Audio version 8 mins
You and I have a problem in our quest for success in 2019.
It’s much harder for us to attract interest from the general public, because we don’t have any kind of beach body.
Nobody wants to follow people with pasty white thighs, one ear lower than the other, or greater than 25% body fat. As someone who ticks all those boxes, it’s something I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about.
As a teenager I used to read my sisters’ Cosmo magazines to help me understand women. Endless articles reassured me they didn’t actually care about looks, because they were really looking for someone with a sense of humor.
That was not the case, because I lived on Queensland’s fabulous Gold Coast, a place where humor carried less currency than pizza coupons, and all the women wanted blond surfers named Shane. So I’m watching the rise of Insta and thinking: we’re all back in long-ago Coolangatta.
Because deep in their animal brains, the public believes what good-looking people say. Pete Evans is a guy with a golden tan, gleaming teeth and a superstitious grab-bag of medieval beliefs. He’s singlehandedly done more to set back public health in the last five years than Dr Google.
But hey, look how healthy he looks, let’s feed the baby ‘bone broth’ and avoid sunscreen.
Side-note: reverse-snobbery aimed at good looking people is also wrong. There’s a cliché that models and TV presenters are stupid. My experience on endless ad shoots is that they occupythe full bell curve of intelligence, like any other random group. Expecting someone to be Zoolander-thick just because they have a pleasingly-shaped head is basically phrenology, which has been well out of favor in the criminal justice world since the late 1800s.
Anyway, you have to get people to remember you, and there’s no avoiding the socials.
So a few tips on getting ahead in business, in person or online, if you’re less chiselled and more roughly-molded. And your follower numbers don’t end with a k.
(Obviously you’ll also have to work harder than hot people but you knew that already).
1. Be More Interesting
Your business contacts go straight to your personal life to find out what you’re hiding on LinkedIn. Face it, being at the beach (“today’s office”) is not interesting. Drinks by the pool is not interesting. Nobody will remember you because those things are what everyone does.
Find yourself a more original side project. Raise llamas. Paint abstract nudes. Start a weird political party. Many of the greats in those fields were heaps ugly and people flocked to them.
Bonus: you’ll be spared the time-consuming burden of wearing heavy makeup to the beach or gym.
2. Buy Decent Shoes
This is mainly a guy problem: not noticing that people notice your shoes. Look down the aisle on any weekday flight in Australia or the US and it’s a horror show of cheap-ass, worn out business footwear. Ask your Italian friend to help sort your shoe life out.
3. Practice Being Charming
We’ve discussed this before in Conversation Is Not Poker: be interested in other people. Hot people are used to people fawning all over them. They just click their fingers and free drinks and clothes appear, so they’ve never had to learn the skill of drawing a conversation out of other people.
It’s a long game. Hotness fades, charm skills improve through your whole life.
4. Get Glasses
If you can’t be hot, try to look intelligent. It is hilarious that people can be tricked into thinking you’re smart because you’re short-sighted, but it is 100% effective. In fact if you’re short sighted you may actually be more intelligent. A 2018 University of Edinburgh study of 300,000 subjects concluded:
“Specifically, people who were more intelligent were almost 30% more likely to have genes which might indicate they’d need to wear glasses.”
Just as an experiment I dropped some frames on Post Malone and I think you’ll agree while you still wouldn’t let him do your income tax, you might give Bespectacled Post a shot at being your social media intern.
5. No Car Videos Please
LinkedIn car videos (“Yo whassup! I’m just gonna go into a real important meeting but before I do let’s talk sales funnel secrets”) are the business version of the dating profile pic of a shirtless guy in servo sunnies* holding a fish. Be classier than this.
6. Learn Some Photography
Phone flash photography makes even the hottest influencer look like some pallid ocean-trench toadfish. This really good ad says it all.
Direct sunlight gives you raccoon-mask shadows. Instead, try facing a window and let the soft, diffused light make you look a better person.
Look at the difference the background makes before you post a shot of you in your drab office:
(Portrait on left Karl Attard).
Photography isn’t about equipment, it’s about being able to see light. If you can’t afford a photographer, do some photography lessons. It’s an essential skill now, and it will help you get your business to the point where you can afford a photographer because they really can take you to the next level.
7. Learn To Be Photographed
Everyone hates being photographed so just harden up and work at getting better at it. It’s amazing how many people just get a friend to take one shot and assume that’s going to be a winner.
Annie Liebowitz herself could take that one shot and you would still look terrible. On any given shoot it takes about 50 shots for the subject to relax into looking OK. Take a ton of photos, move your head around and try different expressions. Learn what’s a nice angle of your head.
8. About The Grey Suit Jacket and Jeans
I don’t want to be only picking on guys but … anyone who spends a lot of time in airports sees a lot of this terrible creative-business-dad look.
If you’re considering it, I want you to study this photo of discredited motivator/CEO Alex Malley, and understand that this is what you look like.
It is easy to buy nice non-suit jackets, please do.
9. Learn To Present. Get Good At It.
Sure it’s hard work and you find it terrifying, but it’s a scientific fact that someone holding a crowd in the palm of their hand looks twice as attractive as the same person sitting in an office cubicle.
10. Don’t Be A Mean Grumpy Pig
I used to do a lot of annual reports, and websites for law firms. There’s a tool in Photoshop for lifting jowls, and my photographer and I had to dial it up to 10 on certain senior execs and counsel, taking the edge off their bad-tempered bulldog grimace.
It was a grim lesson that past 50, people grow into the face they deserve. Your inner self will set like cement for all the world to see (though you might not care if you’re protected from the public gaze on your enormous yacht, the choice is yours).
I could say there will come a time when your perceived hotness will be judged by your inner character and your achievements. But that’s the sort of thing your mother would say to console you, after you realized those Cosmo writers were just makin’ stuff up. Do your best, fellow average-lookers.
*Hi American friends let me translate that: gas station convenience store sunglasses.
Hey last week we got quite a few comments and that was really nice, why not drop your thoughts, suggestions or thoughtful criticism on here? I know there are at least 3 pro photographers who read this thing each week, let me know if you have any other secrets to make us plain-lookin’ folk look acceptable enough to follow.
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