While helping my two young children get dressed for a family wedding it occurred to me how much a look could transform an attitude. As I laid out the elegant dress that my daughter would wear and the little suit for my son, they both excitedly threw off their PJs to step into their new attire. I watched them dance around and admire each other in the mirror, somewhat in awe of their thrill at being fancier versions of themselves. What struck me also was their comfort level with how they looked. They instinctively knew what looked and felt good to wear, and it showed in the smiles on their faces, and in the way they held their shoulders back and proudly walked around the room like little, confident adults. It was as if they had a musical soundtrack playing, one that only they could hear, that boosted their self-assurance to not just play the part, but to be the part. It was as if their look had a sound, and that sound was a little bit of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” with some “Walking on Sunshine” thrown in for good measure.
I do realize we don’t live our lives with background music — although that would be awesome — but I do believe that our look speaks for us before we speak for ourselves. Your look has a sound. What do you want it to say? What is it that you want people to see in you before they even hear from you?
This is more than just feeling confident when you dress for the day. This is about unlocking your inner badass. If you could play background music during your interview or your pitch, what would your song be? Can you channel the confidence and the energy that song gives you? When you feel confident, you can be yourself. When you can be yourself, you can speak up when you know the answer, and just as important, speak up when you don’t.
We all know that when we look good, we feel good — or at the very least, we do a better job of acting like we feel good. Just like you’d be prepared internally to know your stuff for a meeting or a presentation, you need to coordinate the external presentation as well.
You may be making a deal or people may be investing in your deal — but the truth is that they’re really investing in you. People invest in people. Whether you’re young, just starting your career and want to gain credibility, or you want to maintain and build upon the credibility you’ve worked for years to earn, you need to spend the time to find what makes you feel good. This can open doors.
True story. A few years ago, I was attending a technology conference in San Francisco. I was walking along the sidewalk and found myself elbow to elbow with a man whose style caught my attention. He had thought of every detail, right down to the socks. I took notice of the precision and care that he obviously invested in himself. Fast-forward to later that day at the conference, I was attending a session about the technology stack that that supports Trunk Club. Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce, was interviewing Brian Spaly, the founder and then CEO of Trunk Club. The impeccably dressed man I was just walking next to on the streets of San Francisco was Brian Spaly! His look had a confident sound and for what it’s worth, Nordstrom acquired Trunk Club in 2014 for nearly $350 million.
You don’t have to be into fashion to be successful, but you can’t overlook the fact that the two, in some ways, are comingled: your style impacts your mood, your mood impacts your presence and your presence impacts the way you deliver a message. So what message do you want to deliver before your actual message is heard? What sound do you want your look to have?