In this undoubtedly image-conscious world that we occupy, appearances are important, and as the old proverb states, "clothes do maketh the man". Whether it is justified or not, we do tend to judge the individual based on their outward appearance, which is why traditionally we suit up for job interviews and put on our best glad-rags when heading out on on that illustrious first date. You only get one chance to make a desirable first-impression, so we try to make it count when we can.\n\nStyle And/Or Substance\n\nThis behaviour however can bring about its own headaches, as scammers, chancers and charlatans will happily separate you from your hard earned assets whilst doing their best impression of a Paris catwalk model. This shows that it actually benefits us to challenge any preconceived notions and beliefs that we have, and ask the questions necessary to avoid frustration, anger and ultimately disappointment. It also demonstrates that style and substance are independent of one another, and that whilst the presence of style MAY suggest the occurrence of substance, we CANNOT assume that they go hand in hand.\n\nOne thing for certain that I have learned over the years is that both style and substance, whilst both separate concepts, each individually require a LOT of effort to both build up and maintain successfully over time. Focus only on your appearance, and you'll be as shallow as a puddle and have nothing concrete to offer. Conversely, if you only care about substance and what you have to offer, you'll likely find it extremely difficult to get yourself known as whether you like it or not, appearances to people matter. Success is a balancing act between the two, where you are constantly walking along a tightrope starting from where you are and where you want to be.\n\nThe Appearance of "Crushing It"\n\nI'd like to use a (comic-book) story I read as a teen to help illustrate my point, so please bear with me if superheroes aren't your thing. It will all make sense later. If you knew me growing up, or if you asked me the right questions in my adult life you would know that I was an avid Spider-Man fan (a bit sad to bring up, but please hear me out). I loved the 90s cartoon series, and devoured the comic books, notably the Ultimate Spider-Man books written by Brian Michael-Bendis and illustrated by Steve Baguely. My favourite storyline was Venom (book 6) where Peter Parker (our hero) meets the meets Eddie and the two bond over their work of their late fathers Richard and Eddie Sr, which in true comic book fashion was a slimy suit that would engulf patients and cure ailments like cancer.\n\nPlease stay with me, it'll be worth it. If you have seen the films starring Tobey Maguire and Tom Hardy, you'll know that this suit grants the wearer superhuman abilities and tends towards unfavourable (bad) actions by the wearer, like awful dance scenes that they PAID Tobey Maguire to do, oh and ending peoples lives unfortunately. In the Venom book, after Peter wears and removes the suit (fortunately they omitted the discount Dirty Dancing scenes), it finds Eddie and they fight in one epic showdown that Peter just about wins, but does so at a HUGE cost to his friendship with Eddie. Looking defeated, Peter returns home and sobs on his floor.\n\nThis leads me to the most powerful part of this scene and the reason why I'm talking about Spider-Man. Whilst Peter is breaking down as a vulnerable teenager, he is playing a tape recording from his father Richard, and the words from this recording are words that I, still to this day, I've never forgotten. His father talks about people who put all their effort into looking impressive, but never bother to put in the effort to actually BE better than they actually are. They only want to appear better. This pattern of behaviour is something that causes Richard great anguish, and the tape ends with him saying that he can deal with these actions because he gets to come home to his son, (Peter) that he is so incredibly proud of and watch him grow up into a man. Remember, this is a recording, and Peter's father is dead.\n\nUltimate Spider-Man ultimate speech about being a better person\n\nPressure and Frustrations\n\nThe words coming from Richard really resonated with me, and I'm sure that the act of others only wanting to APPEAR better has probably frustrated us all at some point. Whether it is friends and acquaintances constantly posting about their fantastic lives on social media, colleagues bragging at work about superfluous achievements or even those who have to let you know they are wearing the latest and most expensive fashion. Make no mistake, these things lead to huge social pressures, whether it be the people in question constantly having to outdo themselves, or even others having to keep up and push the envelope to avoid feeling inadequate or being shunned. As I've mentioned before, this takes a lot of effort and requires a huge investment of time.\n\nBut to what end? Paraphrasing Brian Michal-Bendis's words channelled through Richard in the Venom story, merely the appearance of being better, without taking the time to actually be better. Appearances can be misleading, where people only show the best bits of their lives (always crushing it), or deceiving, where people go out of their way to give an impression of their lives that doesn't exist (like posting a picture in a spanking new house owned by someone else but implying that it belongs to the uploader). Appearances can even be illegal, where the uploader speaks positively about something and doesn't disclose that they have been paid by the producer of the something to advertise that particular something. We really need to be discerning to not be suckered in!\n\nBeing the Best Version of You\n\nAs I have mentioned earlier, success is predicated on balancing style AND substance. So instead of just focusing on how you APPEAR to others, try working on being the better for yourself first. Take the time to learn new skills and diligently hone your craft to heightened levels where YOU become the expert. Take the time to ACTUALLY listen to those around you and to ensure that you understand where they are coming from and focus on how you can collaborate to the betterment of ALL parties concerned. Don't focus on trying to look like you are doing these things or that you are coming across in the right way, actually do these things properly and coming across in the right way will present itself to you. Start that important discussion, and be the difference that you want to see.\n\nTwo people having that important discussion\n\nMost importantly, lead by example. If you want others to changes and align to your way of thinking, then YOU need to be patient zero. Incorporate your ideas yourself, reap the benefits of your idea(s) and then demonstrate the advantages to the others you are trying to convince. If the benefits exist and are clear, then the fact that you have skin in the game speaks louder than "what ifs" ever could. If you can't show people the benefits, then you yourself have acted as the case study that shows your idea(s) may not work. Don't tell people what they need to do whilst not internalising it yourself. If you don't believe in yourself and your idea(s), then why should they? Take responsibility for your vision, and be the difference that you want to see.\n\nIt is in your demonstration of the overall benefits where your style and attention to detail can be harnessed to great effect. When you have the substance behind you to back up your idea(s), all your efforts surrounding your appearance will take you to the next level, and act as the very appeasing cherry on top of the most appetising dessert. You will have that triumph of style with substance, and will ultimately be that difference that you have worked so hard to see. Because of your overall package, those around you will be far more likely to follow your lead. In the end, everyone wins, and we would have more people in the world working diligently towards making it a better place.\n\nAll hands in for teamwork!\n\nThe Difference\n\nDeveloping both style and substance is an involved process that takes a lot of time and effort, where real success involves effectively combining the two. It can be tempting to solely work on appearing better to those around us, but having the substance to back up the image that we portray can work wonders, both for our lives and to those around us. By striving to be that difference that we want to see in the world, we can all contribute to leaving our surroundings, (at the very least) a little better off than how we found them, as well as having that positive impact for as long as we live. Then we can watch out\n\nTake care and all the best. Si.