Not so long ago, I had a date with a man so good looking that it was criminal. Clive Owen would have kneecapped him in the parking lot had he been in a 300-mile radius, purely on the basis of job security. We’d met on some dating site or another and shared an email or two, deciding to leap in and get the do-you-look-like-your-pictures dance squared away.
He looked like his pictures. Better, in fact. It was tempting to reach across and touch his face to see if live airbrushing were possible.
After an hour of conversation, I thanked him – for his time and the cocktail. He followed up asking if I’d like to have dinner the next week. And I declined.
Because this man – oh, he was sexy. But I was looking for dead sexy, which is why I have a thing for geeks.
On Being Unpopular
Let’s face it – geeks have a higher propensity for entrepreneurship than any other breed of human. Why? Because we were never one of the cool kids. We were slapped with that “unpopular” label and left on the sidelines of the school cafeteria and commons areas to bask in its juvenile rancor. But all of that unpopularity? It made us pretty damn adept at (more than) a few things (all of which are incredibly sexy):
The Value of Relationships
We really should thank all of those popular kids for not sitting with us and our superhero lunchboxes. I’m firmly of the belief that geeks like us were taught a better way of building relationships. Since we didn’t have that “ready made” audience, we realized that relationships worth having must be earned. Once earned, they have to be cultivated and then nurtured. It’s a never-ending cycle and one that can only make our offerings even better. We’re taught not just to value relationships, but that if they’re not properly tended to, they can disappear at any time. That’s something the popular kids never got.
The ability to build, nurture, and maintain relationships? Incredibly sexy. And in the business realm, it’s one of the sexiest abilities we can have, as our audience will love us for it.
Seductive or Successful?
Our younger years were spent being told that popularity was the equivalent of success. Seduced, we were (insert Yoda voice) by artificial metrics that told us what was good and bad. Today? We know that the sexiest thing we can be is unpopular. Building for everyone means building for no one – and we’re not in this gig to waste anyone’s time.
So, should we choose popularity’s seduction (and all of the plastic trophies that accompany it)? Or are we better off with understanding the true nature of success – the ability to create a business that we not only love, but build it for the people who will ultimately love us? I’ll stand by my assertion that geeks are dead sexy and there’s a fierce need to embrace our respective inner black sheep. We’re not followers – we’re leaders. We’re not popular – and never want to be. But we are determined, resourceful, and something none of those popular kids will ever be: Dead sexy to the people who matter most – our customers.
From Carol – I am going to give away a copy (that I paid for myself, because as Erika pointed out to me last year, authors don’t get royalties if you ask them for free copies of their stuff, and I want to support my friends). If you want a copy of Erika’s book, comment on any blog post this week (Monday through Friday) and I will pick one commenter at random and send them a copy.
Another reason why those of us who were unpopular in our early years grow up to become successful is the sheer necessity of it. In my case, I knew full well that I was an outcast, and that I wasn't going to make it on my good looks or charming disposition. So I went out and used what little I had to work with, and parlayed it into a successful career, and it was only by so doing that I was able to get the good stuff that the popular types more or less assume will come their way.
Sure, it is more pressure to put on yourself when you look at it that way, but no one ever got anywhere by being complacent.
I used to joke that geeks were the best sex partners because they liked to learn, they paid attention to detail, and they got satisfaction from a job well done.
But really? The same hold true for every day life as well. The geeks are the ones who will take the "road less traveled," and who will create a path where one may not lie. How could someone not want to be a geek?
I've watched this comment thread grow with some great insightful posts but also distaste as posts go past equating looks to so called 'geek' status and or even some who set themselves apart as the geeks (now apparently vastly superior) vs. the cool/popular stuck-in-high-school students.
The bottom line. There's nothing wrong with calling yourself a geek or dead sexy for that matter. But there is something wrong in having to boost your ego by making a relative superior comparison to others. The tribal aspect of our nature to belong, is human for sure. So we can glory in our self definitions. But geek or not, what is truly attractive is that people are comfortable with themselves. That can apply to the sportos, the motorheads,geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads... (and I strongly advise seeing Ferris Bueller's day off again which proves the point admirably).
What if the super sexy guy was a geek in school and he grew into his looks? I always wonder that about people. I am one of those people. More geek than popular in school, and now the opposite. And I dfefinitely grew into my looks. :) Love this! Love that you describe geeks as dead sexy! You're right. There is something super sexy about the one's you can't really figure out...and they are usually the freakier ones behind closed doors too. A big plus.
