It was a chapter titled (and the title of this post) called ‘Be a Wizard’ that really stuck with me though. The premise was that you’ll never really fit in, if you don’t like sports and crap then trying to pretend with just make you look foolish. If you’re not up on sports or the latest TV shows or whatever then even if you try to learn about them, your enthusiasm will never match that of some idiot who really likes them. It’s not fair, but it’s true that sometimes being a good socializer is better than being good at your job.
So this author’s suggestion, in another brilliant move of counter intuitivism, was not to try to pretend you like sports but to like just about everything else. If someone asks you if you saw the game, you say that you didn’t catch it but you did see a brilliant rendition of Don Giovanni* the other day. Never put down sports, just say you’re into other things. Show up to work with biographies of Tesla, Mark Twain and then someone like John Holmes, just to show you’ve got wide and unpredictable interests. Listen to old John Coltrane albums, and classical music, talk about forgiven movies as well as action and drams. Making it a wide range and including things that people know about on occasion is the key. The point here is to make your interests completely inscrutable and impossible to predict, but still have people feel they at least recognize a bunch of the stuff you’re into.
This isn’t to say you should fake your interests to make them seem more impressive, you should just let people know what all your interests are. Most people are a lot more interesting than they give themselves credit for, and are into a lot more things than they let on. It helps to just bring some of the more eclectic and recognizable things to the surface. This way people will think you know a bit about everything, and will never assume you don’t now anything about something.
The final bit of advice on that point (and I’m following it actually, because he had a whole chapter devoted to the idea) is that you should be able to boil almost everything down to about a minute’s worth of talk maximum. He actually suggested that you try to limit your information to bullet points that invite questions to be asked. Most people will request more information if they need it. You should always been seen as someone who gives helpful little tidbits of advice.
The end result of all this is people start to see you as a sort of spooky wizard, who’s into all kinds of things that no one else really understands, but they know it’s very impressive. This is particularly useful with an affable attitude. It removes the danger of becoming an annoying dweeb who lords their minuscule knowledge over people’s heads to feel powerful. It really allows you to be the smartest person in the room, and be a popular and likable guy. The idea is not to tell people you can zap them dead with a lightning bolt, but to also give people the idea that it’s not something you’ve ruled out yet.
I’ve seen a fair number of people using this concept in one way or another in the field and it works surprisingly well. Mixing intelligence with a kindly demeanor that’s backed up with the notion that you really do know what the hell you’re talking about works very well. I’ve used it myself and it does well at making me a liked guy in the workplace. It doesn’t get you into upper management all that often, but I’ve noticed most guys who use the wizard tactic don’t really want to be in management anyway. Mostly their left to their own spooky devices and allowed to more or less get on with things, which I think is what we all want anyway.
*Adjust for preference and the chance that your boss might know about what you’re talking about.