How to sell a Unicorn to Pharaohs

Hi this is Mike Lipkin and this message is for anyone who has the courage to pitch their dreams to people who have the power to make their dreams come true. I’m talking about all those times where you just go for it. You make the call. You earn the meeting with the people who actually make the decision. You step into your moment of truth. You put it all on the line. You know it’s all up to you now. And you swing for the fences. It’s the sweetest feeling in the world when you win. And it could just be the worst feeling in the world when you don’t.

This message is for the people with the guts to put themselves out there. It’s for the people who are so hungry for success, they’ll risk failure, over and over again. I’m going to share how to sell a unicorn to pharaohs.

So, what is a unicorn and who is a pharaoh? And what does it mean to sell one to the other?

Well, a unicorn is a horse with a horn. It’s enchanting. It’s mythical. It’s your secret sauce that could be worth $millions. It’s the power to give your prospects the thing that is most important to them.

A pharaoh is the one we’re all hunting. They are the influencers, the mobilizers, the ones with the money and the power. But they are also scared of losing their money and power. They’re scared of failing and being fallible. They know they’re as vulnerable as the rest of us. They know they’re dependent on those who can keep them on their thrones.

So, what’s the magic formula? How do you sell unicorns to pharaohs? Well, let’s turn to the first pitchman in the bible, Joseph, because the technology changes but the themes are timeless. You may know Joseph’s story but not like I’m about to tell it.

Joseph was the first millennial. He was the favourite son. He believed he was destined for great things and his father loved him for it. And we all know that when you are the favourite you make enemies. Those enemies can be your brothers – in fact, they can be the deadliest enemies.

Joseph was also a dreamer. But he wasn’t content to keep the dreams in his head, he wanted to share them with everyone he met. He told his brothers that the sun and the moon and the stars would bow down to him. That really pissed them off because they were just sheepherders trapped in their own mediocrity. They were scared of ambition. They were so angry with his arrogance that they stripped him bare, threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery.

But you cannot deny destiny. Joseph was sold to a wealthy mogul called Potiphar. He immediately adapted to his new environment. He was the master of disruption. He became head of Potiphar’s household and a trusted advisor. But he also became the victim of sexual harassment. Potiphar’s wife had the hots for him. She sexually assaulted Joseph, who literally had to run away with his coat in her hand. Even worse, she accused Joseph of attempted rape and, as an outsider, he had no champions, so he went to prison.

In prison, joseph proved his resilience. He gained the confidence of the jailer. He knew his job was to make the jailer look good and soon, joseph was the head kapo. He was a master community organizer. While he was there, he met two servants of the pharaoh who had displeased the pharaoh, the baker and the cup bearer. They both shared their dreams with him because he was so empathetic. He told the baker he would be beheaded within three days. Then he told the cup bearer, he would soon be back at his post at Pharaoh’s side. His only request of the cup bearer was that he mention him to the pharaoh. Like any good pitchman, Joseph asked for referrals. But of course, the cup bearer forgot all about him.

However, two years later, the pharaoh sensed a bubble was coming. He had these weird dreams – seven fat cows being eaten by seven thin cows. And seven healthy sheaves of wheat being eaten by seven diseased sheaves of wheat. He sensed there was going to be a catastrophe but he didn’t know what kind of catastrophe. He couldn’t find anyone to help him. That’s when the cupbearer remembered Joseph. He told the pharaoh about joseph’s ability to predict the future with uncanny accuracy. Pharaoh called for him. Joseph decoded his dilemma: he predicted that there would a seven-year bull run of abundance, followed by seven bear years of famine. He was so compelling that the pharaoh made him his COO. And joseph did brilliantly. He made Egypt the warehouse of wheat to the world, the only supplier at the height of scarcity.

Eventually, his brothers that sold him into slavery were forced to beg him for food. After screwing with their minds a little bit, he forgave them wholeheartedly and funded their retirement in a great location. Great story, right?

