One of the main ideas from this blog is that you’re better off avoiding the “status game”. This means there is no reason to buy items to impress other people. This is still the truth. The one caveat here is that you don’t want to take this to the extreme and decide that dressing up as a slob will get you somewhere (it won’t). Instead we’ll attempt to explain the steps to managing your own personal *impression*.
10 Rules for Perception
Rule #1 – Perception is Reality: Millions of studies have shown that first impressions matter and can impact a person’s belief for long periods of time. This first impression occurs in just a few seconds. Since we know that your initial perception will stick the most, it would be wise to decide carefully on your clothing before going to any major event. Lets take two extremes: 1) a night spent alone reading and 2) a presentation to 100 people on a specific topic. At the end of the day, you’re required to dress up for the second event even if the content is the same. People will absolutely judge you before you even begin to speak. This is why perception is always reality.
Rule #2 – Discomfort: A good way to tell the difference between an expensive item and a person on “tilt” is how they operate. Humans are hard wired to see people who are nervous or uncomfortable as less trust worthy. This should be taken into account for your general purchases. As a basic rule of thumb it is not wise to bring anything out in public that would make you squirm. If you’re worth $100K and for some reason you have a $50K bracelet or watch… It’s time to sell that item since it is actually doing you more harm than good. It doesn’t fit your natural demeanor and despite believing your status is raised, it is actually lowered by the uncomfortable body language.
Rule #3 – Physical Perception Comes First: Physical perception is the first item people should focus on. Why? It is the most impactful before someone looks into other items. This means clothing, weight, haircut and overall style are the easiest to fix. In fact, we would actively avoid people who fail in these categories unless it was related to making money/business. Think about it like this, while there are millions of business people who lack style, there are very few people who lack basic style that are truly happy. We mean this seriously. Someone who can’t keep their appearance up to date when needed is certainly someone who has some odd social behaviors you probably want to avoid (again, unless related to making money).
Rule #4 – Body Language is Second: Surprisingly we are not even moving into the purchased items before talking about body language. Numerous studies have shown that 80% of communication is through body language (this is also why people are able to communicate without speaking the same language in many cases!). We would recommend picking up a book titled “What Every Body is Saying” and learning the ropes from there. Most people won’t take the time to critically analyze their own posture and body language. If they do? They will be surprised to find many mistakes. Body language that comes off as weak, insecure or negative in one form or another. These are simple mistakes to correct and will immediately change your perception. The most glaring and obvious example is a guy sitting at a bar with a beer squarely in front of his chest and other hand in his front pocket. A terrible look. We still see it everywhere.
Rule #5 – Relative Value: This is no surprise. If you’re in shape, dress correctly and give off positive body language, you’ll need to focus in on relative value. This means you have to decide on your objective. If you simply want to improve your dating options for example, you’d want to be the best looking, best dressed and richest person in the group (99% of the time this will work since you’re perceived to be the best option). Essentially you want to appear to be the best.
There is an important point here. Most people focus on being “the best” at all times. Naturally, this is a failed experiment. If you’re always the best it means you’re trapped in a mediocre setting. In other settings you may want to be in the “middle of the pack” so you can slowly move up over time. The most obvious example is when you’re working with a customer/client. You certainly don’t want to be the “best” in that situation since your customer will feel insecure and negative towards you. When you have a customer/client you actually reverse the situation and want them to feel like they are the most important person in the room. In simple terms if you’re looking to increase dating options specifically then you want to be the best in the room, but if you’re looking to make people feel good about themselves, this strategy does not work.
Rule #6 – Overextending Rarely Works: Sure there are con artists who succeed (these people are the exception to the rule). Generally speaking, if you over extend yourself you’ll feel uncomfortable with your presentation. This applies to cars, homes, boats, shoes, suits and more. As a rule you should feel comfortable with the item being “stolen”. This is probably the best rule of thumb we can use to explain the sensation. If someone tries to buy a custom made suit which costs about $5,000 or so, but their average suit is ~$400… We’ll bet money that the suit is rarely used and if it is used, the person acts squeamish as they try to take extra precautions in their outfit. Funny enough, this applies to going out in general as well. Without knowing, there is always an unspoken ability to tell who has a lot of experience going out at night (bars, nightclubs, etc.). If someone is new they give off a different vibe and if they are strapped for cash going out, they also give off a different vibe.
Easy examples to keep in mind are as follows: 1) people who are ordering bottle service but then buy the cheapest bottles on the menu, 2) people who go to a nice cocktail bar but only order beers, 3) wearing gucci loafers with a suit that is not tailored, 4) wearing cartier sunglasses that don’t fit the shape of the person’s face – implies it was handed down, 5) giving well below average tips despite eating at a higher quality restaurant – not only rude but negative for the persons future reputation.
