Category Archives: Career

Toughest Decision I Have Ever Made

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I have been kicking around this earth for 42 1/2 years and during that time I have made my fair share of difficult decisions.  I am sure you have as well.  Facing difficult choices and having to choose one path or the other is a constant in life, especially once you leave adolescence and venture into full blow adulthood.

Typically the older you get, the tougher the decisions.  This is true for one simple truth: there is more to lose as you get older.  If you are married you have to consider your spouse.  If you have kids you have to consider them as well.  Even if you aren’t married and don’t have kids, decisions still get more difficult because the margin of error is reduced as we get older.  If you don’t believe me, tell me how you feel after a night of drinking in your 30’s compared to your 20’s (Just wait until you are in your 40’s!)

For those of you reading this who don’t know, I was laid off from my job in April 2016 and as of today I am still unemployed.  Well, I have a job but it is a contract job.  It has been a long and difficult journey with some ups but a much larger population of downs.  It has been trying on my wife and I and of course on our marriage (as most situations like this tend to be.)

A few weeks ago I was presented with this opportunity to accept a long term contract position with a company in Minnesota (we live in Tennessee.)  Being completely unable to find a job in Tennessee and with our money running out the job is a total blessing from God.  It will make it possible to make our mortgage payments every month and help out a bit with other bills.  We are grateful to God for the opportunity, even while we struggle to not understand why I can’t find something permanent to support my family.

My wife and I made the extremely difficult decision to take the job.  However, it means that I get to see my family two days every two weeks.  If the contract goes the full six or seven months without me finding a permanent gig, it is likely I will see my wife and daughter less than 20 days between now and the end of the year. TWENTY DAYS!

Tomorrow I am so excited to be going home so I can squeeze my little girl and kiss my wife.  Yet I know how quickly these two days will go by followed by another two weeks before I get to see them again.  It is rough.  I don’t like it and I really struggle with being away.  I need to be earning money for my family but at the same time I feel like I am completely abandoning them.  It is a strange dynamic in my my head.

Anyway, that is where we are at here in Tennessee.  Believing that God has our blessing around the next corner and that the corner is coming up quickly.  Stay tuned and if you are of the mind to send up a prayer for us we appreciate it.

See you on the flippity flop!

10 Things Confident People Don’t Do

Today’s material comes courtesy of Travis Bradberry who is the author of “Emotional Intelligence.”  I hope you enjoy the read and can utilize some of these tips as we head into 2017 to become a more confident person in every aspect of your life.

In The Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda is training Luke to be a Jedi, he demonstrates the power of the Force by raising an X-wing fighter from a swamp. Luke mutters, “I don’t believe it.” Yoda replies, “That is why you fail.”

As usual, Yoda was right—and science backs him up. Numerous studies have proved that confidence is the real key to success.

Studies exploring the performance gap between men and women in math and spatial skills have found that confidence plays a huge role. Women who were asked to identify their gender before taking a spatial skills test performed more poorly than those who weren’t. Women also performed better when they were told to envision themselves as men, and both genders performed better when they were told that their gender is better at the task.

What’s even more interesting is that the gender gap practically disappeared when participants were required to answer every question. Apparently, when the women were allowed to skip questions, they did so not because of a lack of knowledge, but because of a lack of confidence.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” — Vincent Van Gogh

True confidence is very different from egotistical swagger. When people believe in themselves and their abilities without bravado, there are certain things they simply don’t do.

They don’t make excuses. If there’s one trait confident people have in spades, it’s self-efficacy—the belief that they can make things Image result for making excuseshappen. It’s about having an internal locus of control rather than an external one. That’s why you won’t hear confident people blaming traffic for making them late or an unf
air boss for their failure to get a promotion. Confident people don’t make excuses, because they believe they’re in control of their own lives.

They don’t quit. Confident people don’t give up the first time something Image result for Don't quitgoes wrong. They see both problems and failures as obstacles to overcome rather than impenetrable barriers to success. That doesn’t mean, however, that they keep trying the s
ame thing over and over. One of the first things confident people do when something goes wrong is to figure out why it went wrong and how they can prevent it the next time.

