(don’t act) Cooler Than You Are

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Let me tell you a story. Last week I taught my first ever woodworking class at TX/RX Labs. It’s nothing crazy, we make a cutting board out of maple or cherry. Sorry guys, we were out of cherry for your class. We had a lot of fun, no one chopped a finger off and I made some friends while getting to spread the Raum Furniture love a little.

Before the class started, I had an enthusiastic student email me with a lot of questions about his buddy being late on the second day. Let’s call this enthusiastic student, Barry. I tried to respond helpfully, reassure his concerns with a positive attitude and not let Barry know that I was as nervous as he was.

The great thing about this story is that I’m pretty sure “Barry” will be reading it. I hope he calls me, laughing his face off.

Yeah, it’s weird, but I think I might go.

During class, two days, 11 people, Barry had a lot of interesting and deep questions about woodworking. He wasn’t just there to make a cutting board so that he could have access to the shop’s tools. The class is a prerequisite for members as a safety check for basic understanding and operation of most of the tools. Barry had undertaken several projects around the house, with success, and was looking to learn more and get going in woodworking. I appreciated his enthusiasm.

Barry left the class early on the second day, with a finished board, to attend a soiree of some sort. I too left, much later, while waiting on those last perfectionists to polish their boards to a shine with dull sandpaper. Yes, I get paid to do that. I went home and promptly went to sleep.

don't act cooler

Enter Thursday morning, 11:12 am. I got an email from Barry inviting me to what sounded like a nice dinner at his home in Houston. Barry’s close to my age, never mentioned anything other than a “partner” but seemed like a really nice guy. The menu sounded great too. All I had to do was bring beer for myself.

About this time I mentioned to another teacher, with a tenure longer than my own, the invitation to dinner.

“That’s weird. I’ve never been invited to dinner.”

“Yeah, it’s weird, but I think I might go.”

At 4:11 pm on the same day I reply, “I think I can make it.”

Friday arrives. I worked all day on the benches and took off early to get cleaned up. Barry’s house is a house behind a house. If he weren’t a muggle, his address might be at 9 and three quarters or something. In Texas, we just use “A” and “B”. I cautiously trespassed through the first gate and followed the music until I found Barry at the top of the stairs leading up to his place. Beer in hand, he said I was at the right place.

Let’s fast forward through the awkward introductions (there were a LOT of people inside). Entrepreneurs abounded, a pasta maker, a praline maker (pronounced prah-line), mountain climbers, farm fresh produce directors, chefs and not one, but two furniture folks. That’s right, two people stood out, a chef and another guy that dealt in furniture.

While the chef prepared an amazing meal of I believe Korean inspiration (shrimp, asparagus, etc.) the furniture guy and I started to talk. Let’s call him Noah. Noah likes to travel. While hearing about this, the real story that you’re here for began to unfold:

Noah Goes to Mexico

Noah loves to surf more than anything. One time, not too long ago, he took a motorcycle down the Pacific coast of Mexico and surfed his way from town to town. Eventually, he headed East towards Monterrey. Noah had a rule for finding a place to sleep – make the first right in whatever village or town he was in. Drive two minutes. Make another right. Drive two more minutes. Turn right on the first dirt road that heads into the open country. Drive two minutes, find a bush and park behind it. Eat and sleep in the desert in solitude and safety.

don't act cooler

Eventually, Noah made it to Monterrey. He got a hotel room and not having been around people much and being a solo traveler, he got a bad feeling. Noah rode his motorcycle up the stairs and into the hotel lobby to keep it safe for the night. When you get a bad feeling, you do that, you know? Noah then proceeded to hang out with the locals all night and get drunk, presumably on mezcal and cerveza. Ouch.

Just about then, someone asked why he did all that. Wasn’t he scared?

Noah said something like, “No man. See, I know I’m not good in those confrontational situations. I’m not cool enough to slip someone a $20 in my palm and smooth things over.”

“I know not to act cooler than I really am. You can get in trouble if you act too cool”

“I’m a short, bald white guy in a strange place with no friends, I know I can’t be cooler than I am. I know how cool I am and that’s where I stay.”

I said, “I’m blogging about this.”

How Profound is That?

Think about it. As a consumer, you get this all the time. You see products and people and places and think, wow, quit trying so hard. Sell me on quality and price and materials – the things I want. Don’t push your too cool for school agenda and expect me to fall for it.

This thought can get away from you as a small business owner. We try to do everything, hit every social media platform, make crazy videos and upsell ourselves for any price. In reality, we should just try to not be so cool, or at least not cooler than we really are.

 

People will notice.

 

I hope you enjoyed this long one, but it was a great story (or so I think). I hope you don’t think Raum is acting cooler than we really are. Barry, thanks for the invite. I had a great time. Here’s to many more.

 

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