is it good or bad or something in between? And how do you spell it, anyway? Well, those are the questions I tackled with The Chutzpah Guy, Mason Harris, author of The Chutzpah Advantage. So, listen and learn.

Hello, Mason. Welcome to the podcast.

Mason Harris

Well, thank you, ilise. It's a pleasure to be here.

Ilise benun

Thank you. Please introduce yourself.

Mason Harris

Sure. My name is Mason Harris. I am also known in some circles as The Chutzpah Guy. And chutzpah is a word that many people are familiar with, at some level, but have trouble defining. What you frequently hear is, “I know it when I see it, but I can't define it,” which is an old Supreme Court justice quote related to a different issue, but it applies here as well.

Ilise benun

So, you're The Chutzpah Guy, but what exactly do you do with your chutzpah?

Mason Harris

I do a lot of public speaking, and I work with organizations on helping to create a culture of chutzpah among their colleagues and their employees, so that people think a bit more aggressively, creatively, and are willing to accept risk with failure. Because anytime you take a chance, there's going to be some failure involved, especially over numerous chances. So creating that culture leads to faster growth and, I believe, happier environments.

Ilise benun

Okay, so the way we connected was that, back in February I think it was, a couple months ago, I'd been thinking about chutzpah and then I started talking about it. And so, my listeners probably won't be surprised that The Chutzpah Guy is a guest on my podcast because I have been using that word, and spelling that word for people who don't know how to spell it, and just integrating the idea of chutzpah into my teaching lately. So we'll talk about what it is, and we'll define it, and compare it to the other things that people think they need. 

But I want to start by telling the listeners how we connected, which is that in February—and I will try to link to this in the show notes, if I can—I put out one of my question posts on LinkedIn, which is one of the ways I crowdsource content. And it's just a simple question and I think the question was: “Is chutzpah something that you're born with or something that you develop?” I think that's what it was. Or maybe it was: “What the heck is it and how can it help you?”

Anyway, you sent me a message because I think Terri Trespicio, a good friend of mine, commented on that post also. And you sent me a direct message on LinkedIn that said: "When Terri highlights someone in a comment about chutzpah, I pay attention. Why? I'm the author of The Chutzpah Advantage. Connect?"

So, one of the things I liked about that, number one, is that it's a beautiful example of a message that you can send to a stranger. I'm sure I'm not the only one who you send this kind of message to, right, that is connected, that is relevant, that is about the thing that they were talking about which would make them want to connect in the first place. And so, that's what it was for me. So, that's how we met, and I would love for you to comment on how we connected, or the thinking behind that type of message, and maybe other people you send it to.

Mason Harris

Sure. That's my recollection, as well, so we can share this with the authorities if necessary. (Laughter.)

But basically, Terri, I met because she appeared on a podcast called “3 Women Present,” which is also a podcast that I had been on a couple of months earlier. Actually, I think to this point, I'm the only male guest they've ever had and I believe that's because they understand that chutzpah is universal. And if anything, it can provide even greater advantages for women in business or women who are interested in self-advocacy. Because in some ways, sadly, it's unexpected that a woman in the workplace will have chutzpah, and yet, it's been there all the time, we've just done ... Organizations typically have done what they could to keep that under wraps, undercover, because they were focused more on other colleagues and employees in the workplace.

But yes, it was through Terri that we connected. As far as my introduction, that's typical for me. When I find or see a comment or a post that I like—and I'm sorry I missed your quote or your post regarding chutzpah, because I would've responded directly to that—so, Terri mentioned you and then I reached out and referenced Terri's remark.

Ilise benun

And I would think you're just always on the lookout for something you can connect to the idea of chutzpah as a way to make connections and as a way of using your chutzpah.

Mason Harris

Well, like many of our listeners today, I am, in essence, a solo entrepreneur or solopreneur. I work with a number of colleagues, but my success, at the moment, is dependent on my ability to make the right connections and reach out. And I have a feeling that's a challenge that many of our listeners today face.

Ilise benun

So, let's define chutzpah, because we've been talking a lot about it, but we haven't defined it yet. So why don't you, since you've written the book on it, begin with your definition.

Mason Harris

Oh, the hard question. I was going to throw that back at you because of the research you've done. 

I've interviewed about 60 people on chutzpah and I have come up with numerous definitions, descriptions and adjectives. Among, well actually, can I throw this back at you? From your research, how do you define chutzpah?

Ilise benun

Well, yes you can, and I'll give you a short answer, and then I'm going to throw it back at you … which is that I define it by what it's not. And that's the purpose it serves in my teaching. So, I say, “What has gotten me where I am is not confidence, and not even courage, it’s chutzpah.”

So, what is the difference between those things? Mason, your turn.

