Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Value in the eye of the beholder.

Published: 03 Mar 2012

The other day I met someone who was very, very confident. It spilled out of her without control, effusively dominating all aspects of our interaction. It was tiring. She had no value that I could perceive; certainly nothing that I value.

So I left, there was no entertaining conversation, no relevant knowledge to share. It was just a complete loss. Then I wondered if I was that way. I wondered even if I wasn’t, how can I better control and influence how other people perceive me.

First impression is only the first step.

Growing up everybody told me to put my best foot forward. First impressions last. Snap judgements are a part of life. All these things. I think that’s true, but really, that’s only part of it.

In any encounter, without my reputation preceding me, the other person should come away understanding my value. This means I need to highlight and advertise. This is also why people buy expensive suits. They want to be seen as valuable, as their clothing is valuable.

Real value is a lot deeper and harder to advertise and demonstrate. I have a very brief window to show, “Yes, you want to know me.” I really want people to want to have my email address. To want to have my phone number. To want to know that if they need technical knowledge, I’m the one to call.

It’s hard, though. I don’t know how to best accomplish this.

Nobody pays attention to a show-off.

If I constantly spout my knowledge, especially unsolicited, nobody will want to talk to me. There is a fine balance to this, and I’m certainly not sure I have it even close to right.

First, I think I must always listen to what the other person wants or needs to talk about. I then need to know the detail in which to answer. These things are hard.

To simplify the process, I wanted to come up with a list of a few categories of things that I want to make an impression on. I thought of it like shopping for a car.

When I look at a car, I look at many technical aspects. Styling comes fairly low down the list. For my wife, it’s not. Styling, comfort and luxury are for her. That’s ok. We all look for different things.

Much like there are luxury and sports cars, different people specialize in certain things. So what’s my specialty? Absolutely I’m utilitarian. I want to advertise this, so how?

  1. Be able to adapt my answers to the audience.
  2. Answer confidently, but only when I am confident. No BS.
  3. Engage in debate when necessary and be always prepared.

I think if I focus on those three points, I’ll do well advertising exactly what I want to advertise. The people who value those traits will value me. Those who don’t will acknowledge the build quality and perhaps just introduce me to people who value those traits.

In any case, I think it’s a net win. Now I need to think how I can adapt my life practice to enhance these traits.