You have to dress and smell like a guru

BY TJ Walker

No, I don’t mean you have to wear some sort of fancy guru cologne. But if you have any kind of body odor and you are trying to be a guru in any aspect of personal development, success or money management, you will have destroyed your credibility. I can’t tell you how many times I have met an ostensibly successful professional speaker who purports to be an expert on self-development and success and they reek of bad breath and it smells like death. Typically this is a result from not going to a dentist for several years and having a professional teeth cleaning. Unfortunately, this is a very clear cut sign that someone is having financial difficulties and is putting off basic personal maintenance expenses like dental visits. Of course anyone can have bad breath a moment after eating onions or garlic, but once someone smells that particular smell of tooth decay and plaque, your credibility will be shot forever in their eyes—and they aren’t going to tell you why. If you don’t me, then ask yourself this, how many times have you told strangers their breath smells?

Similarly with clothes. There is no one kind of dress that it is appropriate for all gurus and experts. If you are a computer expert, you’d better not be caught in an expensive, traditional business suit. The Steve Jobs jeans and mock turtle neck is a safer look for you.

If you are a modern art guru, then be colorful and never be boring.

If you are an expert on fundraising for non-profits that benefit the homeless, you’d better not wear a $10,000 suit—people will think you are skimming from the proceeds.

But if you are trying to position yourself as an expert in any aspect of finance, economics, business, wealth, or success, then you had better look really really successful. If you want people to invest 20 million dollars in your hedge fund, you better not be wearing a $200 suit and scuffed up shoes. It would be better to wear clothes that show you are successful and that you don’t need their money.

People are funny—if a homeless bum on the street asks us for 25 cents, most of us won’t give the quarter. But if a well dressed man pulls up in a rolls Royce in front of us and then says, “say sport, I only have a hundred dollar bill, can you spare a quarter for the parking meter?” most of us would give it to him. Why? Because the rich man doesn’t need it.

If you want to be a guru on any aspect of business life or success, you have to look as though you are already wildly successful and you don’t need anyone’s money. People will give to someone who is already successful or appears to be successful before they give to someone in need.

I have a simple rule, if you charge, say, $5000 for a speech on financial management, then you should be wearing a suit, shoes and other clothes that cost at least $5000. At some level it just strikes people as weird if they are paying you more in one hour than what you are willing to pay for your clothing that you could be using for years. If you charge $5 or $10 thousand for a speech and you are wearing a $200 suit, then people think that you have never charged your fee before and that they are being taken advantage of by you and that you are turning them into a sucker. Nobody wants to be a sucker!

Of course there are exceptions—if you are a spiritual leader and you preach against the evils of materialism, then wear a simple robe and basic sandals. The key is you want what you are wearing and your overall appearance to be consistent with your message and your niche.

For people who aren’t really into clothes, what I am about to say will sound crazy. But believe it or not, there are people who will really care if your suit has real working button holes on your jacket’s sleeves. And these people may have tremendous clout in hiring you or not hiring your for speaking gigs and consulting contracts. If you don’t have real button holes on your jacket’s sleeves, then some people will conclude your suit is cheap (under $300) and that you are cheap and should be treated accordingly. If you have real button holes, then they assume the suite is expensive (more than $3000) and that you are successful and used to be treated with respect.

Your shoes and watch also make a critical statement about who you are. You might not care about them, but rest assured, other people do. I used to think that a watch was for telling time—I was always happy with my $40 Timex. Sadly, a watch is not a watch in many people’s eyes. That’s why, like it or not, I have to wear a $5000 watch.

I realize that these notions are wildly offensive to some. I’m not saying this concern for clothes or appearance is good. But I am saying it is real, so you’d better pay attention to it or your appearance could sabotage your career before it takes off.

Is your image up to snuff? We all have certain friends who can be critical, even overly critical at times. Now is the time to ask them and get detailed feedback. And then act on it. If your clothes don’t fit perfectly, then get rid of them and go to a high quality tailor. Make sure your clothes fit your image and style. If you are a freestyle skateboarding guru, you might have to put MORE tears in your jeans.

Make sure your clothes and teeth and hair are all consistent with your niche, your image and your expertise. Everything will be easier for you when everything is in sync; and everything will be harder if they aren’t.

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