Sometimes I wear a suit to new business meetings to appear “professional.” I am frequently acknowledged to be the smartest guy in the room. I can expound on issues of marketing, advertising, design, strategy, online interactivity, what makes good copy, what does and doesn’t work, and so on and so on.
Still, no matter what I say, how certain I am that it’s true, how smart I seem to appear, or how much my words actually mean to others, I am and will always consider myself a fraud. And I’m okay with that.
You see, we are all frauds.
Do you still view yourself as a teenager playing dress-up and pretending to be business big shots? Have you passed the bar with flying colors and still, in quiet moments, wonder how anyone can believe you’re their lawyer? How many U.S. presidents have turned a corner in the oval office and, just for a moment, wondered who put them in charge and how crazy those people must have been? In my mind, seeing oneself as a fraud is what makes a good businessperson great.
Knowing that you are not perfect and can improve—and seeing that potential and human frailty in others—can bond you to your employees and clients better. Hopefully, they can have the same insight as you. By allowing yourself to be viewed as imperfect, maybe a little flaky (but not too flaky) or awkward sometimes results in the opposite response that kind of openness might have played out in high school, when everyone was insecure and trying to be invisible. Most people who get up in years recognize that someone’s humanity, not their slickness, is where the honesty resides. Up until the age of 38 (when it miraculously became controllable), I suffered through a mild version of Tourette’s Syndrome. I was never known to scream obscenities or anything quite so pronounced, mostly, I just twitched. I was terribly self-conscious. Had to get in a few fights in high school just to mute a few kids who couldn’t help but make fun of me.
Nonetheless, I looked upon it as more of an annoyance I needed to conquer than anything else. I still dated, had friends, succeeded in the working world despite it, got married, had two beautiful kids and came to terms with the fact that I am imperfect, can’t fix it, and will have to work with it. I’ve seen others like me across the table at meetings with the same affliction. While any of us who’ve had it can tell you a bout of it has little to do with our confidence or lack thereof, it does seem to the outsider that we are not as calm, cool or collected as we may actually be. More than anyone else, we have a tougher time hiding from the world that we are not our facades.
But, you see, perceiving yourself as a fraud is liberating. You no longer have to put on a front and present yourself as a rigid, perfectly creased businessperson, particularly if you are from an ad agency. Your personality is what is of value there because open people help feed creativity in an agency.
And besides, the more you know that everyone else in the room also views themselves as frauds, the more comfortable you can be selling them on ideas you’re passionate about rather than questioning whether your outἀt or your posture is going to lose the account for you.
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