Whenever people go on a job interview (or even a first date), they put on their best outfit and try to look as “normal,” professional, and composed as they can.
But in the process of trying to look “normal,” they can end up hiding their real selves and concealing their weird quirks from the audience they want to impress.
Most people believe this strategy of normalizing and professionalizing themselves is the best way to appeal to others.
But the most interesting people in life are usually the characters that not only show us a little bit of their weirdness upfront — but leverage it.
When people own their weirdness, it can make them more distinctive, appealing, and attractive to others.
Weirdness Beats Average
Physically attractive people — like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, George Clooney, and Idris Elba — already start with a big advantage in terms of impressing others.
But what if you don’t have these natural assets to take with you into the interview or first date?
What if you are just average, like me?
Well, that’s when you should reveal a little more of your weird side.
Odd, yet distinctive characters — such as Larry David, Kate McKinnon, Kanye, Russel Brand, Ozzie Osborne, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, and Joaquin Phoenix, just to name a few — have something slightly off about them.
And they probably would have never made it had they tried to play it straight and “normal.”
All of these folks used their weirdness to their advantage.
There is something strangely beautiful and mesmerizing about people that are honest, open, and comfortable with their weirdness. This openness gives them an influence over audiences, but it’s a currency that we can all use to get ahead in life.
However, to take full advantage of this power, we must be willing to reveal ourselves.
Weirdness At Work
As an employer, I have interviewed hundreds of candidates and hired a countless number of employees over the last 30 years. And during that time, I have met a lot of “normal” people, most of which I’ve not hired.
Instead, it has always been the slightly weird candidates that have intrigued me the most because they typically had something unique to offer our firm. They had an eccentric point of view on life, which is crucial to the job of coming up with new and innovative ideas.
One of the ways these individuals “got the job” is that they didn’t try to appear 100% “normal” nor did they try to conceal their weird little quirks from me. Instead, they displayed a modest yet funny way of talking about them, which not only gave me a glimpse into how their mind works but what they genuinely care about in life.
When people put down the facade of “normality,” and are willing to be more vulnerable with each other, it can do wonders for forging a connection between humans.
And establishing a good connection with others is what we are all trying to do in life, right?
But getting to the point where we can be vulnerable and open with another person usually takes time, which we don’t have in an interview or on a first date.
What we need is those moments is the ability to establish more of an instant connection. And this is where the genius of laughter can come in.
Odd But True
More than most people, comedians are the ones who are willing to put their weirdness out there for everyone to boo or applaud.
Comedians have the daunting job of getting up on stage — often multiple times a week and frequently to empty rooms — to tell a group of strangers they’ve never met about their weird personal behaviors and odd observations on life.
And in those high-pressure moments, they need to make an instant connection — 2 minutes or less— with these strangers, or they’ll lose the interest of the room and get booed off the stage.
Sometimes an audience doesn’t connect with the comedian or their jokes, which can be painful to watch.
But when comedians do hit upon the right observations and insights about life, audiences can erupt in laughter.
Why do these strangers laugh?
When humans involuntarily laugh it’s because the comedian provided them an ah-ha moment. They just heard the hidden truth of a situation or realized something odd but true about people.
And what is usually true about life is often something we typically think is weird, off-limits, or unmentionable.
Finding that weirdness, or truth, about people—or ourselves—can be a powerful insight for all of us to use in our own lives.
Making a First Impression
When a comedian comes out on stage to confront a skeptical audience that has never seen them before, people often initially shrug the person off — and think,
“Who’s this guy? He doesn’t look funny!”
We have all felt this same kind of doubt and uncertainty coming from the boss, clients, or a first date.
But within a short period, a skilled comedian can have that audience crying in tears with laughter and eventually eating out of their hands. And when that happens, the comedian owns that room full of strangers.
That’s quite a powerful quality to possess, and one that most of us would like to have at our disposal.
But how do comedians achieve this feat?
By telling strangers incredibly embarrassing stories about highly personal matters that most people would never talk about in public.
Most people are afraid to put themselves out there and let anyone see their weirdness because they fear it will make them look weak, strange, or undesirable.
