The Origins Of A Strong Identity And How To Recreate Yourself in 7 Phases
Have you ever been in an interview and the interviewer asked you what you see yourself doing 5 years from now? They want you to lie to them. They want you to paint an image of yourself that they want to believe in. It’s not a test of your ambitions, it’s a test of your imaginations. Many people find out very early that although grandiose imaginations are great, no one can really know what kind of person they will be a year, a month, or even a week from now.
However, there are a few who take a time to see what their lives are all about, then meticulously craft a public image that fits with what others desire to obtain. They create a Halo effect about themselves.
One year ago, turning 30, I took a look at my image and decided some things needed changing. These things had very little to do with how I feel about myself or my outlook in life. They just projected an image that was random and ill-perceived. In doing so, I learned a few lessons that I’m hoping to share with you.
The reflection of one’s image to the world is a process that very few guys can do well. Most men tend to think that by putting a few hours in the gym, buying a new pair of shoes or getting a new haircut they’re off running game. The rest is up to chance and they’ll take whatever they can get.
But as Robert Greene’s 25th law in the book 48 Laws of Power suggests:
The recreation of yourself in the eyes of others is a powerful process that must not be left to chance.
You must take charge of this process from the inside out and from its inception to ending. This process can be regarded as somehow both artistic and technical, but I can certainly say that it is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling processes you can participate in.
The origin of this thought comes from Mark Manson’s idea that it’s far more powerful to be something attractive rather than trying to say something attractive. I will take it further and show you how to recreate your identity and image to other people. Make no mistake, an honest and congruent projection of yourself is the most powerful force of attraction you can project. However, what you are creating here is an image of yourself when you are not there. You are using the Halo effect to multiply your force of attraction. Then, just like how the human face is both the expression and generator of emotions, your self-crafted image will also generate a powerful identity.
How to recreate yourself
Phase 1: Create a blueprint for your lifestyle
Objective: To establish an original vision that stands the test of time and doubts, then determine the changes you need to make this vision a reality.
Most guys just browse through a GQ magazine, pick out a trendy coat, put in an order, and call it good. Other guys try to establish a theme to their closet best matching their social environments. However, despite looking good in pictures, it all seems random at the end of the day. What you need is something far more encompassing than that.
You need a blueprint for what you do and how you will project that onto the world. You don’t need to be a movie star or a famous athlete. What you must have is a purpose and intent behind it. Think of it as a leveling mechanism that keeps you grounded. As Jon Olsson stated while describing his love for skiing:
It’s the thing that keeps the craziness of life from running away with it.
Write down a few things that you are looking forward to. Be it a hobby or something that you want to get paid doing. Look for a theme that these things are telling you. Are you meant to be an artist? Do you have a penchant for risk-taking adventures? Are you a traveler? If you don’t see it yet, write down a few more things.
You’ll start noticing themes that you can establish around these ideas:
- Who you are – an identity worth finding out. Overcome stereotypes and prejudgments by projecting conflicting information about yourself. Shoot to be someone exceptional.
- What you do very well – a deep and unique competency. Even if this activity is juggling, for example, it shows a knack for the ability to acquire skills and developing them.
- How you look doing it – personal style and quirks. Don’t be afraid to be strange, but stay within the frameset of the context. Valentino Rossi has very strange helmet designs. David Beckham had weird haircuts.
The blueprint is the plot of the story you want to tell the world about yourself. The stronger and more coherent the plot, the bigger the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Elements of this blueprint should include the following:
- The setup – where you came from and how your life experiences have shaped who you are. The key to the setup is to expose a sort of sense of destiny from something random in your childhood.
- The characters – social groups and interests that you love participating in. Make sure you seem to be at the center of it all, but seemingly leading the groups to push the limits of your collective talents and beliefs.
- The climax – you must seem to be pushing yourself toward an awesome moment or state in life. This aspiration to meet your destiny is the strongest part of the blueprint.
