I gave speeches at three (yes, three!) different
events today and the reaction was the same each time:
"I didn't know you were a suit-and-tie-guy!"
For some reason, most people perceive me as a “jeans-and-t-shirt guy,” so when I show up somewhere--anywhere, I guess--wearing a custom-made navy blue suit, a wildly-striped Italian shirt and contrasting op-art Duchamp tie, well...Surprise!
The reality though is that I have over 30 suits and over 100 ties in my closets. It's just that the Andy Nulman “stereotype” is anything but formal.
My learning in all this is that in the quest for Surprise, stereotypes are your best and most reliable friend. They’re the lob ball that makes it easy to really hit one out of the park.
And they’re everywhere. When a TV actor spends her summer in a Broadway musical, the reaction is usually "I never knew she could sing!" When the quiet kid at the back of the class stars for the school basketball team, you’ll inevitably hear “I never knew he was an athlete!”
This is why there’s also such incredible fascination over cheesy TV shows like “Dancing With the Stars." People like to put others into boxes. When we break out of them, it's like the proverbial girl popping out of the birthday cake. Boinnnng!
I use people as an example, but the same goes for products, stores, companies, ideals—preconceived notions about ‘em lead to deep-rooted stereotypes; stereotypes you can easily break, reverse and exploit.
People have asked me “How do you generate Surprise?” There’ll be a lot more "here's how" in posts to come, but today's lesson is perhaps the easiest:
- Find your inner stereotype
- Head in the opposite direction.
- Then watch for the gasps.
In a utopian world, perhaps this could help us counter racial ignorance. Get a bigot to spend some quality time with a minority they have long pigeonholed and let them be Surprised by the reality: "Geez, I always thought you (insert name of minority here) guys were (insert foolish stereotype here)."
Well, I can dream, can’t I?