Appearances Are Not Deceiving, They Are Reality!

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You probably already know that appearances can be deceiving but the problem is that most people still believe what they see. As the famous Stephen Colbert says; “what people believe becomes reality.”

Think about every time you see someone with a nice watch, pair of glasses, or even shoes. Your first reaction is usually to think that they are well off. Taking this one step further, you are naturally curious to find out more about them and how you can be successful just like them.

We all do this and there is nothing wrong with it, but my point is that if people don’t see you as successful then you are less likely to succeed yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to be successful first, but instead you need to fake it till you make it. Whether you need to start wearing fancy watches, clothes, shoes, or just hang out with a different group of people, you need to create the perception of being successful.

If you don’t believe that appearances are everything go out there and change your appearance. This could be a different hair cut, wearing nice clothes, or just hanging out with the “inร‚ย” crowd. Try it out for a month or so and I can guarantee you that more people will look up to you and want to be just like you.

Do you believe that someone’s appearance can lead them to success?

P.S. For help with appearance and success go here.


  1. Michael Dorausch :

    There’s a rub to this. You can look great, wear a fancy watch, suit, etc… but end up looking like the rest of the crowd. Here in Los Angeles the herd mentality sets in and you definitely want to take steps to set yourself apart from everyone else who is “faking it.”

    Personally Neil, I think intention will shine through regardless of what you are wearing. You’d better own that attitude of success from the inside first. That being said, being the best dressed person in the room beats being the worst.

    • As someone who lives by LA you make a valid point that you would just blend in. But it isn’t just about the clothes, it is also about who you associate yourself with. Chances are if you hang out with CEOs from fortune 1000 companies people will hopefully think you are successful.

      • Well, I disagree.
        Only wearing nice clothes will not let you hang out with CEOs From fortune 1000 companies. They won’t hang with anyone, just because he is wearing nice watch and clothes.

        • You need more to hang out with CEOs of fortune 1000 companies, but blending in (wearing nice clothes, glasses, watches…) helps.

          Standing out also helps, but for some reason many of these “old school” execs do not like outsiders (people who do not blend in).

  2. Do I dare publically disagree with Neil? Well, I have to here. I think Neil’s point is valid in some traditional industries (Finance, Law, etc.) but cyberspace is full of successful people who march to their own drummer (or even march alone) and are tremendously successful without making any outward changes in their lives.

  3. What was true when my father was teaching me life lessons as a child is true today.

    -People will think of you as you think of yourself
    -People will judge you by those you surround yourself with

  4. I’ve been doing exactly the opposite of this advice. My success have never depended on what others perceive, but on the financial statements that I get to review every month ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I see a lot of people around me drowning in debt in order to ‘fake it’. This might work for some, but I don’t think this is a sound general advice.


  5. I agree with Todd. Face to face is one thing. On the internet is completely different. Good looking, well dressed people always seem to make a different impression about the goods or services they represent. I think a little bit differently. If I have to wear a Tie, you are going to get charged more. I have done business for a long time with khakis and hand shakes. It’s all about the sincerity and like Michael says, intentions.

    • That is the beauty of the web. I am in my PJs right now while writing this comment. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      As for general professions though, I do think appearances are important.

  6. Michael Dorausch :

    General professions yes but as we’ll get to study at Pubcon, a different sort of rules are in place for online personalities meeting face to face.

  7. God you sound like a loser…

    • If you think I am… then I guess I am one. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • At least we agree…just kidding about being a loser, but I think it is generally more productive to encourage people to believe in themselves instead of believing that they need to change. Self confidence is going to be a better tool then a new haircut…

        • I agree that a confidence is much more important than a new hair cut, but I still think a new haircut will not hurt in most cases.

  8. Neil-

    As someone who studied communication for years, I have to say that people do make split second judgments about you from the way you appear. It is human nature to take in the physical elements first.

    As a marketer, I have to say make sure there is substance behind that style. Style will help with the first impression, but substance is what keeps them in for the long haul.

    • You always need substance or else appearances will not do much for you. As you mentioned, they are just another tool to use to improve first impressions.

  9. I recommend picking up a copy of “The Millionaire Next Door” which tells the real story of America’s millionaires, the majority of them wear tennis shoes and drive beat-up pickup trucks. Being successful starts with your state of mind, not whether you are wearing a Rolex or not.

    All those people who are wearing the Rolex and designer clothes are in debt up to their eyeballs, spending money they don’t have to impress people they don’t know. Doesn’t sound like a success story to me!