Don’t confuse this blueprint with your sense of purpose, they may be separate things. Your purpose may be deeply connected to helping those in need, for example. However, your passion may be to travel while helping people in need.
The important distinction is that your sense of purpose should never be governed by how others see you. It’s independent of whatever lifestyle you choose to lead.
Feel free to throw the first few iterations of your blueprint away. Feel free to discard your blueprint and start over. However, the more you stick to your blueprint, the more meaning and power it has. Whatever you choose to create will fall within this framework of how you want your life to be perceived.
Even if you think you’ve done a lot of cool things in your life, don’t skip this phase. Chances are, you haven’t cohesively and comprehensively evaluated what image those things project to others.
Phase 2: Deeply immerse yourself in this lifestyle
Objective: Become a skilled leader in your niche field.
This phase is easier than it sounds. Even though before you can call yourself a master at something, you must spend thousands of hours practicing at it, to seem like a leader in that field takes just a few steps. People tend to falsely associate time spent doing something of the mastery of it. You use this false association to create a deep image of a person dedicated to a craft.
First, you have to be somewhat competent at that particular area of your lifestyle. There is no way around this one. If you love to travel but you can’t read a map and can’t stand toilets that are not bowls, then it might not be for you.
Second, you must have some people skills to persuade others to participate with you in the same time and place you want to do it. If you live in Texas and you love snowboarding, then you must be able to find people in the area who are willing to travel long distances to get cold.
Third, you should always be willing to do things alone. The best hours that you will spend doing something, will be with yourself. In these hours, you don’t have to listen to others and you don’t have to listen to your mind resisting the voices of others. You can simply shut up (on the inside) and do what you want.
Lastly, you want to enjoy doing this as much as possible. People are very adept at reading facial expressions to tell if you are genuinely enjoying doing something vs. simply going through the motions of it.
Phase 3: Create an authentic image for others to sample
Objective: Let others peer into a slice of your lifestyle and slowly discover this image through their curiosity and imagination
Now, your image can be finely crafted around your lifestyle. There are infinite number of ways to do this, such as facebook, twitter, instagram, blogs, and simply photography. However, if you abuse social media, your lifestyle will seem too manufactured. Nothing is wrong with this, except for the fact that everybody else is also. Instead of the in-your-face approach, consider letting people simply peer into your lifestyle.
If you love sailing, then a cover picture on your profile of a Catamaran cutting through the water in your favorite beach destination, is an example of how you can project lifestyle aspirations without bragging.
The trick is to let others peak between the false curtains into this lifestyle without letting them go too deep. You are not hiding or tricking them, but avoid overloading them with information. When you are obsessed with something in life you want to be overloaded with information about it. The brain is simply wired like that. In turn, you would most likely also want to overload others with information to show your technical competency as well as deep interest in it. This behavior is actually not attractive by the virtue that it allows other no space to imagine. Don’t take that away from them.
Usually, an image or a related inspirational quote is all you really need to hook people, instead of a whole album of every angle possible of you doing something.
Consider using moments instead of facts. Moments have feelings and meanings. Facts are emotional-less.
I love riding my motorcycle. Instead of just a picture of my bike, I might just post a picture of a twisty motorcycle road. That picture speaks volume about the desire to ride and experience the best that life has to offer.
Phase 4: Get indirect feedback from the people you trust
Objective: Fine tune your lifestyle image to increase its audience size and attractiveness.
You can’t ask your friends about what they think about your lifestyle. They are naturally biased, saying good things instead of giving you constructive criticism. You are better off asking strangers, but they usually lack the context necessary to accurately judge. For example, you wouldn’t ask a non-traveler what they think about your upcoming trip to South Africa.
The answer is that you have to get indirect feedback from people who are both familiar with your chosen lifestyle as well as those not familiar. A forum like reddit is typically the best place for this. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Just remember that this is just an image of you instead of who you are. You are free to play with it and change it as you see fit.
Phase 5: Organize your life around your image and activities
Objective: Deepen and reinforce your lifestyle image through repetition.