But comedians are comfortable with this. They know how use this weirdness in a way that makes them look attractive, charismatic, and in command of the room.
The Great Dating Scandal
One of the more common, yet misleading things we do in life is going on a date with someone we’re interested in and then spend our time together hiding nearly about our real selves from that person
We present a sanitized and filtered version of ourselves because we worry this person will not like the real us.
So we clean up our shoes, clothes, hair, cars, homes, mouths, and lives in a way that is not truly us.
We don’t talk about our crazy parents, past relationships, personal failures, money problems, odd quirks, strange obsessions, and weird behaviors.
We save all that weird stuff for later — after our mates have already committed themselves to us.
The concept of dating is about tricking the other person into thinking we are “normal” people — before we bring out the carnival of freaky stuff to parade around them.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The Power of the Reveal
I am not advocating that you don’t brush your teeth or put on a clean pair of underwear before you go on a date.
Please do this!
But what I’m suggesting is that you not work so hard to hide or fully cover up who you are in reality in the beginning stages of a relationship.
Try to let some of that weirdness come out through your stories, dialog and perspectives on life, so people can get a better glimpse of you.
And make it a point to reveal yourself more openly to give people a sneak peek at what you care about and what you’d be willing to fight someone over — perhaps someday your date even.
Getting this kind of information out on the table early in the relationship is not only fair to the other person but, if done tastefully, it can also be incredibly sexy and appealing to them.
You’d be surprised by how much power, charisma, and command of the room is given to those individuals that show us their weird side upfront.
Consumers Like It Little Weird Too
We live in an age where we have more products than we do people with enough needs to buy them all.
For just about every category out there, you can usually find an surplus of comparable offerings, all touting varying degrees of similar features and benefits.
However, what breaks the tie for many consumers today is not only what makes a brand different, but what makes them a little weird and quirky.
During their startup years, Apple was one of the weirdest companies in the tech world.
But they were also the masters of owning their weirdness, which they used to attract the best employees to join their cause and style-conscious customers to become members of their tribe.
This weirdness was brilliantly captured two decades later in the “Think Different” campaign. But the DNA for Apple’s weirdness had been baked into their culture from the beginning.
While every other computer tech company was touting its features — such as speed, processing power, weight, size, etc. — Apple didn’t show a single product or list any features in their advertising campaign.
Instead, it featured personalities — such as Dalai Lama, Jane Goodall, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, and others outside the norm for their time.
Being identified with this group of “weirdos” and non-traditional thinkers has always been a giant part of Apple’s appeal.
Weirdness = Value
By far, the King of Weirdness in business had to be Steve Jobs.
He was a strange cat, with all kinds of strange habits, bizarre quirks and weird dobsessions. But he learned to own his weirdness and didn’t shy away from letting others know about it.
Although he was not a computer programmer, he had an eccentric point of view (for the time) about things like fonts, colors, materials, rounded corners, menu displays, and the way something plugs in.
Many tech leaders — such as Bill Gates, Ken Olsen and IBM — publicly stated that consumers would never care about these weird little obsessions Jobs had, but they were wrong.
Jobs’ weird little obsessions gravitated customers to the brand, which allowed Apple the ability to charge a high premium for their products.
But Apple is no longer that weird anymore, but instead looks more like another giant corporation.
Weirdness, for me, equals a focus on something of hidden value outside the norm.
How Can Weirdness Work For You?
Here are my suggestions for how to own your weirdness:
1. Know Thy Weirdness
My advice to people looking to find a job, get their startup business to stand out, land that big commission, or win the second date is first to develop a keen awareness of your weirdness.
Far too many people I meet don’t believe they have anything weird about them. (But, let me ask your spouse or co-workers about this?)
I can assure you; you have something strange and odd about you, and it’s probably hiding in plain sight.
2. Listen To What Others Say About You
Pay attention to the small jokes and stereotypes for how your friends, family, and loved ones describe you, tease you, or kid with you.
Embedded in those jokes is usually a hint of truthful commentary they are making about you or your odd habits.
And even if these critiques don’t accurately reflect you, they still represent some good material to work with for attracting audiences to a message.
Don’t try to defend or fight these critiques, but instead explore them and use them to get closer to understanding your weirdness.