LolaSpeaking I really don't think it has anything to do with looks. Hell, I was no looker in elementary and secondary school! I think it's a package deal - the person, the brain, the attitude, the motivation...that's a dead sexy geek right there!
In high school, wearing those Geek Squad glasses, winning the high school science fair and coming in second in the school spelling bee, I certainly can relate. I'm so old, the term wasn't "geeky." It was "L7". Anybody else remember that? But I survived. In retrospect, it did drive the forces in me you wrote about and it made me more resilient to sarcastic barbs, which now has me "tough skinned" to any TBNT "Thanks but No Thanks" RFP rejection. Thanks for a great post. Really enjoyed it. Live long and prosper.
Great stuff. Being a geek at school I was lucky enough to be aware that whilst the cool kids seemed to be having the most fun that they had reached the zenith of their lives. They'd be the people who always looked back on being at school as the best days of their lives, whereas for me it was just a stage for moving on to bigger and better things.
Annabelle83 This: "whereas for me it was just a stage for moving on to bigger and better things." Thank you for throwing this out there and I'll throw it out there to the crowd to take this and use it every day. Tomorrow has infinite possibility to be better than today -- something we'd all do well to remember!
God. Damn. It.
There’s a virtual cornucopia of things that are the cause of my crush on you. Of course you are beautiful, I mean, who the hell would deny that? But, there are three things that cinched it:
First, you write. The kind created from a fearless authenticity that often reveals your heart in a very vulnerable ways. OMG.
Second, you are a cyclist. WTF.
But most importantly, while perusing (stalking) your Facebook photos, I happened upon a picture of your early 80’s Commodore computer tape drive. OMGWTFBBQ!
I identify in so many ways to this post. I’d swear you reached into my chest, pulled out my heart and read the pages. Geek on, RedheadWriting , geek on.
Being a geek (EE), never thought of myself as being "dead sexy." Fortunately for me, a young woman (not a geek) apparently though so 45 years ago this month. We married two years later, but I think she sometimes still wonders what she signed on for.
Invite you to visit my special "Welcome for Geeks" at JumpToConsulting:
Read the story towards the end about never apologizing for being a geek. .
Thanks! Geeks Rule...
I was the "fat kid", the one who played piano, got straight A's and read Nancy Drew mysteries. But because I had no social life I also studied like a demon, practiced like a dervish and devoured everything I could read. I also had to fight the bullies who threatened my kid sister who was also fat. Consequently, I became tough and resourceful. And now I play the harp and do healing work, maybe compensating for the trauma earlier on, but I'm happy doing everything I can to help others. It's a new business model though, so I'm looking for inspiration everywhere, and every time I read Erika's stuff, I feel a kinship. I'm also very happy that she sent an e-mail telling me about this site. Tough Love for Business looks great.
KateKunkel Carol's house has been a favorite destination of mine for quite some time and I'm glad you feel a kinship here as well. And your story? It's one we all share in some form/fashion. Finding where we feel at home and then taking care of that house. Great to see you and delighted to introduce you to caroljsroth 's neck of the woods :)
RedheadWriting KateKunkel caroljsroth Wow Erika, thanks for sending us over, I think. With the RSS loaded up, maybe I can enjoy some cake here at Carol's place too? Have a swell time being the most Unpopular geek at SXSW; use many pens, not your lightsaber.
Too funny, I'm actually speaking at the GeekGirl Tech Conference a week Saturday. In the pre-conf interview, I voted for Star Wars over Star Trek without hesitation. Geek girl, I am! I think it's about time we all embraced being geeks. It ain't so bad.
Added your book to my summer reading list. I completely agree with you that the people who know know who they are and what they want are incredibly attractive. The topic of popularity and success is fascinating to me. I understood the concept of cultural acceptance and popularity at the tender age of 5 when I found myself in a new school in a new country unable to speak the primary language. I was the foreign born, Spanish speaking girl with huge glasses and big curly hair. I was brilliant and shy but I wasn't going to left behind in terms of education and opportunities. Life is a journey of acceptance that comes from within not from others. The relationships that are built along the way are awesome too as we all desire to connect with others.