    I agree with Hamlet’s comment… faking it until you make it is NOT good advice.

    • I am definitely familiar with the millionaires next door. The thing to note though is doctors and lawyers would have been them if those professions didn’t consist of high divorce rates.

  10. Unfortunately you are right. No client would take you seriously if they see you coming to meetings in an old, rusty car, regardless how smart you are and how well you can do your job. You just don’t get there, if the first impression is not what they have in mind when they think of a future partner. They may say that many millionaires dress in an excentric way, but they will think you are poor, not excentric. After you succeed, yes, you can wear tennis shoes and a solar watch.
    I simply hate this, but it doesn’t mean I don’t see it works.

    • What a great way to phrase it! Most of the .com people that are looked up to and don’t care about appearances have already succeed.

  11. Perception is reality in the short term.

    Authenticity is reality in the long-term.

  12. I definitely see the point being made here. The point is not how you should dress or what you should wear…rather, it’s whats the best way to start building your confidence. You need to fake your confidence, when initially you don’t have enough. That way you will get noticed and that leaves you with greater knowledge, and exposure. Gradually, as you keep learning, your confidence builds, until one fine day…it doesn’t matter what you wear or how you dress up. You are now more confident than ever, and you don’t have to fake it any more.

  13. I have to disagree with you Neil.

    If what you said is true, anybody who can fake it would make it to the top. Faking is easy isn’t it?

    If you think about it in the long term, you go to be genuine. Your attitude and intentions will definitely beat you when you are faking.

    But if you are looking for short term goals, yes you can fake it and it may be the coolest way to success.

    Just my two cents.


    • Faking it will only get you so far. My overall point was that by adjusting your appearance you can affect how people fist view you. If you dress rich then people will think you are rich and will hopefully lookup to you. Granted you still have to be talented to succeed, but appearances can help you with a lot of things such as networking.

  14. Appearance helps.

    For example, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology showed that highly attractive male interviewees were consistently rated by interviewers as more suitable for hire than females and marginally attractive (PC for ugly) male applicants.

    The ability to look past physical appearance bias is not common and good looking people can exploit this advantage.

    It’s the same as taking advantage of any gap in an inefficient market!

  15. I think everyone sensed a misconception of what Neil was trying to deliver. From my prospective, people whom tend to dress clean cut (trendy, suits, smart casual etc..) do have a tendency to possess a higher education and are well mannered. This is not to exploit the casual dresser as being less educated or rude but just a observation from daily NYC atmosphere.

    Anyway, Neil’s article was written in a general term on how the general public views our superficial look from how successful we are but unrelated entrepreneurs.

  16. I actually agree very much with this post. As my good friend Gerry once told me “Not every chump is walking around in $300 jeans”

  17. Neil says, “If you don’t have the right attitude, your appearance will not do much for you.” I agree to a large extent, but look at the opposite of that same sentence: “If you don’t have the right appearance, your attitude won’t do much for you.”

    If your appearance is holding you back, then change it. To the extent that a new suit will boost your confidence, that’s money well spent. If new shoes will put a new bounce in your step and a new watch put a broader smile on your face, then those are effective investments. Stephen says, “Self confidence is going to be a better tool then a new haircut.” That’s true, but if a haircut is the path to more self-confidence, then head to the barber!

    Mindy says, “Being successful starts with your state of mind, not whether you are wearing a Rolex or not.” Yes! If you don’t need material things to gain self-esteem, save your money. In the end, it comes down to putting effort into those things that give back the most value to you. If that means spending money on a wardrobe overhaul so you can look and feel good, then do it! Otherwise, spend (or better, invest) the money elsewhere.

    – Pete Kistler

    Director, Blog

  18. Albert | UrbanMonk.Net :

    Yeap I agree with this completely. I was at the mall just now, and I saw a rather old looking guy, but he was dressed in camo pants, boots, and a very hip rugged sorta shirt. Really made him stand out, and look quite cool. It struck me how if he was dressed like all the other chumps he’d just be another chump, like Kyle said above.

    Albert | UrbanMonk.Net
    Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.

  19. This is a very interesting discussion. While I do think that the general principle behind the initial posting is largely correct and there are many specific examples that counter the principle, I can honestly say that perception is everything. By being human, our natural instinct is to judge everything immediately. Although we no longer need to fear the potential of being eaten by a massive beast, figure out what to kill for dinner, or look for the first sign of weakness in the pack leader; our instinct is to judge immediately. The modern outgrowth of this is how people’s perception of you is formed in less than a second. The simple fact is, much like dinner in a fancy restaurant, presentation is everything. If you present yourself in a way that does not resonate with whom you are presenting your self or your product to, you instantly loose an opportunity. If you resonate, then it is more likely that you will have a desired opportunity and succeed.