They don’t wait for permission to act. Confident people don’t need somebody to tell them what to do or when to do it. They don’t waste time asking themselves questions like “Can I?” or “Should I?” If they ask themselves anything, it’s “Why wouldn’tI?” Whether it’s running a meeting when the chairperson doesn’t show up or going the extra mile to solve a customer’s problem, it doesn’t even occur to them to wait for somebody else to take care of it. They see what needs to be done, and they do it.

They don’t seek attention. People are turned off by those who are desperate for attention. Confident people know that being yourself is much more effective than trying to prove that you’re important. People catch on to your attitude quickly and are more attracted to the right attitude than what, or how many, people you know. Image result for Seek attentionConfident people always seem to bring the right attitude. Confident people are masters of attention diffusion. When they’re receiving attention for an accomplishment, they quickly shift the focus to all the people who worked hard to help get them there. They don’t crave approval or praise because they draw their self-worth from within.

They don’t need constant praise. Have you ever been around somebody who constantly needs to hear how great he or she is? Confident people don’t do that. It goes back to that internal locus of control. They don’t think that their success is dependent on other people’s approval, and they understand that no matter how well they perform, there’s always going to be somebody out there offering nothing but criticism. Confident people also know that the kind of confidence that’s dependent on praise from other people isn’t really confidence at all; it’s narcissism.

They don’t put things off. Why do people procrastinate? Sometimes it’s simply because they’re lazy. A lot of times, though, it’s because they’re afraid—that is, afraid of change, failure, or maybe even success. Confident people don’t put things off. Because they believe in themselves and expect that their actions will lead them closer to their goals, they don’t sit around waiting for the right time or the perfect circumstances. They know that today is the only time that matters. If they think it’s not the right time, they make it the right time.

They don’t pass judgment. Confident people don’t pass judgment on others because they know that everyone has something to offer, and they don’t need to take other Image result for Passing judgmentpeople down a notch in order to feel good about themselves. Comparing yourself to other people is limiting. Confident people don’t waste time sizing people up and worrying about whether or not they measure up to everyone they meet.

They don’t avoid conflict. Confident people don’t see conflict as something to be avoided at all costs; they see it as something to manage effectively. They don’t go along to get along, even when that means having uncomfortable conversations or making unpleasant decisions. They know that conflict is part of life and that they can’t avoid it without cheating themselves out of the good stuff, too.

They don’t let a lack of resources get in their way. Confident people don’t get thrown off course just because they don’t have the right title, the right staff, or the money to make things happen. Either they find a way to get what they need, or they figure out how to get by without it.

They don’t get too comfortable. Confident people understand that getting too comfortable is the mortal enemy of achieving their goals. That’s because they know that comfort leads to complacency, and complacency leads to stagnation. When they start feeling comfortable, they take that as a big red flag and start pushing their boundaries again so that they can continue to grow as both a person and a professional. They understand that a little discomfort is a good thing.

Bringing It All Together

Embracing the behaviors of confident people is a great way to increase your odds for success, which, in turn, will lead to more confidence. The science is clear; now you just have to decide to act on it.

Tell us if you agree or not!

When Should You Say No To Your Boss (Courtesy of Travis Bradberry)

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Happy hump day people!  As the mornings continue to get cooler and cooler (even if the afternoons don’t) I am getting more and more excited for the fall season.  If you are a frequent reader of our blog than you know how important I believe work-life balance is not only to a healthy lifestyle but also to a successful marriage and family life. Thus, whether you are single or married balancing both is an important aspect that should be taken seriously.

I am a big fan of Travis Bradberry who has authored several books including Emotional Intelligence 2.0 This is a highly recommend read regardless of your career path, experience level or age. Whenever I see a new article he has written on LinkedIn I always make it a point to read it as soon as possible.  I have found his insights invaluable while I was debating my next career move.

Below is his most recent article on LinkedIn and since many of my readers have demanding jobs and in turn demanding bosses, I wanted to share this with you.  I have learned the hard way that balance is key and wished I had used some of this advice 12 months ago.  Enjoy!

The typical workday is long enough as it is, and technology is making it even longer. When you do finally get home from a full day at the office, your mobile phone rings off the hook, and emails drop into your inbox from people who expect immediate responses.

While most people claim to disconnect as soon as they get home, recent research says otherwise. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that more than 50% of us check work email before and after work hours, throughout the weekend, and even when we’re sick. Even worse, 44% of us check work email while on vacation.

