I’d like to start with a confession: My name isn’t really Nick Fox, it’s Deemis. That feels good to get off my chest, but more on that later because this post is about my stupid face.
…but not just my stupid face. In fact, this is about your stupid face, your mother’s stupid face, and the stupid face of that creepy guy at the local coffee shop.
You know how we all have those things about us that people notice? If you’re tall, you’ve heard every how’s the weather up there joke in the world. If you have a long face, you likely have heard every comparison to Sarah Jessica Parker or a horse. If you are a redhead…well, if you’re a redhead, I would tell you to get your soulless ginger self off my site! You get the point?
Well, I’ve lived long with a terrible curse. It haunts me every day of my life. This terrible affliction is one that affects me on a daily basis. What is this horrible condition you ask?
I look like Neil Patrick Harris and no one will let me forget it.
This all started off simply enough, when I was younger, being told I looked like “that kid from A Christmas Story.” By the time I was 18 I was consistently told I looked exactly like Michael J. Fox, then Neil Patrick Harris had his breakout role in How I Met Your Mother, and all other comparisons essentially stopped. Ever since that day, I have endured nearly-daily barrages of “Has anyone ever told you that you look just like Neil Patrick Harris?!”
When I was being stopped on the streets of Salt Lake City at 18 and being told that I looked like Michael J. Fox, I saw this “recognizability” as a curse. I could never just go somewhere without someone coming up to talk to me, but now I see it for the amazing tool that it is.
Imagine being able to walk into a social setting and always know that you’d be remembered – if not by name then at least by appearance! That is how I view it now.
Just the other day, I was at a friend’s cookout and a latecomer to the party was having trouble remembering all of our names. I generously offered that she could just call me “Neil Patrick Harris” but that my name was Nick Fox. I kind of love the response I get from that, and it’s such a predictable one. She simply blurted out, “Oh my god! You do look like him!”
It was like she finally found a word on the tip of her tongue…and I knew from that point on she wouldn’t confuse me with anyone else.
I even use this resemblance as a marketing tool after I meet someone while out, networking. The first line of many of my emails is “You might remember me as the miniature Neil Patrick Harris that you talked to about XYZ…” It instantly reminds them of who I am, using some visual shorthand, and they’re more able to remember who I am long term because of it.
Years ago, on my first day of work at a Fortune 100 finance firm in NYC, I walked into the office and was greeted by everyone calling me Nick Patrick Harris or Neil Fox. Apparently, most of my eventual colleagues had heard about me before I ever started there and wanted to meet the guy who they were told looked like Barney Stinson.
And THAT is the value of having high recognizability and it is one of the most valuable assets we all have in our networking toolbox.
Don’t think you’re screwed if you don’t look like a celebrity though, you can easily increase your recognizability.
Remember when I said I’d address my real name, Deemis? Well, that was a name given to me on my third day at that finance firm. It’s short for Nicodemus, the name I revealed to my colleagues was one of names I used when performing children’s magic shows. My manager latched onto this fact, shortened the name, and for the rest of my time there, I WAS Deemis!
Now, most people tend to run away from things that make them the most unique because they don’t want to stand out, but wouldn’t you rather trade a little bit of embarrassment for people remembering you?
So, if you’re tall, let people know you’re in on the joke. If you have a long face, be the first to mention it. If you’re a ginger, why the hell are you still here?!
You’ll be saying what they’re already thinking in their head and giving them permission to think those things.
And even if you don’t have a defining look, if you have a unique name or an article of clothing that people might notice, for the love of networking, MENTION IT! You’ll thank yourself later when someone remembers you or when it’s that much easier to remind someone who you are; I certainly did when I first made the decision to stop complaining about my various resemblances and embrace them.
…Which is good because people are now starting to tell me I look like Justin Timberlake, so it shows no sign of slowing. Now if only I could use that resemblance to get Jessica Biel’s phone number…
So what’s makes you highly recognizable?