Mind over Matter

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain

Can you imagine a world free of relatives? I certainly can. A carefree world in which people do not judge or criticize themselves based on relativistic notions that have little to nothing to do with their true, inherent nature? Call me naive, but in my mind it matters little if you are short or tall, thick or thin, white or black, male or female, a big thinker or a detail person; what matters most is what you make of what you have.

On a historical note, the industrialization of the fashion industry went a long way to making people feel worse about themselves. Rather than having clothes tailored to complement their assets and downplay their liabilities, most nowadays are doomed to wear clothing designed for some mythical “average” person, clothing that more often than not distorts your image rather than refining it.

Partly owing to this shift and other deeper societal changes, we have become a society obsessed with appearance. As a result, we are increasingly short on substance. To be sure, fine and beautiful things are wonderful, but to stop there misses the point of humanity entirely.

I believe in the value of the individual, regardless of his or her appearance. Moreover, I feel that many people are written off unnecessarily as a result of the narrow-mindedness that relativistic thinking engenders.

The truth of you is absolute, not relative. As such, you are much better off competing with yourself than you are to compete with others. If you “best” your best performance every time you undertake something, you will come to enjoy the peace and inner satisfaction that accompanies eternal progress. If, on the contrary, you are constantly comparing yourself – your appearance and performance – against that of others, you will be perpetually and unconsolably miserable. Jealousy is nothing more than the fear of comparison, and you are better off without both.

That said, there is a mountain of difference between snubbing your nose at those flinging comparisons and saying “I don’t give a crap” versus realizing the limitations of such an approach and saying “It matters not to me.” Disdain of invariably results in subjection to; wise and happy is the man who abstains from arrogance.

You will realize that when you are no longer part of the game, you needn’t “size people up,” for their weaknesses and limitations are meaningless to you. What is important is what they bring to the table, based on their unique and peculiar configuration. Rather than positioning yourself in relation to others or “posturing,” you seek only to complement and draw forth the signature quality of greatness resident in them.

The internal adjustment implied here results in a massive shift in the way you view and interact with the world. You might not see it at first, but give your heart time to be cleansed of the tacky residue left by judgment and comparison and you will be rewarded with a refreshing and deeply satisfying new look at the same old world around you.

What changed? Well, everything changed.

A man hasn’t got a corner on virtue just because his shoes are shined.” – Ann Petry

All this talk of fashion reminds me of a wonderful tour I was given of the John Lobb workshop in Paris, prior to its move to the rue de Mogador. If you haven’t heard the name before, John Lobb has been making some of the world’s finest shoes and boots since 1866 (http://www.johnlobb.com/heritage/). John Lobb was acquired by the Hermès Group in 1974 and their bespoke creations are wearable works of art.

Prior to the industrial revolution, bespoke tailoring, boot and shoemaking was the norm. Every outfit and every pair used to be made to fit the individual, highlighting assets and downplaying liabilities. Then came the industrial revolution and its machines and factories transformed an industry filled with artisans and craftsman.

Powerloom, Image by Wikipedia

The novelty and economics of “machine made” created an enormous splash, whose ripples continue to lap upon the shore of the pages of current fashion history. Everything could be made, cheaper, more quickly and for more people. What changed? Well, everything changed.

I recently spoke with a haberdasher about his experience with new clients who have never before tried custom-made clothing. He told me an interesting story about a man he had worked with the week before who never really liked clothing as his height and weight made it impossible for him to buy anything off the rack that fit properly. When he realized he could have clothes made to not only fit, but complement his frame, he was overjoyed. It was if a veil had lifted in his experience and with it went pounds of shame, embarrassment and discomfort that he had lived with all his life. He went from prisoner to proprietor. What changed, everything changed.

