1. Exercise. You can easily spot people who exercise based on their bodies, windbreakers, and hourly fitness updates on Facebook. But even if daily exercise is too much for you, you can still nail two out of three. Buy a windbreaker and wear it every day like you’re about to go for yet another run. Then sign up for next year’s 5K and keep everyone updated about it. Say the distance in metric so no one knows how far it is. (A 5K is three miles—it takes, like, half an hour, tops.) You can do it!
2. Read. In order to be well read, you of course need to be familiar with classics like Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, and 1984. Fortunately, you probably already are, thanks to a plethora of references in cartoons and sitcoms. As for more recent fiction, most of the big ones have movie adaptations. In fact, there’s only one unadapted book that every well-read person knows: Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Read that one book and you’re good to go!
3. Learn the piano. The piano is an incredibly difficult instrument to master, but if you want to tell people one of your many skills is ticklin’ the faux ivories, you really only need one song in your back pocket—specifically, Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” of chord-based piano music. It requires three fingers, one chord formation, and zero use of the black keys, whatever those are. It takes a minute to learn, and that same minute to master!
4. Compliment others. This one’s a no brainer. Complimenting others is the easiest way to make yourself feel good, to make people like you, and most importantly, to get people to compliment you. Nine times out of ten, an effortless and insincere, “I like your shoes,” will come back to you tenfold: “Thanks! I love yours, too. Are those LA Gears?” You know they are. And you’re welcome.
5. Invest. I don’t know what it is, but people who invest are instantly more respected than those who don’t. Fortunately, you don’t need to have a lot of money to do it. Buy one share of Google—it’ll give you just enough incentive to follow “the market” without turning you into a Republican. Still have that savings bond from gramps? Well, sounds like you’ve got a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and cash. Not bad.
6. Pretend. Without naming any names, a certain former Massachusetts governor recently came very, very close to becoming the most powerful man in the world by telling 90% truth and 10% pretend-truth. He ultimately lost, so maybe you should only pretend 5% of the time. Why? Because it makes the richest and most powerful people in the world seem more… well, more like whatever they want to be. It could work for you. Why not? You’re trustworthy. After all, you used to be a volunteer firefighter, right?
7. Increase your vocabulary. There’s no better way to show off your education than by peppering your dialog with a few impressive-sounding words. For some people, that kind of diction comes from years of attentive reading and studying. But since you really only need a “few” big words to sound smart, you can do it in an afternoon! Try learning these three words—acumen, insipid, and vacuous—and see what a difference it makes. Actually, you might want to know pseudointellectual, too. Just in case.