3. Get Comfortable With Your Weirdness
Once you have a list of your odd quirks, strange behaviors, and weird habits, then try to get comfortable enough with them to wear them around town for a bit.
I took the weird labels that were put on my forehead and turned them around to propel my future forward.
4. Find The Funny
The trick to getting weird stuff not to come across so severe and uncomfortable for others to hear is to find the funny in them.
Find the truthful parts the reflect the weirdness of humans, society or yourself, and be willing to laugh at yourself about them.
Remember, the power of weirdness is when it speaks a truth about life and makes people laugh because of the ah-ha insight.
5. Uncover The Deeper Values
Dig down deep to discover what these weird habits and obssessions say about you, your beliefs, and our society.
Uncover the underlying values contained within them and the social norms that surround them. (Need inspiration? Watch Larry David.)
And try to determine why you—or someone you know (your mate, co-worker, or boss)—would be willing to fight someone if they attempted to take this weird habit away from you .
6. Work It Into Your Stories
Armed with these insights, try incorporating this weirdness into your language and meetings with both people that know you and the people you are just meeting for the first time.
But don’t go too far or come on too strong with your weirdness, lest you scare people off or just annoy them.
Like a successful joke, the truth of your weirdness needs to pull people in, not turn them off, or push them away.
Nobody likes an annoyingly weird person or an individual that doesn’t know they’re weird.
Being consciously aware of weirdness is crucial.
7. Practice Makes Perfect
Find the intersection of how your weirdness connects with others. This nexus is where the art, craft, and creativity of weirdness comes into play.
You can learn a lot by watching and studying how other weird people use weirdness to their advantage.
But ultimately, it comes down to practicing, experimenting and testing the reaction people have to your weird stories and observations.
When we see comedians tell a funny joke on stage, they do a fantastic job of making us believe it is the first time they have ever had that particular thought or observation.
But the truth is, they have usually rehearsed and told that joke a thousand times, with a hundred slightly different variations to get it right.
They practice getting that weird observation down so that timing, spacing, white space, and delivery hits their targeted audience in precisely the right manner to create that ah-ha moment of truth, then laughter.
While you don’t need to over-rehearse or script your act like a comedian, it is useful to constantly study how people react to your unusual points and weird observations.
Meeting new people is like visiting a city for the first time.
As soon as you arrive, you try to crack the code of the place by putting together all the random clues.
Most people decide quickly whether they like a place or not, just based on first batch of clues.
In the early 2000s, I was driving through the “normally” traditional and conservative state of Texas.
But as I got closer to Austin, I would occasionally see a sign or bumper sticker that said,
“Keep Austin Weird.”
At the time, I thought it was one of the most brilliant place branding taglines I had heard in my long career of doing urban revitalization work.
However, that tagline didn’t come from a branding agency but instead from the mouth of an Austin Community College librarian named Red Wassenich.
Wassenich had phoned into a local radio show to donate money on-air. When the radio host asked why he was contributing, Wassenich replied,
“I don’t know. It helps keep Austin weird.”
At in that moment, a bolt of lightning struck down from the marketing heavens to put the phrase “Keep Austin Weird” in a league with Nike’s “Just Do it” or Apple’s “Think Different” campaigns.
Nobody had to explain to people what that phrase meant.
Those three simple words captured the funky art scene, love of music, and quirky personality of the local shops and businesses in Austin.
By getting this phrase out there in the community, the decision-makers of this community were reminded daily about the essential quality that Austin needed to maintain as it was becoming a more popular and a sought after destination to visit or set up shop.
However, what the good people of Austin feared, rightly so, is that their beloved funky city could lose some of its edge, authenticity, funkiness, and weirdness, which is what gave the town its meaning.
I believe the same applies to people as well.
As you grow up, mature, professionalize and “normalize” yourself, try to remember to:
“Keep Yourself Weird!”
Don’t let fear, maturity, success or “nomrality” go to your head and strip-mine out the very quality that makes you unique: your weirdness.
Your weirdness is where a vital source of your meaning comes from, and it can be the distinguishing factor that helps you stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression on others.
Let’s get weird!