I’ve enjoyed seeing a resurgence of bespoke artisans – tailors, boot and makers and the like – in the wake of the industrial revolution. Unfortunately the cost of having clothing or footwear custom tailored is too high for most, but there are ways to complement your size and shape. It takes little research and a bit of practice, but men and women can find clothing that will improve their appearance on any income. You needn’t spend a fortune to find ways to magnify your virtue through wise clothing choices.

I spent an hour or so speaking with the various artisans in the John Lobb atelier, and to my surprise just about everyone I met had been working there for at least twenty years! They were proud of their craftsmanship, protective of their art and confident in their skill. All of them felt honored to do what they were doing and wouldn’t trade their craft for the world.

Compare that with the experience of most factory workers in today’s textile mills and you get a closer view of the changes wrought by the industrial age upon the loom of humanity. It is a starkly different texture. Progress? Well, I’m not so sure.

Forgive me for prying, but what in your world do you allow to imprison you? Your clothing is but one possible jailer, but what of your diet, your outlook, your friendships, your lifestyle? In my view far too many people live their lives in prisons of their own making. How do you break down these walls? Well, at first you must learn to be comfortable in your own shoes.

You have to be willing to get to know yourself as you are, here and now. Come to rest in your limitations and you will soon be free from your limitations. From there you can find those resources at your disposal that will best complement you as you now are. Moving onward and upward from there is easy!

If your experience is anything like mine was, when you come to rest with yourself the first question that will come to mind is “What changed?” To which you will naturally respond: “Well, everything changed.”

Have a great day!

Dress for Success

“Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire.” – Charles Dickens

One thing should be clear: clothes do not make a man a gentleman or a woman a lady; and, by the same token, a real gentleman or a true lady is always a gentleman or a lady, no matter what he or she wears. The clothes you wear either magnify or cloak your personality and what you wear is in many ways less important than how you wear it.

I relaxed my company’s dress code today in hopes that there might be room for greater creative freedom, not just in apparel choices but in thought and deed. We’ve been heavily engaged in breaking down assumptions we’ve held that have prevented us in any way from making it easy for our clients to do business with us and this fashion statement was freshly pressed to that end.

The fashion choices we make are deeply personal. Like our food choices, they are based part on preference, part on need, part on availability and part on custom. Your clothing is a calling card to your personality, to your mood and to your outlook and your ability to dress appropriately can have a significant impact on how successful you are in any department of life.

It is possible to overdress. It is possible to underdress. At times it makes sense to overdress while it is less commonly advisable to underdress. The key is to dress in such a way that you do not hinder your effectiveness in life. Neutral or helpful is good. Hindrance is bad.

I’ve found that first impressions are important to people but at the same time I’ve always enjoyed the times when I’ve been surprised to learn that my initial impressions were incorrectly formed. Appearances can be deceiving and its worth remembering that fact lest you be caught in a web of prejudice.

In relaxing the dress code at my company I hope that everyone will rise to the occasion and take care to determine what is appropriate. We don’t live in a time like the Elizabethan era where what was worn when was formalized and rigid. That said, the art of appropriateness lives on.

There are those (often men) who say that they don’t really care about what they wear, but then when you look at them from one situation to the next they somehow end up not just fitting in but often matching what others around them wear. I was recently in a small town where every guy had a baseball cap on with sunglasses perched atop the cap. I was convinced of a fashion conspiracy, but were I to ask about it I’m sure that every one of them would have said that they put no thought to the ensemble.

There is no harm done in caring about what you wear, neither is there any problem in my book with not caring much about what you wear, unless your lack of concern gets in the way of you delivering the greatness that is yours to give. Clothing fitly chosen, like words fitly spoken are an aspect of your aesthetic and there is no reason to decrease the odds of someone receiving you due to a poorly composed aesthetic.

At the end of the day, it’s not so much what you wear but the goods you deliver that tell the tale. If you don’t have the resources to wear what you would like to wear, don’t be ashamed. Do the best you can with what you have and you can’t go wrong. As Albert Einstein said “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies…It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”