Having a balanced lifestyle (outside of school, work, etc.) takes investment both in time and money. If you don’t organize it right, you will lose interest in it over mundane life tasks that you deem more critical. Slowly, you will also lose control over the creation process and the identity itself.
However, if you set aside a set amount of time per week or month dedicated to these activities, you will find yourself doing them more. If the lifestyle is on the expensive side, you’ll also find a way to budget your income to match its required investment level.
Once the activities repeat themselves often enough, you’ll find the time and money management aspects become easier. You’ll get into a habit, be more flexible with it, and also more able to find deals on gears.
Phase 6: Invite others to join
Objective: Let others do the marketing and advertisement for your lifestyle.
You can never fully and tightly control the image you project, and you don’t want to. It’s tiring and inefficient. Once you have a blueprint and a set of repertoire, simply invite others to join and they will amplify this image for you. People love to talk up others to make themselves feel more valuable also. It’s called the Halo effect for this precise reason. By the power of your lifestyle, people want to be associated with your brand.
The important things to consider here are:
- Invite everyone, but only work with those who are really interested. The Halo effect attracts two types of people: those who are only in it for the association, and those who actually want to contribute to the image. If you pander to the people with shallow intentions, they will move onto the next association quickly, leaving you seem like old news. If you cater to the people who want to be just as excited as you are, then they will go on to infect others with this devotion also.
- Don’t lose control over the image creation process in the chaos of things. Your Halo may take many forms and evolve, but those changes must stick to your blueprint or come from the blueprint itself.
- You can always destroy what you’ve created. If an identity has outlived its purpose or become counterproductive, don’t hang onto it just because! Be willing to walk away from it and create a new one. People will always want to fix you to some image they think of you, because it’s easier to deal with people you can predict. You know better than to let that fact pigeon hole your identity.
Phase 7: Reap the rewards
Objective: Maximize your benefits.
When people are truly attracted to your new identity, there is very little else that you need to do except to prioritize and maximize your benefits. What many fail to do is to sit back and let the crafted image do its work. This work is best done in your absence and with the least amount of effort possible. People are usually so obsessed with improving or fine-tuning their image that they don’t really allow it to come through naturally.
By all means, however, show off. Famous people didn’t get to where they are by being humble. When you do it, always check your intentions. If you are seeking validation, acceptance, or attention, you are most likely to be seen as needy. If you are flaunting your image and daring others to join, it will be more attractive.
You also must prioritize and decide who you will share the lifestyle with. If you share it with everybody, you will become exhausted and burnt out by it. If you pick the wrong type of people, then your benefits will be shallow and short-lived. Pick the right people, however, the Halo effect will amplify exponentially. Know the difference between being a socialite and a groupie.
Pitfalls to watch out for
You make the lifestyle, it doesn’t make you.
Don’t let the equipment, group, or culture define you. The Aston doesn’t make James Bond cool, James Bond makes the Aston cool. You might be a gear-geek, a collaborator, or a cultural icon, but behind it all, your identity must be ready to be unhinged to these things at a moment’s notice.
Watch out for moments that could destroy your identity in the eyes of others, like getting into an argument with somebody over trivial matters. Your image is not your ego, nor should it be tied to your ego. Once you have projected it, you have little control over how it is perceived. If you fight others tooth and nail to defend it, it will shatter like a glass window.
On that same vein, avoid taking your identity too seriously. Learn to laugh at it from time to time.
Everyone wants to meet interesting people whom they can associate and share their lives with. Being interesting is often not enough. Seem interesting by itself is not enough. You have to be and seem interesting to others. The Catch-22 situation in life is that most interesting people didn’t do anything extraordinary until others find them interesting first. It’s their habits that allow others to see how interesting they are (For a selection of great habits check out 30 Challenges-30 Days-Zero Excuses). Taking charge of this process will show you how much control you have over your image. It’s only then that you can play with it and propel it to the next level.
For a selection of great habits and practices that can help you accelerate the recreation process, check out our 30 Challenges-30 Days-Zero Excuses project.
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