So, what is the Joseph pitch code:

First be prolific. Tell your dream to everyone. 99 out of 100 will diss you.  They’ll be sceptical and cynical. They’ll be indifferent or critical. They’ll say no, not now, not never. Johnny walker says keep on walking. I say keep on talking. Keep on pitching. The more you talk, the more you understand yourself. The better you become

Second, believe in yourself no matter what. You will be thrown into the pit of despair by yourself, your detractors, and the pharaohs who are not interested. The pit is where you need to double down on your passion. That’s where you dig in, not give in. Resilience is the ability to keep going from setback to setback without losing your passion. Look up so you can see the stars, the moon and the sun. Someone is coming for you if you keep looking for them.

Third, Protect your integrity. Don’t be derailed by distraction. It can come in the form of pride, lust, greed, envy, gluttony, sloth, or wrath. And don’t dilute your vision. Hold fast, hold strong. Make it bigger, not weaker. Develop a reputation for reliability. Trust is the ultimate resource. Trust in yourself and others will trust in you. Kit and Ace, the new chain by Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon gets it right – WINW. Without integrity nothing works. You are your word. Your word is your reputation. Your reputation is your ticket to the Pharaoh. Don’t sell out, get buy in.

Fourth, Model the future. The best way to predict the future is to create it. Lay out your plan with confidence and conviction. In a time of fear, make people feel optimistic. In a time of overwhelm, give people clarity. In a dog eat dog, give people a sense of morality. Present your vision in a way that that moves your pharaohs at the deepest level. Talk with a conviction that defies resistance. Translate the moving images in your mind into pieces and things and signs that your pharaohs can see hear or touch. Be a time machine – transport pharaohs into the future through the power of your ideas connecting with theirs.

Fifth, talk truth to power. Raise your conversation. Make every conversation a masterpiece. Deliver a high ROT – return on time. Thrill the pharaoh with your perspective, your knowledge, your SME, your insights and most importantly your understanding of how you can enhance their power. They are scared of the bubble; they are scared of being mortal. Make them legendary. Fuel their fire. Feed their ego intelligently. Look them in the eyes. Don’t be intimidated. They are the ones who need you, they just don’t know it until you show them. It takes courage. It takes character. It takes brilliance. But if you cannot turn fear into fuel, you’ll be stuck at the gates of paradise.

Sixth, Be great at the grind. This is the holy grail. The idea is the spark. But any idea sounds obvious in hindsight. The idea alone will not enchant the pharaoh. The idea is just the horn of the unicorn. The rest is your ability to explain how you will execute at scale. The business of business is excruciatingly tiresome. It’s the attention to every detail. It’s the process that details every milestone in granular detail. It’s the ability to go 15 rounds of raising money and then come back swinging for more. It’s stamina at a Michael Phelps Olympian level. It’s the discipline to do it right every time. That’s how you take the pharaoh with you across the finish line.

The final principle is forgive your detractors because you have to work with them again. Travel light. Anger works in the opposite way that you want it to. It erodes your wellbeing. It corrupts your happiness. It gets in the way of your clarity. Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer. If you want to travel far, travel light. Just know that no-one, except the sociopaths, does things just to hurt you. They did what they thought was right at the time. Unicorns have scars. Their horns didn’t just grow over night. They’re a result of insult after setback after mistake after failed promise after wrong turn. There are too few pharaohs to make anyone your permanent enemy.

This is Mike Lipkin and I hope I’ve inspired you to sell your own unicorn to the pharaohs around you. Until the next time, remember We’re all real. it takes sweat to be mythical.

2 thoughts on “How to sell a Unicorn to Pharaohs

  1. Alex kamanga

    I choose in with all I have. I will keep selling my unicorns to all pharaohs around me. I will not be denied. Even when new pharaohs that do not know me arise, my legacy on selling my unicorns will stand in for me till a master deliverer shows up to usher me to my promised land.

  2. Scott Beck

    I sell my unicorns every day, to the lowly worker as well as the pharaohs, and I sell it with passion because I believe in it. The only thing that must be consistent through all your business dealings is your integrity because in the end that is how you are judged, that is how you were evaluated, and that is how other people determine if you can be trusted. I love the perspective that you give and I must say it is quite coincidental that on this Friday I will be going to see a production of Joseph and the amazing Technicolor dream coat. But then again it shouldn’t surprise me when all these coincidences line up, it’s almost like it’s a plan to give me an opportunity to once again be great. Keep being awesome, Mike!


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