As I scroll Facebook, I always wonder who clicks on the ‘One Weird Trick” ads. If it worked this time and you clicked, don’t worry, this isn’t as sleazy as it seems. Two weeks ago, my dad, my brother, and I made a whirlwind, Smokey and the Bandit-like trip to the western side of Iowa to pick up a show steer. Twelve hours there, twelve hours back, nonstop. It was a lot of fun. Until we hit Indianapolis. In rainy weather, during a bumper to bumper traffic the guy in front of us, stopped short and with my brother behind the wheel of my truck, we rear ended him. The whole front end of my truck needed to be replaced. My insurance company did a great job getting my tuck in for repairs and the body shop was super to work with but they didn’t have a loaner for me. I was stuck with no transportation for the better part of a week. This small inconvenience forced me to get creative in order to continue keeping my commitments, including a speaking engagement. Using my creativity, I asked my assistant to drop me off at the library where I was scheduled to speak. I got there early, set up m technology and waited. And waited. At 11:25, five minutes before my presentation was scheduled to start, I receive a text message from the organizer asking if I were on my way. Apparently, the event was moved to the other side of town and I was left out of the loop. Big Problem because I was without wheels. It’s a rather embarrassing confession to make to an event planner that you can’t make it to the new location because you can’t drive, but that’s the one I had to make. “No problem!” she told me “I’ll come get you.” She showed up, drove me to the correct location and I started my presentation on making the best use of our time 10 minutes late. How’s that for irony?  My purpose for writing this post wasn’t to demonstrate that every day we have things happen to us that make for great stories that we can use to make larger points, although I could have. My purpose was simply a little entertainment for your Friday. Oh, and the One Weird Trick For A Successful Speaking Engagement? Simply this: Show up at the right location!]]>

In a recent blog series I’ve posted titled, A Blueprint for Looking The Part, I laid out an easy to follow formula for looking as if you belong the rooms of influence. Today’s post take a different view; how to stand and out be noticed for our executive image. Before I get into the specifics, I want to note that I’m talking about standing out, not sticking out. There’s a world of difference between the two. When we stand out, we’re noticed for the positive and taken seriously, when we stick out, we’re noticed for our negative and dismissed before we begin. That’s why standing out is so important. Standing Out Means Nailing The Details. The foundation for standing out begins with conservative wardrobe staples. It’s a tailored suit in either gray or navy. This works for both men and women, though gray is more flattering to females. In order to make the foundation work, the tailoring has to be right. This means the jacket sleeves don’t fall to the thumb but instead leave at minimum a 1/2 inch of shirt cuff to show. Pants break slightly at the ankle and the hem falls just at the shoe. These details seem small but they’re noticed. Beneath the suit, the next item is a crisp white shirt. I have written about its virtues before and I’m certain I will again. It’s classic and clean makes everyone more attractive. Details are important here too. Don’t let it balloon at the waist, keep it fitted and make sure your sleeves are long enough. It may seem conservative, but that’s exactly what will make it work. With a foundation of a conservative, well-tailored suit and crisp white shirt, the next detail is what will make us stand out. Pick one accessory in an unexpected, bright color. For ladies, it might be a great pair of red heels or a brightly colored handbag. For men, it could be a brightly colored necktie (solid colors work best), or an unexpected color of shoes like a chocolate or caramel colored brown. Just one accessory, in an unexpected color against the conservative backdrop of the suit and the shirt, will stand out, seem fun and personal. There are simply two rules to make it work. 1. Pick Just One Detail More than one item will take away from the statement accessory. Let it stand on its own by being great. A great pair of shoes, a scarf, and a standout handbag seems as if we’re trying too hard. The same can be said for a bright tie, matching pocket square, and tan shoes. One detail stands out, too many begin to stick out. 2. Where It With Confidence Whichever accessory you choose should appear as if you chose it after careful consideration and never gave it a second thought. The purple tie, the orange pumps, the periwinkle scarf, all of them should be worn as a badge of honor to highlight individuality. When we stand out, we need the confidence to back up the statement we’re making. Own it. We all have the interview, the sales call, the presentation when we need to separate ourselves. Our style will never be more important than our substance, but make subtle and slight changes and we’ll be remembered and that’s always the goal. ]]>

