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"Change Yourself, Change Your Business, Change the World!"

Not quite chilly enough for tweed overcoats in my neck of the woods yet, but a guy can dream, right?

Well, the fall semester (and school for The Young Master) began this last week.  That meant trips to the local barbershop for the both of us for trims prior to the start of school at the end of the week before last.  While waiting for The Young Master to finish with his haircut, I scanned the coffee table in the waiting area to see if there was anything there worth thumbing through for a few minutes.  An issue of Entrepreneur Magazine caught my eye with the headline above, and while I did not look through it, the headline got me thinking.  

My mother once said to me, when I was about 19 with rather long, poofy 1980s rocker hair, "You know, if you got your hair cut, your life would turn around."

Now, I was never a trouble-maker.  Never experimented or messed with drugs.  Got along with my parents and grandparents.  Respected their rules all of the years I lived at home.  Held down full time jobs after high school.  Put money in the bank.  Paid my bills, etc., etc.  All of the usual respectable middle of the road stuff.  I had long hair because that was the "uniform" at the time for aspiring young hard rock and heavy metal musicians (Guilty!).  

I think that what ol' Mom meant with her forthright observation, in hindsight, was that I would meet a different class of people, especially young women, and also be treated better by people who met me casually but made all kinds of assumptions about who and what I was like based on the skinny frame, big hair, and tight clothes.  You know.  Drugs, crime, and general dirtbaggishness.  

Lo and behold, once I got my rear-end in gear after several years of working a non-union supermarket job, got back in school, and decided after a year to leave the rocker persona behind and start presenting myself a bit less outlandishly than had been the case for quite a few years, I noticed something profound.  People I brushed against in daily life -- not people I knew well, mind you, just passing interactions -- reacted to and treated me a whole lot better.

The point is, instead of being belligerent (and perhaps fearful) when it comes to changing things about oneself that might very well need changing, look hard at and be a bit more frank with oneself.  Instead of expecting the rest of the world to bend to you, exercise a bit more flexibility and get with the program.  At least when it comes to presenting yourself for public consumption.  Shaving off the perpetual five-day growth, putting on something a bit nicer and more put together than those old flip-flops, grubby khakis or cargo shorts, and losing that god awful backwards baseball cap might, in turn, bring a number of new opportunities and positive changes your way, whether you anticipate them, or not.

Here is one recent, non-scientific example of what I'm talking about.  Last March, during Spring Vacation, I flew down to Mexico to visit my mother, who I had not seen by myself for about 12 years.  Since there were three different flights and about 15 hours of travel between Mid-Michigan and Merida in The Yucatan, where Mom and Stepdad have a second house, I splurged and enjoyed a rare fist class air ticket, though I mist admit to purchasing it months ahead of time to save some money.  

On travel day, I wore olive chinos with a back belt, a navy blazer, black tasseled loafers, and tucked in my shirt.  My usual travel uniform.  During each leg of the trip, I was surrounded by middle-aged traveling business men (presumably) clacking away on their laptops, texting to their home offices, and drinking too much (before lunch) although you wouldn't have known it from the way most of them were dressed. . .  as though they were on the way to clean out the garage, mow the lawn, or, at best, visit the beach on a cool day.  Between Chicago and Houston, I think there was one other man with a jacket and creased pants plus  a lovely woman with her little girl speaking Spanish.  We have noticed them before on previous flights to and from Houston.  They look like moneyed Spaniards and dress exceptionally well.  But I digress.

The interesting thing is that gate agents and the forward cabin flight attendants were very attentive and offered me all kinds of assistance, perks, and polite chitchat that they did not, in most instances, offer to my fellow travelers.  In almost every case along they way and back again at the end of my trip.  This particular experience on Delta and Aeromexio was, in our current era of generally horrendous airline travel, a delight.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But it was difficult not to notice the difference in the level kindness that I received relative to my fellow travelers, and I think some fo that might have had to do with the simple fact that I did not resemble an overstuffed bag of lawn and leaf refuse.

To paraphrase the infamous Dean Wormer from National Lampoon's Animal House (1978), "Looking perpetually like a hungover undergraduate who rolled out of bed five minutes ago is no way to go through life, son."   Like it, or not, people react differently, and very often much more favorably, to those who look more pulled together than that particular visage suggests. 

Now, you might be the most knowledgeable, interesting person around, but why hobble yourself on both personal and professional levels with a habitually sloppy appearance (to say nothing of less than desirable personal habits/behaviors)?  Improving your appearance and presentation might not change the world, but you just never know who you might happen upon around the next corner, and the doors that meeting might open up for you.  It happens.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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