A Northern Illinois University study that came out this summer shows just how bad this level of connection really is. The study found that the expectation that people need to respond to emails during off-work hours produces a prolonged stress response, which the researchers named telepressure. Telepressure ensures that you are never able to relax and truly disengage from work. This prolonged state of stress is terrible for your health. Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance.

We need to establish boundaries between our personal and professional lives. When we don’t, our work, our health, and our personal lives suffer.

Responding to emails during off-work hours isn’t the only area in which you need to set boundaries. You need to make the critical distinction between what belongs to your employer and what belongs to you and you only. The items that follow are yours. If you don’t set boundaries around them and learn to say no to your boss, you’re giving away something with immeasurable value.

Your health. It’s difficult to know when to set boundaries around your health at work because the decline is so gradual. Allowing stress to build up, losing sleep, and sitting all day without exercising all add up. Before you know it, you’re rubbing your aching back with one hand and your zombie-like eyes with the other, and you’re looking down at your newly-acquired belly. The key here is to not let things sneak up on you, and the way you do that is by keeping a consistent routine. Think about what you need to do to keep yourself healthy (taking walks during lunch, not working weekends, taking your vacations as scheduled, etc.), make a plan, and stick to it no matter what. If you don’t, you’re allowing your work to overstep its bounds.

maxresdefaultYour family. It’s easy to let your family suffer for your work. Many of us do this because we see our jobs as a means of maintaining our families. We have thoughts such as “I need to make more money so that my kids can go to college debt-free.” Though these thoughts are well-intentioned, they can burden your family with the biggest debt of all—a lack of quality time with you. When you’re on your deathbed, you won’t remember how much money you made for your spouse and kids. You’ll remember the memories you created with them.

Your sanity. While weCTivGgYUsAAz9lF all have our own levels of this to begin with, you don’t owe a shred of it to your employer. A job that takes even a small portion of your sanity is taking more than it’s entitled to. Your sanity is something that’s difficult for your boss to keep track of. You have to monitor it on your own and set good limits to keep yourself healthy. Often, it’s your life outside of work that keeps you sane. When you’ve already put in a good day’s (or week’s) work and your boss wants more, the most productive thing you can do is say no, then go and enjoy your friends and hobbies. This way, you return to work refreshed and de-stressed. You certainly can work extra hours if you want to, but it’s important to be able to say no to your boss when you need time away from work.

Your identity. While your work is an important part of your identity, it’s dangerous to allow your work to become your whole identity. You know you’ve allowed this to go too far when you reflect on what’s important to you and work is all that (or most of what) comes to mind. Having an identity outside of work is about more than just having fun. It also helps you relieve stress, grow as a person, and avoid burnout.

Your contacts. While you do owe your employer your best effort, you certainly don’t owe him or her the contacts you’ve developed over the course of your career. Your contacts are a product of your hard work and effort, and while you might share them with your company, they belong to you.

Your integrity. Sacrificing your integrity causes you to experience massive amounts of stress. Once you realize that your actions and beliefs are no longer in alignment, it’s time to make it clear to your employer that you’re not willing to do things his or her way. If that’s a problem for your boss, it might be time to part ways.

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Bringing It All Together

Success and fulfillment often depend upon your ability to set good boundaries. Once you can do this, everything else just falls into place.

What do you do to set boundaries around your work? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

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In Order to Be Successful, You Will Need to Find Joy in Cleaning Up Your Own Mess

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I came across this article on LinkedIn this week and while not profound I certainly could relate given my recent move to Nashville. If you have been following us for the last 20 months you are aware how awful our time in St. Louis (on every level just about) had been.

I found it impossible to not let all the bad things influence my attitude, life choices and overall outlook on life.  It was a pretty quick downward spiral that I stayed in for most of the time I was there (just ask my wife.)  It wasn’t until early June when I finally realized our time in St. Louis was coming to an official end that I once again found joy.

Our journey in life, love and career truly is never a straight line nor does it typically continue in an upward trajectory.  Instead it is filled with moments of heartbreak, disappoint, joy, success and everything in between.  It is how we handle the good and the bad that will determine our outlook on life (yes you can handle the good stuff poorly.)

