The beauty of being underestimated

It’s neither comfortable nor pleasant, but at some point in our lives, we’ve all been underestimated.  I routinely find myself in situations where the perception about my abilities don’t match the reality.  I don’t look like the typical DC lobbyist.  Heck, I don’t look like the typical association professional.  However, I find that there’s a certain beauty to being what Merriam Webster defines as regard for being less than capable than they really are.

Being underestimated keeps people guessing.  When you do something very well once, it’s a surprise.  When you repeat that success over and over again, it forces people to take notice.  Being underestimated forces you to work harder.  Knowing that you have to prove yourself over and over again will only propel you to the next level.  Being underestimated helps manage expectations.  You welcome success, but can accept disappointment as a part of life.  Finally, being underestimated confirms what you’ve long suspected: you just don’t fit the mold. 

I suspect that the majority of those who are underestimated are in fact bright, capable individuals.  However, judging without the whole picture seems to be the quick and easy way to evaluate.  If you were looking for a consultant or vendor for a particular service, would you eliminate someone based solely on one factor?  Then, why are we doing this to prospective members or employees or conference speakers?

As our association community continues to expand, we can no longer afford to ignore those we underestimate.


I am not a number

There are people who I’m leery of.  Those who claim they never have to prepare for a presentation or a meeting.  People who hate chocolate.  People who watch reality tv and nothing else.  Above all, I’m very leery of number whores.  What’s a number whore?  A person who connects online for the sole purpose of making themselves look more important than they really are.  Now, I’m not talking about people who are popular and have a large number of friends and colleagues.  I’m talking about that person on Twitter with 6 million followers and only following 2.  I’m referring to the stranger on LinkedIn who lies about his or her affiliation just to get a contact.  I’m talking about that Facebook “friend” who swears we were in the same kindergarten class. 

This reminds of the guys I met when I went clubbing every weekend.  At the end of the night, out of sheer desperation, these guys would go up to every girl walking to their car and beg for their number.  As pathetic as that was, this is worse.  Social media should facilitate constructive dialogue and meaningful interaction even under the influence of a few cocktails.  I’ve regained friendships I thought were lost for good due to distance.  I’ve reconnected with former colleagues who’ve offered advice and encouragement.  I’ve made wonderful new friends that I may have never met if it wasn’t for social media.  This blog alone has led to opportunities beyond anything I would’ve imagined.  You see, this isn’t a numbers game to me.  This is my life.