Monday, May 14, 2012

Zuck's Hoodie

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg caught flack for showing up to an investor meeting on Wall Street wearing a sweatshirt. Facebook is about to launch an IPO worth roughly $100B; in order to get that kind of money, Facebook has to convince some investment bigwigs that it's actually worth $100B. Some of those investors (who always wear expensive suits) were a bit offended by Zuckerberg's attire at their meetings, claiming it showed immaturity and a lack of seriousness for the matters at hand.

For those who know me well it will be very clear that I'm openly cheering this story. I'm a preacher who prefers to go barefoot to the pulpit, usually in jeans and a t-shirt. I wear a shirt with a collar maybe twice a year. I have some theological reasons for my pattern of dress in church - but regardless, I am a pretty casual person.

While I suspect Zuck's hoodie has more to do with arrogance (the idea that he is too important to kowtow to convention) than individuality, I do appreciate the conversation over dress and expectations.

I was told most of my life that we dressed up for important or serious occasions because we wanted to portray an air of seriousness - to put our best foot forward. This is exactly the attitude displayed by the Wall Street execs. It makes a lot of sense - like a job interview or a first date, you present the version of yourself most likely to get what you want - and it usually pays off.

I just happen to believe that your best self is your true self. It's true that people often make up their minds by a first impression; we often judge a book by its cover. It's just that we shouldn't. We all know it. We even tell our kids NOT to judge a book by its cover. So why do we facilitate people doing it? Why do we intentionally represent ourselves at an impossible-to-maintain level of excellence?

I just decided that if I want people to judge me on who I really am, then I'm going to be myself and allow them the time to make real judgments. Sure, a few people may just make a judgment and never wait around for the chance to know me, but it's a risk I'm willing to take to do things the right way. The means is the end, after all.

Not that "dress for success" is necessarily a bad thing. We can use our outward actions as a means to change parts of our lifestyle we want to change. I use my Facebook profile that way. I don't censor what I post - but I do use it as a gauge for things I should be saying or doing in the first place. If I can't post it publicly, it's probably not something indicative of who I want to be. I had a friend in college who always wore a tie to exams as a way of psyching himself up for better performance - he was assuming the role of what he wanted to be. He wasn't denying who he was, but working to improve in areas he felt weak.

I don't think Zuckerberg has the desire to impress anyone (except maybe an unrequited love with a Sorkin-esque wit). He doesn't need to project any image his work hasn't already shown the world. I don't doubt he wants to be rich, but he doesn't want to be a Wall Street stiff - and there's no reason to dress like he does. I want to avoid snap judgments and promote relationship; I try to dress in a way to make that happen.

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