“He is the most interesting man in the world.” We see him in the Dos Equis beer commercials, surrounded by manly men and beautiful women. He arm wrestles brawny brutes, sits at an easel painting an uncaged rhinoceros, and weathers rough seas. Each ad ends with the tag line, “Stay thirsty, my friends.” The closing maxim has a double meaning: be thirsty for beer and for life. The connection between his adventurous history and his beer allows us to live vicariously by drinking the same brew, thereby borrowing some of his charisma, good looks, and self-confidence; or so the Dos Equis marketing department must believe.
Jonathan Goldsmith is the actor who convincingly inhabits this “interesting” role. Lots of people want the character’s magnetism, but lack an idea of how get it. Yet, in one commercial he tells us what is required: “It’s never too early to start beefing up your obituary.”
How can you make yourself a more interesting person? The two lines I mentioned are key: stay thirsty for life and beef up your résumé (a more optimistic word than obituary), not by work alone but by living full-out.
What might you become? Start with being interesting to yourself. Here are the 11 suggestions promised in the title:
1. Find something about which you want to learn more:
- If your subject is Beyoncé, become an expert on her life and art.
- If your concern is yourself, do a genealogy, enter psychoanalysis, visit your old neighborhood, and learn the history of your parents and grandparents, if possible by talking with them, their friends, and relatives.
- If your focus is life, justice, beauty, or truth, read philosophy and enroll in a course taught be an excellent professor who uses the Socratic method.
2. Take on challenges about which you are hesitant. Risk. Strive for something worthwhile. Even if you fail, you will acquire some good stories (and you will have some failure). Learn how to present the tales to others by watching those who do or by joining a story telling group.
3. Strike cliches from your vocabulary. Never say the word “awesome” again. You don’t need big words, but learn to use the simple ones as needed. Very few people express themselves with precision. You will automatically become interesting if you do. Conversation is not a race to be clever, but the art of clarity in oral communication.
4. Read newspapers, whether online or the print variety. Learn what is going on in the political and social world and be capable of forming well-reasoned opinions without imitating a fulminating pundit. Think critically about the information you gather or what passes for information and is actually biased, incomplete, incorrect, or all three.
5. Come alive to the world around you. The trees are not only beautiful, but named. So are the flowers and the clouds. Gaze at the buildings. Friedrich von Schelling wrote, “Architecture is music in space, as (if) it were a frozen music.” Such soaring beauties await your appreciation. Don’t be afraid to proclaim them.
6. Notice people. We are not all the same. From dress to attitude to movement to language — observe and listen. Test your intuitions, as Dan Ariely emphasizes in this TED talk; don’t assume your worldview is correct. By understanding why humans (including yourself) think and act as they do, you will have much worthwhile to say. First, however, recognize that emotion often leads thought, not the other way around. Attempts to persuade people with ideas and reasons frequently fail because the audience is emotionally tied to the views that preceded their rationalizations.
7. You must eat, so sample and learn about different cuisines. Better still if you cook them.
8. Hang around with exciting, wise, and soulful personalities. There is much you can learn from them.
9. Reduce time watching TV, tweeting, surfing social media sites, and sending the world your image. All of this is routine and risks overexposure. The public attempt to prove your uniqueness makes you one of the crowd. Moreover, you’re not likely to do some of the things I’ve mentioned if your virtual existence takes over your free time.
10. In conversation, learn to ask questions and to find what is engaging about the lives of others. Get under the surface gradually, if permitted. Everyone has a story to tell. They will be grateful for your attention. Be prepared, however, for some to rebuff you.
11. Travel if you can, but don’t return from, say, Germany, thinking the most interesting part was drinking beer. (I was once given exactly this answer to my question, “What made the biggest impression on your visit to Deutschland?”).
Having talked with thousands of people in my clinical psychology practice, and many outside the office, most of them were interesting to me if I bothered to make the effort to get to know them. A psychologist is permitted (at least in session) to open the dark closets, step downstairs into the psyche and examine the foundation. Men and women want to be understood, but are afraid to be known. James Baldwin said, we trap ourselves by wearing
…the masks we fear that we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
You will find other online guides to making yourself sparkle, but few if any such as the one above. Yes, some of these steps demand work, others only an opening of your eyes, listening with intensity, touching things and people, tasting life, and breathing in aromas both foul and fair. Thought and courage will also be required. Goethe wrote:
Talent develops in quiet,
Character in the torrent of the world.
Insecurity might prevent you from becoming more interesting. These steps can also make you more secure. The irony is that once you become more secure, you will care little, if at all, whether others think you are interesting. In the self-knowledge of your own value, whether others agree or not, you will achieve an amazing freedom — one setting you apart from timid souls and making you even more admirable and captivating.
Now back to the title. I promised you eleven steps to becoming the most interesting person on the planet. Ah, dear reader, it is not possible, for men at least. Jonathan Goldsmith’s Dos Equis persona* is beyond our reach. As for the ladies, the position is open. Go for it!
*If you’d like to find out more about what Jonathan Goldsmith is really like, take a look at this. He is actually quite interesting:
The second image is Beyonce Knowles, taken by Tony Duran, Parkwood Pictures Entertainment, LLC. The final photo is Le Escalier de Montmartre, 1936, by George Brassai.