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In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

If there were ever an expert on preparing for battle, the Liberator of Europe, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, certainly was one. His quote about preparation is as true as for our daily battle as it is for an invasion at Normandy. Put simply, the act of planning is indispensable. It crystallizes thinking, brings priorities to the forefront, and puts us in a position to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Here are three steps to make the most of your planning. 1. Plan Weekly, Adjust Daily A common mistake made by smart people is making a new plan every day. While daily adjustments are crucial, taking a bigger view, from a week out, allows us to make sure we are spending our time on our most important priorities. One of the most important lessons from Dr. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is the third habit, put first things first. Using his great visual analogy of the aquarium with big rocks, pebbles, sand, and water, he proves that the only way everything fits is to put the big rocks in first and allows the pebbles, sand, and water to settle in around them.  Taking a weekly view allows us to get our big rocks, our big priorities into our plans first. By planning weekly and adjusting daily, we have the benefit of both a macro and micro perspective and that is indispensable. 2. Connect Your Plan To Your Goals Our priorities originate from our goals. In order for our planning process to keep us focused and inspired, we have to connect our plans to our goals. Every goal has action steps. Taking those steps into account when planning for our week and adjusting them daily bring them closer to achievement. Getting those steps on our task lists and placed on our calendars make even the biggest goal seem achievable. By connecting our plans to our goals we benefit from adding inspiration and focus to the process and that too is indispensable. 3. Write Down Three Objectives Every Morning One of the big daily adjustments that we can make that will yield big dividends to set three objectives every morning. Three is the magic number. Any less and we get the feeling we’re not doing enough. Any more and we begin to overwhelm ourselves. Three is the right amount to maintain focus and further move our goals to achievement. There’s a motivating feeling of starting every day with three objectives that you know you will complete no matter what. Having three objectives that will help you achieve your goals, written down every morning is a great way to stay focused. This is a commitment that you make yourself and that is indispensable. Once we start our day, open our email or take a phone call, our plans can fall through pretty quickly. It’s the act of planning that crystalized our thinking, set our priorities, and put us in a position to take advantage of opportunities that will keep us focused on our goals and that truly is indispensable ]]>

320px-macarthur_manila Few men in American life have garnered more attention, more respect or simply more mixed feelings than Douglass MacArthur. Throughout a career that spanned nearly six decades, Mac rose and fell so many times that it was hard to catch him when he wasn’t at the top or on the bottom. There was no in between. All of this aside, however, he remains our greatest war hero. His effort to rise after each fall make him a profile in persistence. Born into a military family, it was always assumed that Douglas would spend a life in service to his country. His father, an American General, had received The Medal of Honor and raised his son to follow in his footsteps. Follow he did. Graduating first in his class from West Point, MacArthur was only 24 when he was first nominated for his own Medal of Honor for his role conducting a reconnaissance mission during the 1914 United States occupation of Veracruz. With the outbreak of World War I, he was promoted from Major to Colonel to lead the “Rainbow” Division of the first Americans to fight in the bloody conflict. At a young age, he showed a flair for charismatic leadership and inspired his men by taking missions deemed too dangerous by others. His bravery earned him a total of two Distinguished Service Cross medals and seven Silver Stars along with the rank of Brigadier General. His future was incredibly bright when he suffered his first setback. Following the Armistice in 1919, He was assigned to serve as the Superintended of West Point. While he loved his Alma Mater, he earned for action that he wasn’t getting. His attempts at reform were met with contempt from his critics and he was genuinely unhappy. And then he rose again. In 1925 he was assigned the Philippines, where his father has shown so brightly and became the youngest Major General in the history of the US Army at 35. His distinction led him to chair the US Olympic Committee in 1928 and In 1930, he became Chief of Staff of the United States Army. He was 40 years old and serving in the position that his father had always coveted. He had the ear of President Hoover and was chiefly responsible for turning back the Bonus March in 1932 when WWI vets marched on Washington D.C. to claim their war bonuses due to them in 1945. His actions of burning the protester’s cardboard village were unpopular with the American public but made cemented his reputation within right-wing circles. He had power and influence and was young. And then he fell. With the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, he saw the reach of influence start to slip. It was the beginning of a difficult relationship that would last the rest of FDR’s life. When his recommendations weren’t followed, MacArthur took it personally. While he was credited with modernizing the American Army he was frustrated by the New Dealer’s lack of concern for foreign threats and in 1937, after nearly 4o years in uniform, he resigned from the Army. Out of the Army for the firs time in his life, MacArthur took a job as Military Advisor to the government of the Philippines and the rank of Field Marshal or the Pilipino Army. Douglas MacArthur served in that capacity until he was forced from the Island with the Japanese invasion in 1941. It was then, with the world at war, he was once again called back into service. With a title of Commander of United States Army Forces in the Far East, MacArthur went to work but met failure after failure.  His air force was destroyed, he was forced to retreat from Bataan to Corregidor and then, but PT boat across uneven seas to Australia. It was there that he once again showed the charismatic leadership that inspired his men in Europe thirty years before. Displaying a confidence, great ability and a lot of persistence, Douglas MacArthur overcame his initial setbacks to be named Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area. His leadership and daredevil tactics worked as he began to pile up victories in battles all over Southwest Asia and on August 30, 1945, Douglas MacArthur landed in Japan to formally accept the surrender of the Japanese empire. For all of his heroics, he was awarded the Medal of Honor making he and his father the only father/son duo in American History to hold such distinction. After all of his many falls and many rises, Douglas MacArthur became an unlikely hero to the Japanese people. Initiating Habeas Corpus, giving women the right to vote and allowed freedom of speech that had for generations been gone. General Douglas MacArthur rose higher than before because of the many falls that he took and it made him an even greater leader of the people of Japan. He would go on to lead our war efforts in Korea before falling again and being removed by President Harry Truman. While he would spend the rest of his life out of the service, he provided us with one of our greatest pieces of rhetorical excellence when, standing in House Chamber giving his retiring address, he closed with the words:

Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.
Throughout his life, MacArthur displayed a kind of perseverance and persistence that makes him an example to follow. Though he fell many times, no fall ever kept him down and that is why he is a true profile in persistence. ]]>

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“I read your blog. You’re too obsessed with dress codes. People don’t care how people dress, they care about what they know and what they can do.”

This was in an email from a friend of mine who read my two-part series from last week called The Blueprint For Looking The Part. To be honest, the only part that disappointed me was that they left their comments in an email and not in the comment section of my blog. I responded and asked if they had a problem with my sharing our conversation as a blog post. Since they agreed, I’m sharing it today. My response to this email is that they missed the point. I didn’t write about a dress code, I was writing about image. It’s my firm belief that image is crucial to success. Being intelligent is great, having a high emotional quotient is important, but image is what breaks down the barriers so that others can see the great skills we have.  As crucial as image is, there are two parts. Part one is the external image; the way others see us and that’s important. Part two is internal image; the way we see ourselves and that’s the entire ballgame.

The Value of External Image

There’s a thought that anyone concerned with their image is vain or self-centered but this is misguided. Of course, this can be taken too far but the value of our external image is that having a healthy one allows us to be taken seriously. Young leaders today, especially, face three big challenges: Getting Noticed, Being Taken Seriously and selling their competence with humility. This is why the packaging matters. Having the right image makes you much more likely to be taken seriously. Only when we’ve gotten attention and we’re taken seriously can we prove our worth. External image plants our competence in the minds of our target audience early so we don’t have to work so hard later and that is its true value.

The Value of Internal Image

The real value to me of looking the part isn’t how others see me but rather how I see myself. When I look as if I belong at the table, my confidence increases. I don’t think I ‘m alone in this. There is obviously more to being confident than the clothes we wear, but it’s a crucial firs step. When we see ourselves as competent people who get things done, we begin to act like it and that’s where the true value lies. Feelings lead to actions and actions lead to results. Before we can sell ourselves to anyone else, we must first sell ourselves on us. Looking the part is where this starts as it helps cement our internal image, starting the feelings of success. I’m not sure I convinced my friend of the important role image plays in our success, but I’m really happy that the debate took place. It allowed me to crystalize my thinking on the subject and if nothing else, I further convinced me which only improves my internal image and as I say, that’s the ballgame.  ]]>