Mason Harris

Okay. Very good. Confidence, I think, can underlie chutzpah. In my definition, I have eight primary behaviors and characteristics of chutzpah in the model that I've created. 

Confidence is not one of those eight. To me, again, it underlies a lot of this, but confidence can also be misused and misdirected. I can be confident about what's happening in politics and be completely wrong about it. I can be confident about my ability as a writer, but not understand that I'm really not at the level of a lot of people whose names and interviews we see on national TV. So confidence is good. It's necessary. But it's not as important as those eight key behaviors and characteristics. 

Let me ask you this from your research: is chutzpah good or bad?

Ilise benun

Well, when I put this question out on LinkedIn, I was really surprised at how many people had a negative association to it because I only think of it as positive and something helpful. But, a lot of people did seem to think there's something negative. I don't even know why, but I know that you have talked about both the pros and the cons of it. So why do people think it's not necessarily a good thing?

Mason Harris

Well, because chutzpah is actually a skill set, and a skill set can be used for constructive or destructive, good or bad events and outcomes. 

So, for example, if you and I, we're looking for a career change and we're going to learn how to code software, and then we're going to latch onto a unicorn company in Silicon Valley, and get lots of stock options and become multi-millionaires. After the course, you decide to create an app or multiple apps that help businesses become more effective, or healthcare track the efficiency of particular treatments and drugs throughout our population … all positive things.

I, on the other hand, using that very same skillset, might decide to go into ransomware where I hold people's computers for ransom. I break in and I lock up their computer. Or worse, I get into hospitals and large companies, and I, in essence, stop their ability to work, to conduct business as usual, because I've used my skillset for malicious purposes. 

So that's why we see chutzpah as good or bad; depends on the bias, the perspective of people who either have seen chutzpah in action, have been the beneficiary, or, in essence, even the victim of chutzpah.

I can give you a specific example. Bernie Madoff had chutzpah. We know him primarily as a thief who stole $65 billion dollars. There's no denying this is what he did. When he first started his investment company, however, it was the same chutzpah mindset and skill set that enabled him to create relationships, positive initially, with his client base. It's when the market went bad, instead of owning up and pivoting or finding a way through the problems that he used that same skill set for very destructive results.

Ilise benun

And, I know you've talked about ‘chutzpah-preneurs,’ right, Mason?

Mason Harris

Yes.

Ilise benun

What is a chutzpah-preneur? Is Bernie Madoff a chutzpah-preneur?

Mason Harris

No, I would not consider that. I think of our audience, and again, I know that we have some people who have employees, and there might be people with big companies in the audience as well, I don't know. But for the most part, we're reaching out to people who know that they prefer being, for the most part, on their own; creating their own success and using services, products, skills, other people, as needed, but don't want the hierarchy or the politics of an organization. 

Chutzpah-preneurs are small business owners, and they can be solopreneurs or they can have small companies. But these are people who say: "I can get a very good job. I can have this safety of working in an organization, but I want the creativity and the ability to stretch further than an organization might allow me to." And that's actually one of the key definitions of chutzpah that has evolved from my work. 

Chutzpah is about stretching our boundaries, as individuals, in our businesses, even if we work for somebody. And when an organization stretches boundaries, they also can accomplish more through that chutzpah.

Ilise benun

So, the idea of stretching boundaries and reaching for your potential without knowing how far you're going to go, how anything is going to work, whether or not it's going to work … does that sound about right?

Mason Harris

Yes. And what you just described is trailblazing. Now, in the word chutzpah, there are eight letters, C-H-U-T-Z-P-A-H. My model uses each of the eight letters to identify the behavior. 

One of those behaviors is what I call people who risk failure and derision. They're willing to go out on a limb, and they know that when they do that, there's a chance of failure. But they're willing to try it anyway. These people are what I call “trailblazers.”

Now, you don't have to be an innovator in the commercial space industry, like an Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos or Sir Richard Branson, to be a trailblazer. You could be the first person in your family to go to college, and you're a trailblazer. You could be the first person in your family to break away from the blue collar life that your parents and relatives had as immigrants or in the community that you grew up in, and you become a solopreneur. So, I believe what you're describing is trailblazer.

Ilise benun

And which of the eight letters is the one you gave us?

Mason Harris

That's the T. T is for trailblazer. What we call someone who risks failure.

Ilise benun

And, I want to go back to one of the things you said at the beginning—that chutzpah is a skill that you can develop—because I think a lot of people, especially when you perceive chutzpah, or have an association to it being someone who's ballsy, right? "Oh, he's got balls, she's got balls, to do that thing." And then say to themselves, “I don't want those balls,” or “I don't have those balls,” as if it's genetic. But you're saying it's a skill. So, talk about it, a little bit, as a skill.

