This one ran just about five years ago, end of September 2007 to be exact, when I was still at Airborne Mobile. The reaction to the car has only intensified since. I still marvel at what it does to people. Driving it is one of my life's great pleasures and relaxants, and what's more, its lessons ring truer every day.
- My biz partner Garner wears shoes instead of sandals to the office
- I finally acquiesce and put my beloved Corvette convertible away for the winter
I can't speak for Garner, but I know I try to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible. But over the past week or so, the increasingly chilly weather made it hard to drive the 'Vette at night and morning, and even on sunny afternoon, there's a substantial bite in the open air. The end is near for '07.
Now, people who know me can't believe I can be so attached to a piece of metal (well, fiberglass in my case), 'cuz I am not one of those obsessive creatures known as a "car guy."
I'm an aesthetic guy, a surprise guy.
And that's what makes my convertible such a great companion.
That's it atop this post, parked outside Montreal's fabled summer hot rod hangout The Orange Julep, with my son Hayes in the driver's seat, in all its glory.
You see, it's more than a mere automobile.
It's a Magic Car. Really.
No matter where I go with it, it brightens people's moods. It inspires upbeatness. Everyone smiles.
From burly, menacing Hell's Angels to curious Chassidic Rabbis. From little old ladies to major babes. From gearheads to eggheads. Kids ask to pose for pictures with it ("It's a superhero car!" one kid cried), and producers have asked to use it in movies (Yeah, right! Like I'm gonna let you drive it...). I can't tell you how many times people have asked to buy it.
And no matter where I go, people stop me, roll down their windows, shout from balconies and ask me the same three questions:
"What year is it?"
"How big is the engine?"
(Answer: No clue...whatever you say)
"Is it the original paint?"
(This one kills me....I just say "Yeah")
What's more, the Vette inspires no envy. People tend to adopt it and treat it like it's their own. Once, outside a restaurant, my son and I watched as some guy admired the car, then reached inside to pick out some of the early autumn leaves that had fallen on my seats. Another time, outside a chi-chi designer's store, a girl ripped into a guy who just so happened to park his Ferrari behind my car. "If you wanna impress someone, park behind a Chrysler mini van," she screamed for some bizarre reason. "This car beats your car's ass!" Thank God he didn't beat hers...or mine.
As hot as this car is, it's a simple piece of work. No power anything. Roll-down windows that don't roll down all the way. Steering that's a better workout than my gym regime. All powered by an engine, while big and roaring, that's positively Flinstonian compared to its modern-day brethren.
Still, this car turns heads whiplash fast. And there's a lesson to be learned from all this:
It Pays To Stand Out. PAYS!
"Generating Surprise" is a tactic. It's an incredibly effective one, and the inspiration for this blog, but just a tactic. It belongs to the greater strategy of "Attracting Attention." And that's a key strategy to survive in today's hyper-competitive biz world. Other than the CIA, I don't care what business you are in--going unnoticed is the highway to going broke.
Back to the Vette for a second. My office at Airborne has an underground garage with a dangerously steep driveway that peaks and opens onto a bar-and-restaurant-filled pedestrian mall called Prince Arthur Street. I have two cars, a black Jaguar X-Type and the aforementioned Vette. When I roar up the driveway in the Jag, nobody gives me a second look (unless I almost run someone over at the top). I am anonymous.
But when I do the same in the Vette, all the action on the street freezes. The car is a retina-magnet, a conversation starter, a target for pointed fingers. People instinctively gather around, start to chat, give me the thumbs up (for some strange reason). It adds at least five minutes to the journey every time I leave work.
Such is the power of drawing attention, of standing out.
And remember, this car is close to a half-century old. Most people on the cusp of 50 are starting to slow down, to gravitate towards beige and boring. The Vette shows that audacious old guys can still cut it. To that end, I saw two older gentlemen this week. One wore a shapeless pair of khakis and an off-white, long-sleeved polo shirt. The other wore a navy blue sport jacket, red flower in his lapel, and an aqua blue cap.
- Who do you think attracted more eyeballs?
- Who would you think has better tales to tell?
- Who would YOU rather hang out with?
Rhonda Byrne made a fortune with her book The Secret, which she says "reveals the most powerful law in the universe." That law is one called The Law Of Attraction.
But as much as you wait for it, Attraction doesn't come on its own. You have to draw it out. You have to be the worm on the hook, jiggling for the eyes to bite.
And the only way to do that is to stand out from the crowd.
Not everyone can drive a classic Vette. Or wear a turquoise hat.
In fact, it can be quite intimidating trying to stand out. But it can be done.
Lemme put it another way--it MUST be done.
I'm taking the weekend off, but next week, I'll be back with a short primer telling you how to do it.
Right now, I'm off to take the car to its winter resting spot.