Personal Branding, Personal Presence, Professional Presence

You Can Choose to be Ordinary

You can choose to be ordinary.  In fact, a majority of people will be.  This huge group’s collective voice will say that there’s no choice in the matter.  They don’t consider being ordinary as a choice.  It’s commonplace, popular, and unremarkable.  Can you imagine that it actually takes effort to be ordinary?  Make no mistake about it.  You can choose to be ordinary, and this is most definitely a choice.

To make a choice, or to choose, is absolutely an action.  Living our crazy busy lives, we make choices so quickly, so automatically, that we don’t realize the choices we’ve made.

The other night, I was out at a restaurant and ordered a hamburger – without cheese, bacon, or onion. The burger arrived. It smelled and looked amazing and delicious. Plus, I was so hungry that I could have eaten my arm.  I was spreading steak sauce over my about-to-be consumed burger, and what did I see?  Remnants of picked off cheese.  I ordered it the way I always do.  My server took note of my customary order.  The kitchen did an ordinary thing, as well.  The line cook did not pay attention to the ticket until after the burger was prepared.  That’s why the cheese was pulled off before it was served to me.

I could have, in that moment, chosen to be ordinary by just eating the burger.  It was an honest mistake.  But, I didn’t.  My personal and spiritual principles gave me pause.  My dining partner wondered whether what I saw as cheese remnants was actually fat.  I picked off a piece and let him eat it.  He said, “Oh yeah. That’s cheese.  You’re right.”

So, I ordered another burger.  As “ordinary” as it was to the kitchen staff, sans the extras that make it a $20 burger, I love my plain burger.  In fact, I don’t consider it at all to be ordinary. I want the kitchen to pay as much attention to what I will eat and enjoy as I do pay attention.

Though that’s a story about a hamburger, the story is so easily relatable to the subject of your personal brand and style.

Do you want to be just as everyone else thinks you’re going to be?  Or, should you prepare yourself to show up looking extraordinary, like you’re someone with special gifts and talents?  If you show up as less than you really have to offer, you’re actually lowballing yourself.  You’re tricking the onlooker, and likely deceiving yourself, to look more ordinary instead of showing up with as much as you have to offer.

Have you been lowballed on a compensation offer or a raise?  Or, what about that big business deal that you worked on?  Though you can choose to be ordinary, be careful about what those consequences could be.

I can understand the resistance to not look ordinary.  The perceived added effort it takes to pull your look together is a front-end process. But, when you don’t put the effort in first, chances are higher that you will have to put in a lot of extra [and hard] work to achieve the desired result.  Think about the big job offer you didn’t get.  Or, the raise you didn’t get.  Or, the extra meetings you had to take in order to hammer down a deal that is good for your company.  Then, there’s the date that didn’t go the way you wanted.  The list goes on.

It’s healthy to be attentive to the first impression you offer of yourself to others.  Another major misnomer about tending to how you look is that it’s all about you.  The whole point of being attentive is that you’re paying careful attention.  When you’re attentive to yourself, you show that you’re concerned about the needs of others.

Don’t mistake being attentive for being flamboyant.  Coming from a place of looking ordinary, it’s easy to think that a different approach will leave you looking flashy.  I promise that this is not true, unless you are a performer on stage or screen.  Only then is an over the top look necessary.  The key to all of this is to dress to the strengths of your physical and psychological strengths.  All it takes is some up-front effort with a huge upside payoff.

You can choose to be ordinary.  But, in a calm sea, why not be a ripple or a wave?

Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and executives discover their personal brands and design their personal styles.  Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “6 Secrets to Success in Silicon Valley.” Get details about Joseph’s proven program that transforms your life through personal brand and style development. ­

My role, as a personal brand and style strategist, is that of a storyteller. I learn about a person’s personality and strengths, translate that into an appropriate personal style aesthetic, and help each client to visually and non-verbally tell her or his story with ease and authenticity.