We wrote this post for the Creativist Society blog, where it first appeared.
This pairing of two simple words, contrasting what we see with what what really is, were originally used together publicly in a successful advertising campaign in the 1980s, for Rolling Stonemagazine. The message of the ad campaign was that, while the perception was that Rolling Stone readers were hippies and drug users, in fact, they were upscale, affluent yuppies.
That wasn’t just Rolling Stone. It was the 80s.
“You look mahvelous,” Billy Crystal would say, impersonating the suave and perennially-well-groomed Latin movie star, Fernando Lamas. “And it’s better to look mahvelous than to feelmahvelous.”
Oh how the world has changed. Back then succeeding in business or in life was at least as much about perception—whether you looked marvelous—as it was about the reality of your life and actions. Individuals and corporations alike were continually crafting and refining the ideal image they wished to present to the world.
Today, thanks to the Internet and social networking, the first sign of disingenuousness on the part of anyone or anything is instantaneously broadcast to millions. You’re outted before the evening news even begins.
The separation between perception and reality is rapidly disappearing. Corporations are seeing their images decimated in a heartbeat when illegal or unethical business practices are revealed. Celebrities once held in the highest esteem are now depicted as the abusive, childish narcissists they are. Individuals must be concerned about what is revealed about them on Facebook, or risk their careers.
We live in a world of total transparency, a world in which our actions are our image. How we feel (and what we do) is how we look.
And that’s a good thing. Because today, it is simply no longer enough to have a strong, manufactured image. Honesty, integrity and walking your talk are necessary. These are the qualities that allow each of us to present a strong image to the world, one that communicates the real value we deliver and our willingness to do so.
Live a life of transparency, personally and professionally. Make the effort to be the best you can be every day. Make your perception, reality.
Remember, the world is watching.