Mason Harris

Sure. If we think of ... and actually, what’s coming to mind right now—and that's why I love this by the way—I'm not scripted. I will talk about what comes to my mind. We had, it was even …

Ilise benun

That takes chutzpah, huh, Mason?

Mason Harris

Well, I think because I've heard your previous interviews, that it will work very, very well. You're not scripted either. 

Two nights ago, you had the NCAA women's national basketball championship. And basketball is an interesting game. Somebody who's skilled in basketball has to learn a number of, I guess, skills to be considered skilled in basketball. And that would be dribbling, passing, shooting, playing defense, looking at the whole court. All of these are critical to being good in basketball, to be an effective basketball player.

In chutzpah, the skills that I feel contribute most to people's success, to organization's success, we learn. It doesn't mean that some people aren't necessarily born with personality characteristics that might give them a slight advantage. We know that when we're born, we already have a bit of our personality done. And the rest we learn from our parents and people around us, our teachers, so chutzpah is like that. We just spoke a moment ago about the T in this model. Let's pick a letter and look at another skill or characteristic that I think is important. Does anything come to mind to you that you want to fill in?

Ilise benun

You mean the letters in chutzpah or any letter?

Mason Harris

Letters in chutzpah.

Ilise benun

All right. Well, we have to choose the Z, of course.

Mason Harris

Okay. Z. In the chapter in my book, I call that “video gaming in life,” which is interesting because what do video games have to do with chutzpah? 

Well, I refer specifically to a game you and I are probably familiar with, and all the youngsters may have heard of if they took a history class. That game is called Pacman. And in Pacman, the idea was to zigzag the Z around a course so you can capture, or eat, the yellow dots—which give you power to move forward and eventually to the next level.

Well, so often in life, we have more than just an ordinary objection. So, for the people who are listening today, when you decided to go out on your own, you undoubtedly had some people that encouraged you and said, "That's great. You're talented. You can accomplish this." 

But you probably also had people that said, "Oh, you sure you want to do that? You've got this great degree. Companies are after you. You're leaving a good job. You have all these benefits. Why are you giving up the safety and security for a chance at something?" So that would be considered standard objections.

In zigzagging, we reached the point where, this is a stone wall. What am I going to do here? So, good example might be, as I think of the zigzagging side, John Grisham—an author that might be familiar to probably everybody on this call—was an attorney who envisioned himself as an author. And he started writing, but couldn't get published. 

He was turned down, I believe it was ... I don't know. There's a site of how many times authors were turned down by publishers. But he was turned down a good many times. So, he self-published and brought his books to fairs or to craft shows where he could meet people and sell the books. 

So, John Grisham hit a brick wall. There was no way that a publishing company was going to trust this unpublished author. They had no way to feel that they were going to be successful with it. Another good example, by the way, is a Chicken Soup for the Soul. Those authors were turned down, I believe it was, over 140 times before they found a publisher.

Now, zigzag is that level of perseverance that you will do anything to find a way around the obstacle in front of you. You'll go over it, under it, to the right or to the left. 

As solopreneurs, sometimes the challenge we have, if we want to hire a few employees, get ourselves some printing machines or high-end computers for our work, we need to take out a bank loan. Banks are wonderful about lending to people like us, as long as we already have the money. But many of us go to the bank because we need the money. Not because we have it. We could have invested our own money. Zigzag is finding some other way to finance our business. Finding a way around an obstacle that is insurmountable. It's a level of perseverance that most people don't have.

Ilise benun

So that's one element of chutzpah, you're saying?

Mason Harris

Mm-hmm.

Ilise benun

I like it. So, all right. Here's my last question for you, Mason, because I like to give ... actually, this is just something I started doing in 2022, so any other episodes that you or the listeners might have listened to wouldn't include this, but my new thing for 2022 is giving a baby step that someone listening could take in the direction of what we're talking about. So what baby step would you recommend people who don't see themselves as having chutzpah could take to begin developing this skill?

Mason Harris

Sure. And that's actually a great question. I didn't know where you were going, but I like it. It also lends itself to the first C in chutzpah, in the model. 

And things don't happen for us until we actually move forward. So, many of us have ideas about where we want to take our businesses; who are the prospective clients we wish to call; how we should redo our website; what we can do to enhance our marketing? For some of us, it's, “I'm going to do everything on my own.” For others, it's, “Find the right person/service to help me move along; somebody who's proven.”

It's interesting about marketing. I'll diverge for just a second. My background is in marketing. And now, here it is decades later, and I know that when I need marketing help, I'm better off going outside rather than coming up with the entire plan myself, despite my years …

Ilise benun

Why?

Mason Harris

Because marketing changes, and people have access to skills and technologies and resources that I don't necessarily have. So, I'm creative; I'm innovative; I'm a chutzpah guy. But I can't do everything that I was well-positioned to do in marketing 20 years ago, because that's what I was purely focused on. 