Okay  I will get off my soap box and let Bruce Kasanoff take over. Hope you enjoy!

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One morning last week, I made myself a bowl of oatmeal, poured an iced tea, and headed towards my home office. But I was already preoccupied with work and not really paying attention. My toe caught the edge of the second step. Wham! Oatmeal and tea splattered everywhere.

At 7:58:01 I was excited about a great new idea. At 7:58:31 I was mopping up a mess.

This is a trivial example, but it’s also the way life is. Fresh out of business school, I took a job with Citibank and headed to Europe to travel for a month before joining the workforce. While I was away, the division that hired me shut down, and I lost my job before it started.

Fortunately, things also work in unexpectedly positive ways. I found the best job of my career by answering an ad that Seth Godin placed in the New York Times. His ad said, “Before you come to our open house, read The One to One Future by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers.”

I bought the book on the way to Seth’s event, intending to skim it in his parking lot, but ended up reading almost the whole book in my car. Weeks later, I was working for Don and Martha’s company.

You walk through one door and a bucket of water falls on your head. You walk through another and someone doubles your salary. (Of course, most times when you walk through a door, you simply enter another room.)

Since people don’t like uncertainty, many of us delude ourselves that we know what’s on the other side of each door through which we pass.

This, of course, is wrong.

Once you understand this, you end up with only two logical strategies:

1. When you fail, act as though success is following close behind: Don’t give up or give into self-pity. Don’t accept that your fate is bleak or hopeless. Just dig in and work your way back towards the light.

In real life, many people get worn down by adversity. They start to believe that their fate is to do badly. Your fate is what you believe it to be, so never accept this conclusion.

2. When you succeed, act as though failure is following close behind: If and when you get to the top of the mountain, do not scream, “I’m king (or queen) of the mountain!” Be as nice to people as when you were working your way up from the bottom. Be cautious with your newly-earned gains. Recognize that this, too, shall pass.

In real life, people love to believe that they are 100% responsible for their success. Not true.

The people around you are largely responsible for your success; never, ever forget that.

My favorite saying, which comes in many slightly different forms, is this: Gain your pleasure from the journey itself, not from some distant destination.

Don’t let your happiness depend on a perfect outcome to your day, year, or decade.

In other words, when you spill your oatmeal, have fun cleaning it up.

Tell us if you agree or not!

Fashion Friday! Dress to Impress

Happy Friday everyone!

I am not working today and instead am enjoying the day off with my favorite lady.  I hope you have all had an amazing week!  Below’s fashion advice comes courtesy of The Art of Manliness.  The blog is a little long but it has some solid fashion and career advice.  There were even a few nuggets in there that made me realize I need to step my game up.  Hope you enjoy!

Are you intentionally making mistakes at work to make yourself look incompetent?  Are you purposely sabotaging your presentations?

Are you setting yourself up for failure as an instructor? Hopefully, the answer is no.

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Yet the vast majority of men I see who want to be influential fail to master the three tips I’ll share today. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Men spend a lot of time, money, and effort learning to be more persuasive speakers and negotiators. And for good reason — mastering these skills can reap huge returns when it comes to business and personal success.

But what if there were something you could do that would dramatically increase your persuasiveness without any extra effort or training on your part?

Would you take advantage of it?

If the answer is yes, it’s time to start thinking more about your personal appearance and how it relates to the art of persuasion and influence.

Attractiveness and Persuasion

We like to think that persuasion is a matter of good arguments and compelling rhetoric — in part because we don’t want to believe that we can be swayed by anything less.

The research says otherwise.

There have been a number of studies in the last fifty years that demonstrate people’s tendency to be more persuaded by attractive speakers than by unattractive ones.

In 1979, Shelly Chaiken published a paper on her study of instructors in academic settings. She found that instructors rated as “attractive” by their students could generate significantly higher levels of agreement from their audience than ones rated as “unattractive.” Even more impressively, the study also demonstrated that students actually performed better when they had an instructor they found attractive.

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 Why Attractiveness Affects Influence

It’s a little disheartening to think that just being handsome can make people under your leadership perform better, or make audiences more likely to agree with your point of view.

