To this day, Mom is still right. When I was a youngster, the mothers in the neighborhood would get together for morning coffee. When we were young and not yet in school, we would typically be gallivanting all over the neighborhood and the backyard, pretty much out of control. We were probably fenced-in in the backyard during morning coffee so that they knew we would be okay. I remember a conversation someone had with my mother once when I was young. A neighbor woman asked, “Why don’t you allow your children to call us by our first names?” My mother told her that would not be respectful. We were not allowed to call them by their first names. It was Mister or Miss.
A situation the other night at dinner reminded me of that conversation. My wife and I were out with another couple, and we were enjoying dinner together. Later in the evening, a gentleman came over whom we all recognized. I would refer to him as a “City Father.” When he extended his hand to me, I said, “My name is Mark. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Weber.” He said, “Call me Don. My dad was Mr. Weber.”
Here’s the difference. It’s okay to call someone else by their first name if you are asked to, but if you’re meeting someone for the first time, it is more appropriate to go by the old rules and just assume that you should provide a level of respect by calling the person by their formal name, Mr. Weber. Then, that person has the opportunity to request to be called by their first name.
During the 1980s, there was a very popular book. I don’t even know if it would sell any copies today, but it was called Dress for Success. People and even other advisors will ask me why I wear a sports coat and a tie. I always believed that you dress to show the level of respect you have for someone else. This is my uniform. If I were changing oil for a living, I would also wear a uniform. I would make sure that it was clean and pressed, and I would show up looking the best that I possibly could. I will sometimes wonder how many people still own an iron or know how to wash their clothes properly.
So, if you want to get ahead in life, here are my two recommendations:
- Show up looking as good as you can with what you have. If the best clothes you have are a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, make sure that they’re clean, pressed, and show up with a smile on your face.
- Call someone Mister and Misses unless you are told otherwise. Show up with a level of respect for the people that you are working with and always present your best self.
These would be my recommendations whether you are graduating from high school, graduating from college, or showing up for your job. No matter what that job is, it is all about being the best you can be. Show up. Be respectful. Do your best. These are my words of wisdom for the day. They’ve worked well for me, and the best part is that it doesn’t cost you a cent to be your best self.