story The other night, my wife I were discussing what the kids should wear for picture day the next morning when we asked our seven-year-old Caroline what she thought of the top her mother had selected. She took one look at it, shook her head and said “Hillary Clinton.” Not knowing what that meant, I asked her and she told me “ I don’t know, I just hear you guys say that…” As I laughed hysterically, I was reminded just how important context can be. Let me really honest for a second, this story isn’t a great story. No heroics happened, it wasn’t life changing and it doesn’t follow the hero’s journey, but it was humorous and allowed me to make a point. Great communication is about great storytelling. One of the few absolutes about public speaking is that in order to be truly effective, you have to be able to tell a compelling story. Stories are the secret sauce that makes our facts and digestible and our points memorable. It has become widely accepted that storytelling is crucial to success in communication. Any book about leadership, sales or persuasion will tell you it’s importance, but few will tell you how to find and develop those stories. I use a couple of guidelines that works really well and I wanted to share them with you. Step 1. Capture Everything The biggest reason that most people don’t have a large story file is that they’re waiting for big and momentous events to happen in their lives to use as stories. They want “the time I climbed Everest” or “the time I cured Cancer” stories and so the wait. First of all, the chances of these “big life moments” happening to us, are slim, but more importantly, we miss the small and mundane stories that can work to make a larger point. Capture everything. Don’t edit, just capture those little moments. The can be paired down and edited later, but only if you have it. Step 2. Look For Relatable Experiences The great thing about those small moments that make them such powerful stories is that when we use something that happens to everyone, they relate much stronger to them. After you capture a story, find the ones that others can relate to. The story that started this post, small as it may be, was relatable to anyone that’s been inundated with the 2016 election, anyone that’s been a parent and anyone that’s been confused. In general, it works because anyone can relate to it. Step 3. Look For Humor Humor is such a valuable tool because we laugh relax and when we relax, we learn. Humor is also a key component to getting an audience to like you.  Jokes never work and not every story is funny which means finding humor is hard work.   I like to find stories that have the hint of humor in them and then embellish and dramatize them until they’re funny. Everything in the above story really happened, but by adding a couple of details such as the headshake, make it stand out to be funny.   The stories that make our lives are everywhere. We simply have to record them, make them relatable and find their humor. When we do, finding the right story becomes a matter of simply looking through a file.  ]]>

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”Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

This quote attributed to Albert Einstein has been one of the guiding principles of my life. Following it has improved my diet, taken the thought out of getting dressed every morning and allowed me to use a routine that works for me with consistency. In no area of my life, however, has it been as helpful as it is with storytelling.

Too many times, we give in to the temptation to make storytelling complex. We want to make sure we include every detail to make our stories as vivid as possible, but when we do, we tend to confuse our audience, bury the point of speaking, to begin with.

Or just as frequently, in an effort to make our point as obvious as possible,we overly simplify our stories and neglect some the critical details that allow out listener to relate to us.

Great storytelling, and therefore, great public speaking comes from making our stories as simple as possible but no simpler. After all, it’s the story that proves our message and if we botch the story, the chances of our audience remembering our point is pretty slim. To keep this rule in mind, I have three rather simple rules I apply to  the stories I use when speaking. I have a feeling you will find them as useful as I do.

Rule 1. Simply Set The Scene

There’s a reason all fairytales begin with once upon a time and land far away and not 154 years ago in a town 34 degrees north-northwest of Baltimore…Or that horror stories begin with on a dark and stormy night…not, On a night with 95% cloud cover with a barometric pressure of 80.4 pounds of mercury….

Setting the scene is critical but adding unnecessary details cloud the story and make it harder to find the point.

One of the stories I love telling the most is about standing on a rock in our front yard when I was a little kid and pretending to be some of the history’s greatest men. When I start this story, I set the scene by saying:

When I was a boy on the farm, outside of a tiny place called Fryburg Ohio, a place so small we made Mayberry look like a Metropolis, there was a huge rock in our yard that my parents found when they dug our basement. The rock was too heavy to move so it stayed in our yard where it became the stage for my imagination.