Worth bearing in mind is that it’s not a one-way street. Attractive individuals tend, on the whole, to have an easier time in social situations than unattractive ones. That, in turn, encourages them to be more outgoing and social, which gives them more practice with their interactive skills.

But with that said, there’s also an effect on the viewer’s brain when a person is particularly attractive. Our brains are big into shortcuts. Give them a chance and they’ll save mental energy by categorizing people into simple, all-or-nothing terms like “good” and “bad,” or in this case, “attractive” and “unattractive.”

That gives us a tendency to take a broad, generalized assumption about a person, such as “he looks good,” and then ascribe that quality to specific judgments as well, such as “he’s probably a good teacher,” or “he must be a good father.”

This is called the “halo effect.” It was first studied in the 1920s by a researcher named Edward Thorndike, who had noticed that in military evaluations, officers who were ranked highly in some qualities were ranked highly in other, unrelated categories as well. Similarly, officers with low rankings in some categories usually had low rankings in others.

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What does a squared-away uniform say about a Marine?

Objectively, the results didn’t make sense. Unrelated qualities like physical fitness and mental attentiveness should, in theory, be randomly distributed. You might get one or two high performers very good at everything they do, and one or two washouts who aren’t good at anything, but in general people should be good at some things and not at others.

What Thorndike found, however, was that one strong positive impression — an officer’s physique, say, or his attention to neatness and punctuality — was enough to generate an overall “good feeling” that spilled over into the rest of the evaluation. Once the person filling out the evaluation noticed something good about an individual, he assumed that they were good at other things too. The result was true for negative impressions as well.

Studies have shown, with remarkable consistency, that the halo effect is real and has a statistically significant effect on people’s success, in everything ranging from education to politics to courtroom defenses (one study showed that attractive people received much more lenient sentences than unattractive ones, even when convicted of the exact same crime).

This effect comes into play when you’re trying to persuade, in any setting or situation. The more positive people’s first visual impression of you is, the more positive traits they’ll associate with everything you say. A 1975 study found that clothing had more impact on first impressions in social settings than the person wearing the clothing — powerful stuff when you’re getting up in front of an audience!

How to Dress to Persuade

It should be obvious, then, that anyone who needs to persuade — for a job, a cause, or anything else — wants to look as “good” as possible.

But what is “good,” in personal appearance?

1. Be Free of Imperfections

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Can you spot the imperfections that different clothing exaggerates or masks on the same man?

To persuade, be meticulous.

Be meticulous about your hair, be meticulous about your shoes, be meticulous about your clothes. Everything counts.

Your goal when you prepare for a persuasive speech or sales pitch is to eliminate imperfections.

A tuft of hair out of place or a scuff on your shoes may not seem like much, and realistically, most people won’t consciously notice something minor like that, but their subconscious mind is still picking up the visual signal of asymmetry, and that tells the back of their brain that something isn’t quite right. The result is a vague, indefinable and off-putting sensation that the viewer won’t even be aware of — but that will be coloring his or her judgment of you.

Our brains evolved to use basic bilateral symmetry as a sign of good health and development, so they easily pick up on anything that deviates from that pattern. Always strive for a symmetrical look — or, when you break it, for a firm and deliberate asymmetry. A bright splash of color on one breast from a pocket square is fine; a faint stain on one lapel is not.

Remember that humans can generally only pay attention to one thing at a time. Our brains and our eyes are good at focusing, but bad at interpreting multiple stimuli at once. If you give people something out of place to focus on, they’re going to zero in on it. Thinking about how your tie doesn’t go well with your pants takes up the brain space they should be using to consider your message.

When you think about it, even things that we recognize as major gaffes aren’t much more than small details done wrong. Showing up at a presentation with your fly unzipped is, in practical terms, a flaw in maybe 1-2% of your total appearance. The rest of your outfit looks just fine! But we all know how big of a difference that one little zipper out of place is — it’s a deal breaker, guaranteed.

Things that logically have nothing to do with your intelligence or with the value of the message can still leave people thinking that you’re unconvincing. So take the time you need to get everything just right.

Aim for perfection. Go for the extra slow shave, the just-right-for-you hair product, the shoeshine in the airport. They end up mattering.

2. Be Well-FittedTailor-measuring-tall-man-clothing-400

The neat, crisp outline of well-fitted clothing serves the same purpose as painstaking attention to detail — it removes subtle asymmetries from your overall image.

