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Entrepreneur, Businessman, Podcast Host

Changing your public image

in Essay

You can be anything you want to be the second you put action toward it. If you’re an artist, you’re an artist whether you’re good at it or even if you just decided to become one this morning. Who are the referees? When you decide to become an engineer and start taking steps to learn programming, you are in fact an engineer. You’re a pretty bad engineer, but that’s only because you lack experience and any skill. You’re an engineer at the beginner level. You aren’t good enough yet to get paid for it. There’s also no official ‘moment’ you become good at anything. My high school astronomy professor is pretty good at space-talk – until Neil deGrasse Tyson walks in. These things are relative.

You are whatever you want to be the second you start. Official titles are different. Those are credentials to function externally, and you’re probably not ready for that.

Becoming something is the process of passing into that state. You’re always becoming something. You become a better artist, executive, or software engineer. Or, you become a worse something because you don’t practice. Or you can become something else entirely. It’s up to you to decide.

Some of us were born human beings. We can decide what we will become. That’s what’s special about being human. A potato is alive just as well, but it has no choice other than to die and get eaten. You can choose to die and get eaten also. You can even choose to live and become a poet.

If you want to be something different, it’s your prerogative. Nobody will see you as a poet at first because you’re still on step one. To them you’re still just a bank teller. Only now they think you’re a delusional bank teller who dreamily thinks they can be Sonia Sanchez. Being a poet on step one is personal. Steps are personal. Don’t share your vision too early. People have such little faith and will bring you down. Not everyone will be excited for you and your journey.

Nobody will accept your terrible poetry except maybe your mom. Who can blame them? Broadway has curtains on the stages for a reason. There’s some work happening behind the scenes that would otherwise detract from the illusion. There’s some preparation happening and pieces being moved into place before the grand unveiling. Great actors work hard to make you believe they’re someone else. They practice in secret so they can successfully sell you on the illusion when it’s showtime. You have to believe that Christian Bale as Batman is actually gliding in the air. Once you see the strings that create the illusion, the dream is over and you remember that he’s just a guy that even you can probably beat at checkers.

You shouldn’t go public too soon. Retreating works in your favor. People retreat so they can get off step one before the curtain is pulled. You retreat so you don’t publicly keep falling on your face. You retreat to get better. Students retreat to University so they can hit the professional workforce and hopefully not screw up so badly. Recruits retreat to bootcamp to become soldiers who know how to survive in combat. You shouldn’t talk so much about what you’re going to do. Retreat and get better. Steps are personal.

This has nothing to do with being genuine or real. If you think its wrong to work on becoming more or better than you are now, or to become something entirely different than you are today, you will not become much more than you already are.

It takes 3-5 years to reinvent yourself publicly. If people know you as a bank teller, they’ll always see you as a bank teller until you force them to see you as something else who is better at the new thing than you were as the bank teller. If you’re not so good at the new thing, they’ll think you’re a bank teller who’s a wannabe poet. Let your skills reintroduce you. Go to poetry slams. Probably stop going to bank teller conventions. It takes 3-5 years because being publicly reinvented isn’t something you control. You’re a brand, and like corporate brands, you don’t control your brand. Your brand is how people see you and how they define you. What you can control is the situations and circumstances your brand is exposed to, at least for the most part. To manage your brand, control where you’re seen, and how your brand is presented as best you can. Associate with better brands. Find a way into those circles.

If you want to change how people perceive you, get comfortable knowing that it takes time. More time than you’ll wish it did. The best way to be seen as something new is to plant your flag somewhere new. Humans love to categorize things. It’s our nature. To see you as something new, you have to show them you in fact are something new.

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