Notice, I don’t tell you the population of my town, the weight of the rock or my age. I let the listener paint those details themselves. Doing so helps give them ownership of my story as they get to see it however they want to. Set the scene, but do it simply.

Rule 2. Use Simple Dialogue

The greatest tool there is in storytelling is dialogue. There’s simply no better way to make a story come to life than by using actual dialog rather than implied conversations. The problem with dialogue, however, is not every line in a conversation belongs in your story.

Using simple dialogue means cutting out the unnecessary. When I tell a story of fighting with my sister only to turn around and fight bullies, I use dialog to move the story, but there’s no need to tell the listener everything that’s said. When I use dialogue I share:

As we waited for the school bus, I taunted my sister: “What did you do to your hair?! Didn’t you pass a mirror this morning? You look like you lost a fight with a weed whacker.” Oh, I know that sounds cruel, but if you had seen her ridiculous hairstyle, you would have thought the same thing. As the oldest of the Fisher siblings, tormenting my sister—and my brother–was not just my right…it was my responsibility. The bus arrives and we step on board only to be greeted by the bus driver’s unruly sons, who were the bus bullies, laughing and pointing at my sister’s head. My brother spoke up first. “Hey! You can’t say that about our sister.” “Yeah,” I joined in. “Only we can say that about our sister!” And the fight was on! When the bus stopped, we three Fisher kids found ourselves sitting in the principal’s office. “You sit here. I’m calling your parents.”

This is simple dialogue. It moves the story along with an actual conversation, but it eliminates the parts of the story that might take away from my message.

Rule 3. Simply State The Message

When it comes to delivering a message I love what Churchill said on the subject:

If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.

There is simply no better way to make a point than through a story, but we can’t depend upon our story alone to carry the message. That would be, in Mr. Churchill’s words, being subtle and clever.

A story that I love using is about working on a hog farm in high school. It has a clear lesson, but I can’t rely on the audience to simply get it from my story, I need to tell them.

But the most important lesson I learned happened when we were pumping out the pit beneath the pens. Everything had been going fine until we got to a pen and the plug was stuck. There were three of us working that day. Colorful Chuck, myself and a tobacco chewing woman named Barb. When we couldn’t get the plug out, Chuck gave up on the chain and put his whole arm down into the liquid gold trying to pull it out. As Barb and I watched him, she was spitting Red Man juice between the slats and into the pit. She did this about four times before Chuck pulled out his arm that was now covered in hog manure to his shoulder, looked her straight in the eye and as serious as he could be said to her “would you stop spitting in there? Do you really think I want to put my hands where you’re spitting?” The lesson I took from this is that sometimes we get so caught up in the details that we miss the bigger picture.

To make sure my message is delivered, I have to simply state the message.

These rules aren’t perfect and they don’t work in every case, but by following them, I ensure that when I tell a story, I’m giving my audience enough to follow along but no so much that I lose them in the weeds. It’s a delicate balance to strike. That’s why the rules exist in the first place. To help me make my story as simple as possible but no simpler.

 

