If you’ve spent any time in tech, you’ll find there are people out there who care a great deal about trying to impress you, trying to look and act important.
They’re the ones who name, school company and IQ drop constantly.
The people who really want you to know where they went to school, where they went to college, what their GPA was, what their IQ is, where they’re working, who they know and what car they drive.
They want you to know how expensive their clothes are, and whether or not their suit is tailored, and how much money they spend on brands, labels, logos and the like. And they’ll tell you every price tag.
They can rattle off an inventory of what makes their lives better and more awesome than yours, and they can do it with ease. I’m never sure how much of it is bullshit, of course — some of the claims I hear are a little outrageous.
One guy I came across not too long ago tried to tell me he’s designing a product with a minimum value of over $200,000,000 in an industry/category that has never been thought of before. Cool.
Other people like to walk me through every VC and investor they’ve ever met, as if I give a shit. It’s all designed to make them seem important, so they can impress people and add another bunch of contacts to their phones. And I don’t do that.
Trying to impress people is a sucker’s game. Trying to impress people is generally a pretty big waste of time. You’re just showing everyone that you don’t really value yourself. All you value is the way others perceive you.
I don’t cut an impressive figure, generally. I like my old jeans with a hole in the knee, and my Iron Maiden vans, and my track hoodie. I’m a transgender woman who doesn’t have a lot to prove anymore. I’ve had a career that’s been a blast, I run a small creative studio that I love, and I do my thing, my way. I know a lot of people, but I know them well enough to know they wouldn’t want their names thrown about everywhere. I don’t shout myself around.
I don’t talk much about myself when I’m meeting new people. I tell them I’m a blogger and a creative and I tell them what I’m working on, and I leave it at that. I’ve got no real interest in trying to impress people, or make them think that I’m super important.
For the people who are out trying to be flashy, trying to show how important they are, I never seem like I matter too much, and they don’t spend a lot of time on me, when they meet me.
But that’s pretty much the way I like it. The people who matter to me are the ones who are building things I respect, the people who are confident enough to let their personality and the way they treat others be the way people measure them.
The kind of people who’d only want to know me because I’ve talked myself up and dropped some names and broadcast my importance, are the kind of people I’d never want to hang out with anyway.
In my experience, the people who are important in life, they don’t walk up to you and start performing. They don’t act like they’re on a stage trying to convince that they matter. In fact, they’re pretty happy to shine the spotlight on someone else and learn who they are.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that for me personally, I’ll invest time in anyone who I can respect and connect with. It doesn’t matter where they’re at, or what they’re working on, or what they’re worth. The important thing is that I just like them.
Trying to look or act impressive and important won’t make you happy in the end, and it won’t get you anywhere in the now. People can see through it pretty easily, and nobody wants to talk to a blowhard.
When you’ve played your last hand, you’re going to be the same as everyone else. That’s the truth. It won’t matter if you were a big shot founder, if you had a long list of contacts or if you really are worth everything you claim.
Make it your mantra.
You aren’t that important. So sit down. And be humble.
Joan Westenberg is an award winning Australian contemporary writer, designer and creative director. She is the founder of branding and advertising firm Studio Self. Her approach to messaging, communication and semiotics has built her reputation as a writer, and she has been named as one of the leading startup voices in Australia by SmartCompany.
Her writing has appeared in The SF Chronicle, Wired, The AFR, The Observer, ABC, Junkee, SBS, Crikey and over 40+ publications. Her regular work can be found on Pizza Party, a blog about creativity, culture and technology. Joan is the creator Transgenderinclusion.com, an open-source workplace inclusion hack, and the author of the book #DIY, a manifesto for indie creativity.