The People You Least Suspect


The People You Least Suspect

I’ve got a secret identity.

Anyone who glances at me in this coffee shop will assume the same thing:

I’m a college student.

I fit the profile. Backpack. Macbook Air. Notebook. Pen. What else would I be? What else could I be?

They wouldn’t guess that I dropped out after landing my dream job, a job I got as a result of a personal development website.

They wouldn’t know about the things I learned from the company I work for. They wouldn’t know about my adventures in Southeast Asia in which I spent a year away from my friends and family.

My Office

My “office” for the day

No one would assume that I’ve only been back in the US for a little over a week and that I know a few basic words in Tagalog, Bisaya, and Thai—all pretty easy to learn with a quick Google search, though.

I feel like a superhero with a secret identity, even though I have two stickers on my laptop that are quite telling if the right person recognized them.

One sticker with a white background and a red stick of dynamite tells the story of a community of over 1,000 location independent entrepreneurs. The other sticker is of an online business that changed my life and that I’m lucky enough to be working for.

And it makes me think… What about the other people who are here with me? What stories do they have that I wouldn’t be able to guess from a glance? What interesting secret identities do they have?

Maybe the guy on my right runs a location independent business with over 10,000 clients from all over the world? Maybe he’s relaxing and taking time off from important work because he blocks off his weekend to be his “me-time.”

So he opens up his newspaper nonchalantly, knowing full well that no one will recognize him there. He doesn’t have to put on a mask here.

Then I glance upward and see a table of college students. But are they really students? Maybe they’ve got secret identities too. They might actually be a group of best-selling authors! Or maybe they’re students but also internationally renowned martial artists!

An interesting thing about the location independent, entrepreneurial crowd is that you wouldn’t have, in a million years, guessed that they might be more successful (and happier) than anyone you’ve met in the past several months. Some of them have raggedy, baggy clothes, unkempt facial hair, and are almost always rocking some flip flops.

The majority of them wear a t-shirt with a pair of shorts every day. They look like your average Joe (though often a bit stranger.)

My View

View from my hotel during the conference

This goes against everything we’re told about “businessmen.” No suit and tie, not even at the annual 3-day business conference in Bangkok.

Appearances tell us nothing. Our first impressions are almost always wrong if we don’t get the chance to actually talk to someone.

Open the conversation with people you always find yourself running into. Put in the effort to learn their story. See what they’re up to and how they’re doing.

You never know who you’re going to meet.

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway and founder of Growth Ninja, a digital marketing agency that specializes in Facebook Ads. Voted "Most Guapo" five years in a row (lost during 6th year to a hand model.)

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13 responses to The People You Least Suspect

  1. It’s highly probable, statistically speaking, that someone with a backpack, Mackbook Air etc. is a college student. But as you point out, we are often wrong and need to remain open to looking deeper. This works the other way as well because sometimes I hear people say something to the effect of “but he didn’t look like a crook.” I was thinking of people like Bernie Madoff or even worse, Ted Bundy. You are so right, first appearances can be so very wrong.

    • You’re right in that it goes both ways. In one of the early drafts of this article I made mention of that but removed it. Might as well tell the story here (though I may have told this elsewhere before.)

      There was a teacher who was rather polarizing in high school. I happened to have been a big fan of her early on.

      Although a lot of students criticized her both as a person and a teacher, I was adamant that she was a good teacher.

      After time, and through several rather dramatic events, my mirror/illusion shattered and I finally saw what everyone else has been seeing for some time. She simply wasn’t a good person.

      Sometimes we form a first impression of someone, good or bad, and it takes a series of events for us to realize there’s something more to the story. We need to take time to find out what that story is.

  2. Great article Vincent! It’s a fun game though, to try Sherlock’s techniques while people watching.

  3. This article is so real . We cannot
    guess any real truth from appearance . and some communication is so important . When I saw president of our company he looks like a gentleman but no body can guess that he is owner of billon dollar company just from his appearance .

    • Yup! It’s not like the movies or TV when the “big bad” comes in with his fancy $10K suit and everyone knows who he is. Sometimes, the biggest players blend in with the rest of the crowd. I’d like to think that I’d be able to blend in like a ninja when I’m a billionaire!

  4. So true! In Costa Rica we always said “every head is a world of its own.” In an average day, we must cross paths with millions of people, any one if whom could lead us into a different reality. I’m glad to be reminded of this. Thank you! and thank you for doing what you do!

  5. Vincent, I loved this! Thank you.

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