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A disclaimer to begin: Writing about Hillary’s Husband is not an endorsement, it’s just another installment of the Profiles in Persistence Series. With all of the nicknames that President Bill Clinton acquired, I’m genuinely surprised that he was never compared to a cat because he has as close to nine lives as any American Politician. The life of our 42nd President proves that the only limit on second chances in American life is how many you’re willing to take. Similar to Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton was hailed as a wonder boy of politics. Before he could vote, he drove candidates, volunteered in political campaigns, and was listened to by experienced politicians. One of the most iconic pictures of the 1992 Presidential Campaign was the photograph of Bill Clinton as a member of Arkansas’ Boys Nation delegation shaking hands with President Kennedy. He was a bright shining star as a young man. In college, he worked for Senator J. William Fullbright and went on to be a Rhodes Scholar. All the while, his plan was always to return to Arkansas and run for office. After Yale Law School he got his chance and waged an aggressive campaign for Congress in 1974 again the popular John Paul Hammerschmidt. President Nixon’s resignation killed his campaign and he lost but learned how to run a successful campaign. In 1976, Bill Clinton was elected Attorney General of the State of Arkansas by a landslide vote. He was considered to be one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars and wasn’t even 30 yet. It was almost a given that Clinton would run for Governor in 1978. His campaign was a youth revolution and he was once again elected by a landslide when he was 30 years old, making him the youngest Governor in the nation. And then he fell. Clinton was elected on a campaign to improve education and infrastructure in a state who’s unofficial motto was “Thank God for Mississippi” because if it weren’t for Mississippi, Arkansas would be last in the nation in education and infrastructure. In order to fulfill his campaign promises, he raised the fee for license plates to pay for his initiatives. It’s become a fable in Arkansas politics that ever month, 1/12 of the population went to renew their plates and every month 1/12 of the population decided against voting for Bill Clinton. In 1980, Republican businessman Bill White ran a brilliant campaign that captured anger over the license plate fee increase and the Reagan Revolution sweeping the rest of the nation. For the first time in his life, Bill Clinton was turned out of office and unpopular. At the age of 32, Bill Clinton found himself the youngest ex-governor in America’s History. In true Bill Clinton style, he spent the following day campaigning for 1982. He went to work in a law firm, took every speaking engagement offered to him and worked his way back. His extreme hard work, diligence and yes, persistence, paid off as he was returned the Governor’s Mansion in 1982 a changed man. He was more capable of compromise and more eager to prove himself. He fell hard but began a quicker rise. It was rumored that he would run for President in 1988 but decided to sit it out and wait for either 1992 or 1996. When the nominee, Michael Dukakis, asked his fellow governor to give his nominating speech at the Democratic National Convention, it seemed as if his career would once again be over as he spoke for 33 minutes and received his biggest applause line on the phrase “In conclusion”. Once again however he proved his critics wrong when an appearance on the Johnny Carson Show the following week once again out him on the map. On November 3, 1992, Bill Clinton was elected President. After rising quickly and falling hard, he had risen to the highest office in the land. Throughout his Presidency, he was pronounced politically dead over and over again. 1998, he became the second President in US History to be impeached. Even that couldn’t kill the cat of politics. Every time he has fallen, he has clawed his way and has shown over and over again that he is a true profile in persistence. ]]>

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In part one of this series earlier this week, I laid out the foundation of a blue print for looking the part, the basics; white shirt, blue blazer, gray slacks or trousers, shined black shoes. In part two, I will lay out optimizing this meet virtually any scenario.

The basics work because of it’s simplicity. It’s a uniform that can be worn day in and day out with no one taking notice. Keep the shirt gleaming white, the trousers creased and the shoes shined and you will always look like an executive, even if you haven’t earned the title yet. All of that said, there are times when the basics need to be tweaked for the situation. In some cases, it’s too casual and in others, it’s too formal, but the beauty in it lies in the fact that it can be easily optimized to fit the situation.

The Formal

In those rare events that the basic look is too casual, we can easily remedy this situation by taking two additional steps. If you’re a man, the addition of a slim dark tie and a folded white pocket square takes the basic business casual uniform and puts it squarely in business territory. In truth this has a lot to do with the trousers. Where cotton khakis with shirt and blazer and it doesn’t matter if we add the tie or not, but by stepping up to gray, wool trousers, the addition of a tie and pocket square makes the

look feel complete and put together.

To nail the details here, its crucial that you follow certain rules with your tie. First, keep it slim. My preference is for 2 1/2’ inches at its widest point. Second, keep it simple. Stick to dark solids like navy and charcoal, basic stripes and small pin dots. Lastly, keep it impeccable. If you’re tie has a soup stain, throw it out. You want nothing to take away from you and your skills and giving the appearance of being a slob does just that.

For the pocket square, a white cotton handkerchief works really well. Keep it white and keep it simple. a basic straight fold, sometimes called the Presidential, is always appropriate. Keep most of it in your pocket and let only the top of the fold show.

Nail these details and you will fit in in just about ever event outside of a funeral.

The Casual

I have long subscribed to the theory that one dresses for the job they want, not the job they have. That being said, sometimes, the basics need to be toned down and made more causal. For those cases, a very easy fix is to remove the blazer and roll the sleeve to the elbow. With this look, the white shirt, still gives the clean, well put together feeling. The trousers still say that you take your job seriously, but the rolling of your sleeves will be taken as a sign that you’re willing to work. There’s a reason it’s a trick utilized by almost all politicians.

