The Power of Perception

Escher and perception of stairs

How to Lead Others, Enact Change, Score Beautiful Women, and Bend the World to Your Will

Let’s kick things off with a personal anecdote.

The other day, I’m in the kitchen with my girlfriend, prepping for the next night’s dinner, and come to find out there’s no marinade for the chicken. Feeling slightly put out, and not in the mood for a quick trip to the store just for marinade, I promptly announce my decision to make my own.

Somewhat stunned by this declaration, my girlfriend looks at me and immediately questions the lucidity of my idea. Responding with confidence, I assure her I know what I am doing.

Properly put in her place, and picking up on my strong sense of security, she quickly jumps on board with the idea and lets me get down to business. Moving with purpose, I begin grabbing various ingredients from the pantry: honey, vinegar, four kinds of pepper I bought in Dubai, and on it went. My girlfriend watches in fascination, waiting to see what I pull out next to add in to this alchemic concoction materializing before her. The admiration she feels towards me is growing, having been stunned to learn of this previously unknown knowledge I possess, intrigued by the potential outcome, and enjoying watching me work.

The funny thing is, I had never made a marinade in my life, and had no idea what ingredients should go in to it. Everything I said in that moment was complete bullshit. But, I acted with confidence, and remained unfazed by my girlfriend’s (typical for a modern woman) quizzical response to this new idea. Because I was able to manipulate how I was perceived, she quickly deferred to me.

This is a great example of the natural female response to strong male presence. It didn’t matter that I was making things up as I went along; she was more than willing to support my efforts when she believed in the confidence I projected. On the surface, this is a micro event, having little bearing on the future of our relationship. But, projected over time, a collection of micro events becomes a defining structure for the nature of a relationship. If I am able to project confidence in any situation, regardless of whether or not I actually know what I am doing, my girlfriend’s trust, admiration, and love for me will only grow.

Tom Ford suite

How others perceive you is often more important than how you perceive yourself. Your ability to exude confidence, intelligence, and strength will earn you allies faster than you will initially believe. Most people crave leadership, being followers (I call them “sheep”) by nature.

If you are able to differentiate yourself from the sheep, they will inherently fall in line behind you. Your actions will trigger a natural response to act in kind, an approval-seeking mechanism embodied by all those will low confidence.

How you act, look, and speak directly influences how others feel about you. Your ability to manipulate those feelings to your advantage is a powerful tool. Wielded like a scalpel, you simply carve out the life you want, subtly forcing those around you to bend to your will. Keep in mind that certain environments call for slight differences in tactics (i.e. drinks with friends vs. team meeting at the office), but each offers an opportunity to define yourself in such a way that others will continue to come back for more.

When first meeting someone, we all make snap judgments about that person in a matter of seconds. And those initial thoughts you invoke in another will likely determine the nature of your interactions for as long as you know each other. Make it your goal to decide in advance how you want others to see you. And then take appropriate steps to model your appearance, diction, tone, body language, etc. to create the “you” everyone else sees.

As you mold and shape your exterior persona, be sure to spend some time learning what others think of you. If you attempt to define yourself purely based on your own perception, you will inevitably miss the mark. Ask key individuals who you believe can provide an unfiltered response to the questions “What did you think of me when we first met?” and “How do I come across to you/others now?” This valuable information will let you know whether others’ perceptions of you is in line with the persona you are developing.

Caution sign in flood water

A word of caution: stray too far from your natural character and you will only come across as fake and douchey. If you have to try too hard to be someone you’re clearly not, others will eventually see through the façade, and judge you harshly. Lost trust is one of the hardest things to repair, and in a world where all meaningful relationships are built on trust, you cannot afford to make this mistake.

To improve your true character—thus increasing your influence on how others perceive you— challenge yourself to develop new skills, experience moments of wonder, and step outside of your comfort zone. By building a strong character, you build an innate sense confidence, and are then able to further develop your outward self. If you want to grow, I suggest you do any or all of the following:

  • Learn a new language
  • Get strong and fit
  • Travel to unique lands
  • Interact with foreign cultures
  • Talk to strangers, especially attractive women
  • Move to a new city
  • Start a business
  • Buy a custom, hand-made suit (combine with travel to foreign lands, like Shanghai, for a bonus experience and cost savings)
  • Jump off/out of something
  • Learn to play an instrument

While not an exhaustive list, there are some ideas to jumpstart your thought process. In the end, you are the single greatest influence on how others perceive you. Time to take control, because the longer you wait, the harder it will be.