But as far as your question, what would I recommend? The C. The C in chutzpah stands for “carpe diem,” which is, we go back to our high school Latin days. And I'll be honest, I never took Latin, and I barely got through high school. If we go back to those days, we know that carpe diem means “seize the day, seize the moment.” 

Many of us have these thoughts about what we can do, what we should do, what we'd like to do. And then we put them aside and we go back to doing what we're already doing. And those good thoughts, and maybe some bad thoughts, maybe some bad ideas, sit on the side.

Carpe diem is about, “I'm going to do this. I'm not putting this off any longer.” So, for example, on a website, for people who are on today or listening to today's event, if you're thinking, “I need to upgrade my website. It's been two years. I know I've got to put the time in. I just haven't been able to do it.” 

Either find the time to do it or find the time to work with somebody. But the longer your website sits there with your knowledge that it's no longer as relevant as it should be … Here it is from pre-COVID to a point where we are now living in an endemic age where we know that this isn't completely gone, but at least we're not in our homes wondering when we can get out. And for many of us, the masks are coming off… . The C, carpe diem, is one way people can get started on their own chutzpah.

Ilise benun

And whenever I ask for the baby step, I always have in my own mind, a baby step that I would suggest, too. And mine is basically just a variation on your theme. It's do something you wouldn't normally do.

Mason Harris

Yes.

Ilise benun

So, good. Thank you so much, Mason. I think that just trying to pick apart and deconstruct the idea of chutzpah—especially since I've been talking about it without defining it for a long time—will be helpful to people and maybe even bring people along to see, "Oh, maybe I could try that out a little bit and develop my own chutzpah." 

So, thank you for helping me have that conversation and bringing your book, which is called The Chutzpah Advantage. I'm sure it's available on Amazon and all those other places. So tell the people where they can find you and your book.

Mason Harris

Sure. The book is on Amazon and all those other places. It's a quick read. I believe it provides valuable information, will help you get moving, but it's also entertaining, and I've been told by others, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. But who am I to say? 

As far as reaching out to me, I have a website. It's thechutzpahguy.com. I'm on LinkedIn. I respond to all inquiries and messages that come my way. Even, and I've developed some very good relationships with bots, by the way. (Laughter.) It is interesting to see how artificial intelligence has changed my life. And I welcome calls and inquiries.

Ilise benun

And I'm just going to wrap up by reading your headline or title on LinkedIn as an excellent example of what someone can do. And you are in Creator Mode, which means you're building a following, as opposed to not being in Creator Mode, which means that you're building a network. That's the distinction LinkedIn makes. 

Your title, your name actually, says, "Mason, The Chutzpah Guy, Harris." And then the title is, "Why Chutzpah? We can't let the uncertainty of the past few years determine our success tomorrow. Try some ‘Coffee, Colleagues, and Chutzpah’ with your team! Motivation guaranteed!" 

So, it seems to me you're using LinkedIn to get speaking gigs.

Mason Harris

Yes. Speaking gigs, but also to, I guess, I hadn't known the distinction between the following, having  followers versus connections—the networking side. So this is helpful to me. LinkedIn has worked very well for me in terms of meeting the right types of people, and also meeting people who may not be clients now or anytime soon, but who can still benefit from my work. And that, in essence, is what keeps us all going.

Ilise benun

Excellent. All right. Thanks again, Mason. And we will talk again soon, I'm sure.

Mason Harris

That sounds great. Thank you so much for having me on, ilise. I appreciate it. I appreciate being able to contribute some value for our audience.

Ilise benun

Absolutely.

Ilise benun

Can you spell chutzpah now? And do you have a better understanding of what it is and how to develop it? I hope so. 

So, here's the baby step Mason and I came up with for you to begin slowly moving in that direction. He phrased it this way, "Carpe diem,” which is the C in chutzpah. Seize the day or the moment. Stop waiting for something good to happen and do whatever you can to make it happen. 

My version of that is this: do something you wouldn't normally do and see what happens.

So, did you learn a little something? I hope so, because that's how this works. One baby step at a time. Before you know it, you'll have better clients with bigger budgets. 

Speaking of better clients, they're probably not going to fall in your lap. That's why I keep hawking my Simplest Marketing Plan. If you want to build a thriving business on your own terms, you need the latest 4.0 version for 2022. It is not too late to start. It is packed with all new content, including six new case studies and six new lessons. You also get three different planners, plus access to the free monthly Office Hours group coaching session, where you'll meet other creative pros who are practicing what I preach and taking control over their business and their life. Find it all in the marketing mentor shop at marketing-mentor.com. I'll be back soon with more conversations with creative professionals who are doing what it takes to ditch the feast or famine syndrome. See you next time.

 

 

 

Related Marketing Ideas

  Back to blog