If it’s too cool to roll your sleeves, consider the addition of a black cotton sweater. Stick with crew neck with a good fit keep your shirt collar inside the sweater collar. This keep the clean, professional look, but also keeps the causal feel.

To nail the details of the causal option, carefully roll your sleeves to your elbow. a neat fold indicated attention to detail and that’s always a good sign. If a sweater is added, keep it black or charcoal and make sure it fits you. it should somewhat form fitting but not like spandex. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but if done correctly, it’s a solid casual business causal. 

Looking the part is much easier than we like to make it.  With so many options its easy to get confused and overwhelmed. That’s why sticking to the basics and optimizing it along the way is always the best option. A white dress shirt, a blue blazer with gray trousers and black shoes works every time, you just have to tweak it as you go along.

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blueprint

At some point in time, every one of us finds ourselves in a position where we need to look the part and look like we belong where we are. For some it’s a job interview, others it’s a client meeting and for most of us, it’s a big presentation that we hope to nail.  In every one of these situations and countless more, our appearance matters a great deal and I’ve found it helpful to have a blueprint to look the part.

Every industry has its own standards and ever person has their own taste, but I’ve broken my blueprint down into three can’t levels, Basic, Casual and Formal, that will work for every gender, every build and every industry, they just require a little modification.

Basic

10496When using a blueprint to build a building, it always starts with the foundation. The blueprint to look the part in no different. It’s made up of four main staples that are available to everyone.

When it comes to being well dressed, the first rule is dressing appropriately for the situation. I love a good suit, but it’s not always appropriate and neither is a polo shirt and khakis. Often times, one is just as inappropriate a the other. A crisp white shirt beneath a tailored Navy blazer with gray trousers or slacks and shined black shoes, however, works in ever scenario. Why?

A crisp White Shirt

There is simply no cleaner look than a sparkling white dress shirt. Male or female, every skin tone and build benefits from a white shirt.It’s timeless and it’s understated and it works because it shows that you take your job seriously. Like all things, the devil is in details, so make sure its impeccably clean, with a point collar and clear or white buttons. Make sure the fit is good with sleeve length that stops where the wrist meets the hand.

A Navy Blazer

Like a white shirt, Navy is a color that works on everyone. It’s dark enough to help slim anyone’s appearance, but not so dark as to be confused with a funeral suit. Wearing a blazer is again, an understated way of showing you take your job seriously. To nail the details of this look, have your jacket tailored. It should hug your torso without giving the appearance of a sausage casing and should leave between a half and one inch of white shirt sleeve showing. As for buttons, it’s a matter of taste. I prefer brass or silver, but plain blue work too, just make sure there are only two and to leave the bottom one open.

Gray Trousers or Slacks

There are those that argue that Khaki works just as well and I don’t have a problem with cotton khaki pants with a blue blazer but if you’re going to nail the look, your bottom half needs to be gray. Gray pants are a step above khaki because they indicate a bit more depth. Everyone has khakis but only people who really know how to dress has a pair of gray wool trousers. Getting the details of the pants right requires that the color be right; make sure they’re mid-gray and not charcoal, and that they fit correctly. Too tight you give the appearance that you’re over weight and too loose and you look like a kid being dressed up for a wedding. The hem should just touch the deal and there should be a sight break at the ankle. This works for both men and women.

Black Shoes

When it comes to footwear, we all have a lot of options. Sometimes too many options make things harder and that’ why I prefer simple. For men, a pair of black cap toe shoes and for ladies, a pair of basic black leather pumps. Both should reflect a shine that took some time to develop. Shined shoes indicate an attention to detail that others notice as soon as they meet you. Black shoes reflect a higher shine and should be considered your go to shoe. To nail the details, avoid brogues or wingtips and pocus on making the heels and the toes of the shoes shine.

Sticking with this foundation, we can present a professional image in virtually any room and on most any stage. On Friday, I will discuss how to optimize the basics to match any casual or formal situation, but this is the solid foundation on which you can build a mansion.]]>