You’re never going to look as attractive as you can if you have loose folds of cloth sagging off your body. A too-tight fit is just as bad, since it wrinkles and bunches when you move, so aim for a fit that’s close to the skin, but not restrictive. Click here for a refresher on how a suit should fit.

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Pay attention to your proportions here as well, especially if you’re outside the average build for a man. It’s easy for details like the pockets on shirts and jackets or the length of cuffs to get pulled far enough away from “normal” that the look is off-putting if you’re unusually large or small.

Part of this is avoiding off-putting imperfections. Another part is evolutionary — human brains like straight-limbed, well-proportioned bodies. They look like strong leaders and capable providers. When you look like that, you become the sort of person that other humans instinctively want to have in their group. The urge to fit in with you — and to agree with you — gets stronger.

Having clothing adjusted to flatter your body as much as possible encourages that eagerness to agree with you. If your posture and your outline has already convinced the audience that you’d be a good guy to keep around, you’re halfway to convincing them of anything else as well.

A little tailoring goes a long way. Plan on having the majority of your clothes adjusted by a tailorwho knows you well. The differences are subtle, but the cumulative effect is impressive.

3. Be Dressed Up, Not Dressed Down

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Finding the exact level of formality can be tricky, especially if you’re speaking in a casual or non-traditional setting.

More than one politician has gotten himself in trouble by showing up at a soup kitchen or a disaster shelter wearing a tailored suit and an expensive silk tie.

In general, when attempting to persuade, you want to err on the side of looking like you dressedup for the occasion, not dressed down. Lean toward the more formal end of what your audience will be wearing (but not too much beyond that).

There’s a very simple reason for this: you’re trying to influence, and therefore your clothes should be the clothes of an influential man. The halo effect will kick in for you once again, making people much more receptive to your words and ideas.

For most of the Western world, that usually means a suit or blazer-style jacket. The V-shaped chest opening and squared shoulders speak to our subconscious minds of power and influence— and as an added bonus, they flatter the male physiology too, making you look more dominant.

Don’t be afraid to look a little more dressed up than the people around you. That’s your way of showing them respect. Subconsciously, they’ll assume that your ideas are important too.

There’s a practical element here as well: it’s much easier to correct being “overdressed” than under-dressed. If you show up somewhere in a tie and jacket and you realize that absolutely no one else there is wearing anything nicer than a casual collared shirt, it’s not that hard to slip off your jacket and tie, roll up your sleeves, and fit right in.

If you show up in blue jeans and a work shirt and find everyone else wearing suits, that’s a lot harder to correct for. So err on the side of dressing up more than everyone else, and shed accents or layers as needed to bring it back down if you really feel out of place.

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Be Attractive. Be Persuasive.

If it sounds irrational to you that something so unrelated to your other merits can have such a powerful effect, don’t worry — you’re not alone.

The halo effect is just one of many seemingly irrational ways that the human brain processes external stimuli. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Most people, if they really think about it, can recognize at least a few times when they’ve let a public figure’s appearance or charm affect their perception of other, unrelated issues.

It’s why Hollywood celebrities so often get away with extreme behaviors that would be off-putting in others — we already have a perception of them as larger-than-life characters (since that’s how we see them in their on-screen roles), so it seems “okay” for them to behave that way on the streets of Los Angeles as well.

So yes, it can be hard to believe that something as simple as wearing nice clothing can actively improve your powers of persuasion. But have a little faith in the science and in your own understanding of human nature.

It’s not a magic charm. Just having a good suit isn’t going to make people agree with everything you say. For one thing, there are a lot of other guys out there in good suits already, so you have lots of competition for people’s attention!

But you can create a positive first impression by being neat, by having the attractive outline that well-fitted clothing brings, and by looking just a little more dressed-up than the men around you. That edge might just be enough to tip the scales in your favor and get you the job, the sale, the votes — whatever it is you need from other people.

There are limits to the effect, certainly. Even a very well-dressed man isn’t going to be listened to if he’s shouting about the aliens in his head. But a well-dressed man speaking calmly about reasonable-sounding ideas is much more likely to be believed than the same man giving the same speech in a sloppy outfit.