Finding Meaning in a Terrible State Slogan

Thoughts from our founder + CEO Brad Weber

I’m not inspired by many of our state slogans. Although I tip my hat to “The Land of Enchantment” (nice job, New Mexico!), too many other slogans focus on a single characteristic like a prominent

landmark, animal, or plant. The most important thing about Utah is beehives according to their state slogan. That just doesn’t seem right considering the gorgeous landscapes and all the state has to offer.

I grew up in a state with an obtuse slogan. Missouri is the Show-Me state. As a child, I didn’t understand it— and I was not alone. There are numerous legends regarding its origin. In a 1989 article in “Rural Missouri”, author Phyllis Rossiter attributed it to Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. In a speech in 1899, he’s credited with saying, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” (1)

I don’t think “Show-Me State” is license plate worthy. But history lesson aside, I have found meaning in the slogan for my own career. Over the years, I’ve learned that showing is much more powerful than telling. I am not comfortable promising to customers what I am not sure I can deliver. And for me, that proof comes in showing.

For my very first customer over 25 years ago, I created an entirely functional desktop application to show them what it might look like before I had the courage to ask them to pay. And many times since, I (and our team at InspiringApps) have won business and earned client trust by building something to prove that it can be done— perhaps focusing on a key high-risk feature— before a client commits to a project.

I have enjoyed decades of success, following these simple steps:

1. Build something noteworthy
2. Tell (but more importantly show!) people
3. Profit and repeat

The order matters. I see others stumble when they flip steps 1 and 2 and only do the telling. They are quick to promise without the certainty of a successful outcome. I find that the same lesson applies to job applicants. Invest the time, especially early in your career (or even pre-career) to do, to create, to build. Showing is so much more powerful than telling. After all these years, I can finally thank Missouri for a state slogan that makes (some) sense.

1. Rossiter, Phyllis. “I’m from Missouri–you’ll have to show me.” Rural Missouri, Volume 42, Number 3, March 1989, page 16.