Making others’ expectations work for you is all in the mind.
One would think a crowd of hundreds would be the place where an opportunity for personal time doesn’t exist, but it seems the larger the crowd, the more alone one can feel. I’ve experienced entering a room full of professionals and have found I can have plenty of alone time if I choose. But being alone in a crowded room can quickly turn in the opposite direction and time for personal reflection is so far behind you, a trip to the restroom even lacks privacy. A few years ago, several things happened in my world, which amplified this phenomenon.
I awoke in a cold, white room, the surroundings blurred. Then, light from the fluorescent tubes above me came into focus. Taking in my surroundings, I viewed a familiar face to my right and asked, “Where am I?” My wife’s soft, but tired voice responded in a way that felt as if it was the hundredth time she answered, “You are in a hospital. You were in a motorcycle accident.” In the passing days, I realized my world drastically changed. Multiple surgeries, a need for a wheelchair, and reliance on others was something I was going to have to get used to.
Although the price paid was extreme, I did notice in a photo taken by my wife that the bare patch on the right side of my face, which before the accident had prevented me from full beard growth, had filled in. I had always been frustrated with the bare spot on my face, but after a high-speed skid on the hot Arizona freeway that August, my beard somehow had grown in through the scars and scabs on my cheek. I committed to not shave or trim it until I learned how to walk again.
Allowing my beard to grow and deciding to not share the same wardrobe as those in my industry, I find it very easy to share a space with other professionals and not communicate with any of them — to be completely alone among many. People don’t typically envision a person whom they come to see on stage and take notes from to look like I do. When an event progresses and the host introduces me, a subject-matter expert on finance as it relates to real estate investments, there is a noticeable adjustment in the audience’s attention.
What they expect in the outward appearance of one who is in the banking industry and what they see before them are complete opposites. Because of the contrast between the mental ideal and what they see, the question “Who is this and why is he on this stage?” certainly comes to the minds of most audience members. It’s this juxtaposition of perception versus reality that results in greater attention. They want to hear the answer to their question: “Who is this and why is he on this stage?”
Often, presenters who look like they were anticipated to look do not receive the attention they deserve. My appearance has become a disruptor, and I know it is best practice to not just jump on stage and sound ignorant. If you choose to be the unexpected presenter because of your appearance, you better be the unexpected presenter in the level of content you provide. Immerse yourself to the deepest level of your contribution, and you’ll eventually achieve status of subject-matter expert. But that is not enough. You must develop the ability to present complicated information in a way that the general public can easily comprehend.
When I am called upon to provide material to an audience, it is typically to share information about real estate finance. Rather than offer information on the nuts and bolts of how to qualify and what programs exist, I tend to lean toward the mindset of the individual real estate investor to chip away at their fears and prejudices toward the erroneous “debt.” We can find fear and error everywhere, but misperception, assumptions, and misinformation cause frustration that can halt the progress of the motivated investor. Turn faulty expectations into motivation to fill your mind with the most useful information so your mind can be what it was intended: your best tool.
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