Hmmm, you certainly make a valid argument why the geekpreneurs are more apt to grind it out and achieve success and deeper, more meaningful relationships. But I will also say because there still is a certain resentment bubbling beneath the surface and 'I'll show you' type attitude that drives them as well. Being an outcast probably gives you just enough of a chip on your shoulder to use it is as a motivator.
I guess we all have our different motivators, huh?
bdorman264 For some, perhaps it's a chip. For others, maybe it's just building a life around a solid set of...THINGS...that light their fires every day. I know a ton of entrepreneurs and no -- they're not all motivated by shoulders + chips. They're motivated by their Musts. Those things that hurt them more to NOT do. And that, I think, is where the geek factor comes in. Lots of us geek out on our Musts. And I'll be you have some Musts of your own :)
RedheadWriting Absolutely, I do have my 'musts'. I'm still looking for the dork niche because I was never smart enough to be techie or geeky; being 'social' was all I had to fall back on and back in the 'day' I was almost too shy to even pull that one off.
You make a good point though, building a life around a 'solid' set of things; things that really matter in the big scheme of things....
Arturo Garcia slclarkThe term metric refers to system or standard of measurement. The term "sexy" or "sexiest" is subjective and not a quantifiable measurement by any means.
While a bold assertion by a strong writer, it remains an arguable opinion. You either agree or disagree with Erica's definition of sexy. If you disagree, please share your definition.
Arturo Garcia slclark So, here's where I'll chime in. First, Steve (slclark) frequents my blog. He's anything but the squeeing fan boy. In fact, he disagrees with me on 90% of what I put out there. So we'll put that out as gentle premise #1. It shouldn't matter to anyone that Godin offered a blurb for my book -- but it matters to *me* in that it was kind and above the call of duty for him to share that time of his with me and my project.
Gentle premise #2: The best that any of us can do on any given day is say what we think and feel. We find our own metrics. And if you think about it, every possible metric means something different to everyone on the interpreting side. So if you see it as one artificial metric being used to interpret another, that's what you're bringing to the conversation. But maybe you can replace the words "sexiest" and "unpopular" with something more relevant to what you seek and explore every day.
And what I love the most? Carol's got a vociferous, speak-your-mind audience here that keeps me thinking. So thank you :)
RedheadWriting Arturo Garcia slclark Perhaps the power is in the pen or the expression of a great author. Your writing is so strong (in the "we" / "our"); tightly crafted in definitive and conversational tones. The result is compelling and extremely persuasive. Every author offers a varying perspective on similar topics. I appreciate your point of view and writing style. You are one of my favorite female voices and thinkers! (Not just another stinky hole.)
RedheadWriting VilmaBonilla slclark Here's where the issue starts for me: what's commonly defined as being "unpopular" stems from social alienation. That phenomenon doesn't end at adolescence for many people. So to declare "there's nothing sexier than being unpopular" seems, to me, to silence the experiences of those who don't or can't break out of that pattern in their lives, for whatever reason. And to respond with, "Well, so and so bought six copies of that book" seems doubly dismissive, because at that point you're equating money with validation thanks to a specific chosen career path.
While I would certainly agree and hope that people can find the best within themselves and use that to forge their own path, the way it was stated veered dangerously close to self-aggrandizing statements like "geeks rule the world." There's nothing sexy about being the object of ridicule, and using it as a branding strategy, even in the name of being "positive," is problematic.
Arturo Garcia VilmaBonilla slclarkAnd herein lies the beauty -- everyone is entitled to their opinion and you clearly have yours :) And perhaps what you're missing? The premise of the book is our need as adults and entrepreneurs to *rethink* how we perceive "unpopular" -- as in my world, it's an asset. And the juvenile perception that many carry of the word is, as you say, detrimental.
So, you might see my premise as problematic. I see many premises daily as such. And I'm not lauding "ridicule." I'm lauding our ability to reshape our own thought processes and come out on top of something about which many people have a negative connotation.
Arturo Garcia RedheadWriting VilmaBonilla Six copies = maybe one lunch in royalties? The reason I mentioned Seth is his personal *love* of books. He likely reads, maybe 200 / year of the million or so published. He thought enough of Erika's to go back and order 6 for his friends. This word of mouth praise is why Unpolular resonates with its audience.
Creatives toil because they must, not as a choice. Whether drawing on business cards or dropping an F-Bomb slap, successful brands are a direct extension of their creator. Ad agency jingles change with the wind, creative brands don't.