Expensive suit + cheap attitude = cheap person.
I was recently jumping on a flight to do a presentation over on the Sunshine Coast for the team at Spark Bureau. I was waiting in line to pick up a cup of coffee when a couple of “business bros” cut in and leaned over me to order. Young guys with perfect hair, expensive suits and flashy watches.
They’d walked up as if the world belonged exclusively to them and anyone who thought otherwise could go fuck themselves. When I asked them to wait their turn, they looked at my sneakers and my hoodie and told me to “get a fucking job.”
I could have given one of a dozen responses, tried to snap or cut them down, but it just wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it because people who have that kind of low attitude towards someone they don’t even know aren’t worth dignifying with a response.
They’re cheap. Not in the way they look, the way they spend or the way they earn — cheap in the way they treat other people, and the way they attempt to assign a dollar value to everyone they meet.
I’ve never been a flashy kind of guy. There have been periods of my life where I’ve had more money than I know what to do with, and times when I haven’t had anything. Where I’ve been so dirt poor I had to jump the barricades at Central Station just to get home from yet another investment meeting that I’d completely blown.
I’ve gone from having money in the bank to applying for a job flipping burgers in 6 months straight. When you’ve lived like that, you have a different attitude to money, and you have a different idea of what it means to be a Have or a Have Not. You’re less likely to look at someone and decide that they’re worth a material amount or they’re worth nothing.
You’re less likely to try and show off your money, your status or your prestige. The reason? You know that none of those things are worth more than other people, other human people.
I had a similar experience with an entrepreneur I met recently. I was tweeting about it earlier:
He was a young guy, and he obviously felt like he had a lot to prove. You’ve probably met that kind of founder before, if you’ve spent enough time around startups. Every name that came out of his mouth was intended to impress me, or to make me think he was a big shot. He started playing the “Do you know so-and-so” game, wanting to find out if I mattered.
I said I’d heard of a few names, and from what I knew they sounded pretty cool, but I didn’t know them too well. You could see his interest in me die immediately.
By the time he’d finished claiming to be on a first name basis with the CEO of every VC firm in Australia, he’d made it pretty clear that he didn’t want to have a real conversation.
This guy is the same as the business bros in the airport. He wanted to show his value and worth and assess mine and move on. It’s a bad approach in business, and it’s a bad approach in relationships, and it would’ve been a bad approach on the playground in grade school. It’s the mark of a person who doesn’t respect other people.
I’m not a fan of over-doing modesty. It’s something I don’t tend to waste a lot of time on. I’m not talking about true humility — that’s important, and it does matter. I’m talking about selling yourself short and not accepting how fucking awesome you can be.
This is something that people do all the time. When they’re offered a compliment, they say the three words that I hate hearing. The three words that can demonstrate a total lack of confidence. “It Was Nothing.”
It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s an attempt at deflection that is completely unnecessary. You should be proud of your accomplishments, and be ready and willing to share them, and to enjoy the benefits of your hard work and the status that may have come with it.
But here’s the thing. There’s a big difference between standing by what you’ve done and the things you’ve achieved, and acting like you only assign value to people based on it, and based on what you think they have — or don’t have.
It doesn’t matter how successful, rich or well known you’ve become. It doesn’t matter how expensive your life is in monetary value. All that matters is how you treat other people, and how you present yourself to them. If you act like nobody in the world matters and your shit doesn’t stink, you’re a cheap person.