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Don’t Dilute Your Authentic Self

May 5, 2023

If I could do it all over again, I would have practiced my negotiation training and calmly replied in my best FM DJ voice, “You’re from Chicago?”

I hate getting sidetracked. Whenever I learn something new, I try to practice that new skill. But someone or something always seems to appear out of thin air to distract me like a jelly donut brigade parachuting into a fat camp. 

Then, I spend days or even weeks ruminating before unlocking the hidden lesson.

Instantaneously, a reel posted by a whiskey influencer on Instagram transported me back to a recent personal experience when I experienced confidence dilution.

“While barrel proof is more expensive, you control the dilution by altering the amount of water that goes into the glass. Doing so gives you a better sipping experience because you can dial in the flavor profile based on your preferences.”

After completing a two-day Mastering Negotiation with Tactical Empathy workshop in Downtown Los Angeles hosted by The BlackSwan Group, I decided to stay for the weekend. The city of Angels has undergone quite a transformation since I moved away in 2016. A mini-vacay would allow me to absorb the transition and practice my newfound skills before embarking on my journey back to Tokyo. 

I made plans to tour the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and catch up with friends on Sunday afternoon. After strolling down the hallway, I entered the elevator to head down to the first floor. 

Standing confidently with my hands on my hips, I wore blue wool flat-front straight-fit trousers, a custom alligator skin belt peppered with gold flake details and matching buckle, a grey cashmere turtleneck sweater, black tassel loafers, and an olive green mini diamond-patterned Moncler puffer jacket. Outfits like this make me feel great when I go to the museum because it’s a solid middle-ground between a suit and athletic wear. I never considered my unique sense of style might be a bit much for Downtown LA on the weekend.

Standing in the elevator was a tall, athletic man with caramel skin wearing grey baggy sweatpants, an oversized T-shirt, and white sneakers, staring down at his Iphone. 

As always, I tried to initiate a conversation. 

“How’s the weather outside today?” 

He scoffed disapprovingly and proudly proclaimed, “I’m from Chicago. And in Chicago, we wouldn’t be wearing all that...” With a wave of his hand, he pointed at me and grinned subtly. Then he made a “psh” sound, like Ed Bassmaster in one of his YouTube comedy skits… 

My classic casual chic was too much for the era of athleisure. Clearly, I was out of pocket in this guy's mind, and he’d let me know. 

The next few moments were spent ruminating over what had happened as we descended into the lower levels of the Westin. As I stepped outside, I began to feel self-conscious. Was that guy just having a bad day, or was it too much for a casual Sunday at the Museum? I hadn’t seen my friends in years; this wasn’t the Roy they’d remember.

I thought for a moment, darted back to the elevator, and returned to change.

Something super casual. That’ll do the trick. I threw on a pair of dark camo joggers, a black T-shirt, a matching zip-up hoodie, and black sneakers. And headed back down to jump in my Uber. 

As I arrived at the venue, I noticed something peculiar. Everyone was dressed the same. Well, not exactly, but clearly influenced by the athleisure movement, which had taken the world hostage. As I approached my friend and his family, I realized he wore nearly the same outfit. Black camo joggers, sneakers, and a white zipperless hoodie. 

We joked about our refined sense of style and had a great time reconnecting. As the day progressed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. In the back of my mind, I felt out of place.

My unique sense of style helps me be more present. When I look good, I feel good. And when I feel good, I’m more confident. 

Some stranger had gotten into my head and diluted my confidence. This triggered me to regress to the mean of the social standards curve and fall back into an outfit a previously less confident version of Roy would wear. 

For that reason, I hadn’t brought my authentic self to the Museum.

Nick and I Outside The Museum

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