Appearances Matter. Boast a little!

George Clooney applauded my speech, while sitting 10 meters away from me, front row in a famous theater in Amsterdam. I announced on that stage that Unicef would receive an extra 1,9 million euros funding for a project they were working on. I have worked with #1 NYT Bestselling Authors, the second largest private fundraiser in the world, and companies associated with big brands like Wizards of the Coast – and I accomplished all of this before even turning 30. 

This all actually happened. Did this change your opinion of me? I’m still the same person I was 10 seconds ago.

The first inkling I got of how much association can actually do for you is when I was at a conference with both people I’d worked with on a project for about two weeks, and a famous artist that I’m good friends with. The people I worked on the project with knew I had experience, but we just had fun together working on the project. That changed a little when my famous friend made a quip towards me while I was walking by to get dinner with my new colleagues. They reacted a little surprised: “… You know her, personally?” and I said, “Yeah, we’re friends.” I remember a short silence after which the conversation resumed. A while later, one of the people from the group remarked (and I’m paraphrasing here): “Yeah, but you know her, so you’ll make it.”

I was always rationally aware of the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, but I’d never personally experienced its effects until that moment. I always thought it’s mostly about what favors you can ask from the people you know. But even being associated with someone other people look up to, even if they haven’t spoken out about you directly, can have an effect on people’s perception of you, and by extension, your work.

Remember, when listing your accomplishments, that having help along the way is not a diminishment of your actions. Famous director’s movies have a whole film crew. Famous speakers are given a podium. That prolific artist has a partner who takes care of the kids, or has a spouse who works so they can stay home and work. They have friends who talk to others and amplify their voice. Favors are given and returned. Most people who accomplish something have help (and will accept it), both directly in the project and in other aspects of life, so they can focus on the project. Accomplishing life is, most of the time, not a solitary endeavor. I personally think, for us social animals, that’s a good thing.