Everyone has heard the old adage “never judge a book by its cover.”
While I understand the sentiment (often, people will surprise you, and just because a thing looks a certain way doesn’t mean it *is* a certain way), I disagree.
Judge every book by its cover.
There are telltale signs everywhere, written into a person’s external appearance, from which the perceptive can put together an entire narrative of information.
Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t have gotten far without “book-cover” observations.
At the most basic level, we can know plenty about a person based on their flesh- if a horse can be judged by it, so can a man.
General fitness level and lifestyle can be often deduced- are they obese or muscular? Lean or thick?
Years of dedication to weightlifting or physical culture speak volumes about a person’s will and commitment.
What markings do they have?
Scar tissue, cauliflower ear, blown out knuckles, punched out cheekbones or noses- the tell-tale cartography mapping out a life of violence and force.
Are their hands soft and unmarred, or calloused and worn?
Tattoos and other “branding” can tell us a great deal about how the person perceives themself, since these are almost always chosen by the individual for their “meaning,” or connection he feels with the pictures and symbols and how he relates to them.
Affiliations, philosophies, and even, based on the type of tattoo, criminal lifestyle or time in prison.
The clothes someone wears are filled with more valuable data- work uniforms, lifestyle brands, slogans, activewear or business suits and so on.
All of these different choices show from the inside out, and together present a sort of advertisement poster for the individual- personal branding saying “this is who I am.”
With this in mind- what “cover” are you displaying to the world?
Further, is that cover just a cover? Is it in line with who you are, or are you presenting a distortion?
There are strategic reasons to show a different skin to the world, and to keep the true self closed off, or hidden away, but like all our decisions, this must be an honest and conscious choice.
Many present an image to the world that is carefully put together, but within that assemblage are many lies or half truths that we are telling, not to the world out there, but to ourselves.
Our ego and our personal vision of ourselves is sometimes a protective device, a “hard-signal” that is incorrect, and driven by insecurities or desires to be perceived in a way that we are not.
For all of us, it can be so important to tell the world who we are, that we volunteer information that is either wishful thinking, a kind of aspirational self-branding, or that, if true, we ought not volunteer at all from a tactical perspective.
In my past projects, one of the greatest failings was perhaps giving people (including myself, at times) the opportunity to cover themselves with the trappings of a lifestyle that they hadn’t truly earned.
In draping themselves with the trappings and the banners, many desired to be seen as what those standards and symbols represented without putting in the work to embody them- fresh and fearsome war-paint over a weak and fearful frame.
What if we take away all our hard-signals and personal branding? Our tattoos and tribal markings, our carefully chosen and curated presentations of our interests?
What is left of ourselves?
We can only be what we are, and what we are is created not by our beliefs, or what we choose to be aligned with, or say we are…but by our actions alone.
What we have accomplished will show forth, and does not need to be tattooed, printed, or howled from the rooftops.
The truly heroic are remembered in the songs and stories that others tell, and not the ones they tell about themselves.
Build yourself into a book that is comfortable with a plain cover, worn and much examined, wrapped around a density that conveys value…each page a trial and ordeal, a victory enjoyed or a defeat learned from.
When the story within is strong and true, and based on what is powerful and right-
You can wear any cover you wish.
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