  20. While I believe appearance does play an important role in success, how does ‘faking it’ correlate with the fact that people are increasingly demanding authenticity from those they interact with?

    Very interesting post though!


    • With appearances, if you dress a certain way, you are not lying. Fake it maybe a bad term, but the goal is to increase your chances of interacting with people and then “be yourself” when talking to them.

  21. Wearing clean and looking neat is one thing, and “faking it” and trying to look like someone (cool) is something else. What you are saying is the second one. I think you are giving wrong advice to people, of which the result can be disastrous.

    You can still look professional without a designer suit or a Rolex watch.

    I think this is a self-esteem issue. As you know different people have different needs according to Maslow’s need theory. (Example: Gandhi or Mother Teresa didn’t designer clothes, but they were extremely successful.)

    • By all means I am not recommending to go out and buy a Rolex. I was just trying to make a point that when people do have fancy suits or watches, others think of them in a different fashion. In most cases if you dress clean as you mentioned, it would also work.

      I also agree that this partly a self-esteem issue. Someone people just do not have the confidence when they walk into a room and hopefully changing their appearance will help fix that. Although this may not be the best approach, but it is one approach to help solve the problem.

  22. Yeah, those are great values to live by. I’ve always wanted to be an old, white, CEO/CFO/COO soulless monster. Thanks for pointing the way — God! now I’ve learned how to fit in.

  23. I absolutely believe this in business – it amazes me how many people will have an awesome piece of software and not invest a dime in design only to wonder why people won’t trust the company with their credit card.

    This is business (and life) 101 – as much as people say they want to give the underdog a chance they don’t really want to take the risks associated with it when it comes to their money or status.

  24. Motorcycles for sale :

    Guess it depends on your goal, Neil… Fake it til you make it isn’t as disingenuous as it sounds. It’s about sending out making an effort to send out the vibes you’d like to get in return… for those who are not quite there yet.

    • Everything is about making an effort. If you aren’t going to make an effort in the first place, there is no point in even trying.

  25. cash loans uk :

    Yes and no. I feel one may be simple and still look more than decent. I have seen numerous successful people in normal appearances. I think its the way you carry yourself which is more important than what you wear. Of course, what you wear should be decent.

    • How your carry yourself makes a great difference, you’re right. It’s called having a swag ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. This is absolutely true. Perception is reality. People see what they want to see. Of course it goes far beyond clothes but lets say you have a nice home that you want to put on the market. You meet with two realtors. One pulls up in a Mercedes and is dressed nice and professional. The other pulls up in an older model Toyota and is dressed not bad but maybe in cheap clothes and shoes.

    Now assuming that all else is equal between the two of them, people are more likely to sign with the Realtor driving the Mercedes because the perception is that he must be a successful Realtor if they can afford these nice things. The perception might not be correct, but it is what it is.

    • How you present yourself to other is definitely key. However remember, the way you communicate is more important.

  27. Another oldie but goodie from your archives, Neil! Thank goodness for working in the internet world now, so I can wear shorts every day, and only shave and put on shoes when I really have to. After years of commuting and working in smart clothes I have finally found my peace!

    That apart, I still maintain that first impressions are lasting, and it really pays off to pay a little attention to detail when these events where you need to do dress and behave appropriately do arise.

    • Neil Patel :

      Lol…. good for you. I’m sure you enjoy not having the wear the monkey suites anymore. It’s a great feeling isn’t.

  28. thats a very interesting subject, it reminds me of a miniserie of napolion

    one of my favorite quotes of napolion is “power lies in the appearance of power”

  29. he was a brilliant miltar and a brilliant politician , and from both perspectives the aperiance is what would made the others react to him, in his case his enemies to fear him with out even him taking action or in case he “appeared” to have less power his oponents would understimate him(even worst mistake).
    im a big believer of being authentic in life but lets not forget that others always will make a mental image or concept of your self and you can always use that in your advantage.
    in the sence of buisness we dont have mortal enemies to terrorice lol, but by the aperiance of power(or the lack of it) one has a biger posivility of ending with an upper hand

  30. If what you said is true, anybody who can fake it would make it to the top. Faking is easy isnรขโ‚ฌโ„ขt it?

    If you think about it in the long term, you go to be genuine. Your attitude and intentions will definitely beat you when you are faking.

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