3 Easy Ways To Be More Interesting (Without Holding A Martini Or Referencing A Passport)
“Live an interesting life. No one wants to talk to an old man with no stories to tell.”
My grandfather’s advice for me as a teenager landed well as I’ve tinkered and trekked my way through several careers, but the call to do the unexpected thing doesn’t just pay returns later in life, it is relevant here and now. Because these days—whether in the job market or the online firehose of self-promotion—we are all in an arms race for attention and respect. Being dubbed “interesting” is a form of social stickiness because it means people are looking.
Eyes = currency.
Ok, but how to make your special sunflower stand out in a field of them? For a lot of people I work with, the feeling is that they don’t have enough time, skills, or money to add the pertinent flair.
Truth is, their immobility is not for any of those reasons. It’s because of size and surety. Let me start with the latter.
There Is No Magic Bullet
Since everything is on display these days, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be both the finished product and the breath of fresh air even before we’ve started. This fear of messing up leads to a whole lot of watered-down copycats, which is a whole lot of boring.
To be interesting to the world, we first have to be interested in it. We have to be newbies. We have to be curious, vulnerable, and purposely step into discomfort—or what I called in my TEDx talk, planned grit—and see what happens on the other side.
Things might not go as hoped. That’s ok. There are no sure things on the road to adoration.
As my colleague Lisa Zigarmi likes to ask her coaching clients, “Which pain do you choose?”
Let’s face it…depth, dimensionality, and a good story don’t come on the back end of a guaranteed result. So, since uneasiness is standard fare on our quest for intrigue, we should start small.
It Won’t Be Sexy (At First)
The power of planned grit does not need to be forged by going broke, launching a company, learning a second language, dueling on the top of passenger trains, or being taken in by bedouins in the Wadi Rum. You know, the things we say we have to do in order to experience life, or to differentiate ourselves in the market.
No, planned grit can be had on an average Tuesday in your own backyard. Trust me, I do it all the time.
Here are three easy ways to be more interesting no matter your budget, free time, or Rolodex.
1) Move (Or, change your vantage point)
To be deemed interesting it’s because you have a perspective or experience that is unique, and most likely admirable, to your audience. New points of view come from, well sometimes literally, moving your point of view.
Ask yourself, what’s a cultural event or experience within 50 miles of my house that I could attend? Is there a fair, a restaurant, a market, a play, a concert, a hike, that would not be something you would normally do? Go to that Slavic restaurant you’ve been avoiding. Strike up a conversation with someone there. Go to the theater. See a local symphony orchestra. Join a Creative Morning in your area.
If anyone is going to deem you interesting, chances are you had to inconvenience yourself along the way. Changing your footing is an easy way to do that.
2) Noodle (Or, always have a project)
Whether it’s a blog, a garden, coaching T-ball, or being on the board at the chamber of commerce, it’s always nice to have something you cherish that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with money or your job.
You know, the things that add a little width to your resume.
Too many times people think that the side project they need to start is a book or a beverage company.
Let there be a joy of something on the side before you give it any worldly expectations. Prove to yourself that you like putting in the time on it, that you can commit to it, that you can get past the novelty stage of anything. (Everyone wants to write a book for two hours. Come back after twenty hours and see how you’re feeling).
It should be: I do this, because I like this. That might be good enough.
I started my networking event, Magnet, years ago because I hated how typical networking events worked. I had a hunch that other people did too. Over 1,800 connections later, it's still going strong!
3) Commend (Or, give 2 random compliments a day)
Work from home. Instacart. Doordash. Amazon. AI. All tools that keep us sheltered in a cocoon of convenience. Just leave it on my doorstep.
Find a way to interact with people. Back in pre-pandemic NYC, I remember challenging myself to give two random compliments a day to strangers. “I like your scarf.” “Cool boots.” “Dude, where did you get that jacket? It’s sick.”
All interactions elicit a smile. Most lead to further conversations. Some lead to business opportunities.
I’ll go first. If I'm checking out at the store I’ll say hello first. If I’m coming across someone making eye-contact I’ll smile first. Not all times, but most times — it comes in your favor. ... [other people are] ready, but you have to go first, because we're being trained in this world [to opt out] — nobody’s going first anymore.
If you’re the first one to open the door, say hello, give a compliment, offer a hand, people’s interest in you will start to take shape.
I have a neighbor who, for the past year, has never said hello to me when she sees me. There is almost disdain on her face for the world. I don’t know what’s going on in her life, but I keep making it a point to say hello every time I see her. Sure, some people just want to be left alone, but most people are dying to be seen.
Maybe one day I’ll break through. I’m gonna stay interested and see what happens.