Rule #7 – Go Up and Watch the Fireworks: Depending on how high you’re willing to take your personal perception (and how far you go in life in general), you’ll find that more fireworks are seen at the high end. This means it will force people to show their cards quickly. If the person does not like you or is extremely insecure they will immediately make negative comments about any high quality item you have. Similarly, if a person does like you, they will also show their cards and say “great suit!”. This dynamic only gets worse and worse as you go up the chain so remember rule #1. Since perception is reality, you have to decide what you’re trying to convey before you show up to the event/location.
Rule #8 – Attempt to Scale Equally: Similar to items 6 and 7, you’ll want to combine these concepts to your overall lifestyle approach. If you’re going to buy custom suits, you probably aren’t going to walk into dive bars very often. The restaurants you dine at will also go up in price if you’re using them frequently. Similarly, if you’re wearing a custom suit, you shouldn’t be wearing Aldo shoes. This applies to all of your actions so when you’re raising the bar, make the assumption that the relative strength will reflect on you across the board (hotels, apartment/hotel etc.). It just doesn’t make sense to see someone in a pair of Gucci shoes walking into a Motel 6.
Rule #9 – Special Item(s): Unsurprisingly, we’ve never been a fan of the “special item” exception. This is when you’re only going to have one item of high quality (a suit, a pair of shoes, etc.). We think it doesn’t make much sense because 1) you won’t use it much and 2) when you use it, the presentation you give off won’t make a lot of sense. Ideally you’re only making a scale up (in quality) when you’re able to comfortably afford all of the new increases as well. A rule of thumb is quite simple. Say you’re financially independent at around $5-6K a month. If you’re increasing your net worth by 10% a year (pretty easy), then you could quickly reach $10K a month in spending in around 7 years. At this point you could take a look at all of your items and upgrade everything to match the new spend level. This repeats itself. If you double your net worth, you can easily do a full upgrade to the $20K spend level.
Rule #10 – Going Back is Easy: Clearing this up a bit. Going back means you don’t need to give off the exact same perception at all times. If your lifestyle spending is $10K a month, you can always spend less in a specific week. What doesn’t work? Being *forced* to go back into a lower spending tier. This is an important distinction since many people “save” 10% of their income which means they are always fighting for lifestyle increases. It doesn’t work. Instead, if your building your net worth aggressively, it will be difficult for you to save less as a percentage of your income (you won’t have time!).
Important Notes About Your Perception
More Money More Obvious Reactions: More money more problems is largely a lie. This is only a problem if you’re looking for problems. The one thing that does change is the way people react to you. If you’re rich and you run into someone the same age as you who has not succeeded, they will have a visibly negative reaction towards you. We’ve seen this a lot. This is the most common negative with regards to increased “status”. The good news? You’ll essentially filter out the bad people immediately. The ones who are positive and simply say “nice XYZ” will either 1) be rich or 2) they will be showing their cards saying they like you in general. This is a great filter and is an underestimated benefit of slow increasing your ability to spend.
No Style is Correct: There is no “correct” answer to any of the perceptions. If you’re trying to attract gold diggers, we actually think its a good idea if that is the goal. If you’re trying to pretend to be poor (avoid people in general) that’s also great. The one thing that needs to occur? The result needs to match what you wanted in the first place. If your goal is to make someone feel better about themselves and you’re wearing a million dollar bracelet, that’s probably not going to sit too well.
Avoid if Unsustainable: The vast majority of people live unsustainable lives. If they lose a single stream of income their lifestyle goes down the drain. This is a stressful situation to be in. We take a different approach when compared to the $30,000/year millionaires. Instead we think you *can* spend money on whatever you like. It could be Lambos and Ferraris. Who knows. The main item is that you don’t give up your freedom to sustain that lifestyle. We truly believe anyone can get to a couple of million dollars in their 30s. (say $1-2 million at least), this is a livable net worth and after that you can scale it as high as you would like. Just don’t break the mold and go into unsustainable territory again.
Don’t Buy Stuff For Others: Another good rule for perception is buying stuff specifically for attention (Big Mistake). This really doesn’t work out well. If you’re going to upgrade your apartment or house, it shouldn’t be for “image” purposes. It should be for your own personal use. Naturally, if you’re a billionaire there is likely a brand/image angle to it that helps. But. We’re speaking about your typical “secretly rich” multi-millionaire.
That wraps it up for us. For fun in the comments please let us know of any notable lifestyle upgrade that was a net positive. Also feel free to share the negative stories but we prefer focusing on the positive ones.
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