- Michael Thompson
Immerse yourself in the land of the opposite
“This may sound a bit weird,” said one of the men in attendance for a seminar I was giving. “But I gotta know — with your blonde hair and green eyes, Spanish women love you, right?”
In a flash, my normally pale face turned into a bright red tomato. Before I could say no, a woman from the back of the room beat me to it — “Actually, most of my friends and I prefer the typical tall, dark, and handsome stereotype!”
A few weeks later, after the woman twisted my arm to get a drink, I nudged her about this. “It wasn’t anything you said,” she replied. “You doing what you do makes you fascinating!”
When it comes to the most important moments in my life, these words top of the list. At the time, I was a stuttering American guy delivering a seminar in Barcelona to a room full of Europeans trying to make rent. In the end, it wasn’t my looks or jumbled words that helped me to move from not being the woman’s type to her eventually becoming my wife. But rather the fact I had the stones to insert myself into challenging situations.
Putting yourself into uncomfortable spots today to be more comfortable tomorrow is one way for people to find you fascinating. Below are seven other tips, tricks, and habits of some of the interesting people I’m lucky enough to have in my life that can seriously boost your fascinating factor.
1. Immerse yourself in the land of the opposite
My friend John Gorman told me that for a year he only read the words of women and men who didn’t look like him. Can you imagine how much you’d learn about the human experience if you did this? Can you imagine how much more open-minded, patient, and empathetic you’d become?
You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to be considered fascinating. Nor do you need to be the fastest or the strongest. But you do need to be down for learning a new something, meeting a new someone, and seeing a new somewhere.
John’s actions serve as a strong reminder that you don’t need to leave your couch to enrich your life. All you have to do is proactively learn and be open to the points of view of people who are different than you.
2. Keep some hobbies to yourself
“Laura’s skiing today!”
“Skiing?” I replied.
“You didn’t know she races?”
I loved learning through the grapevine my friend spends her winter weekends cruising down the slopes despite being in a wheelchair. The same goes for hearing one of my friends runs a podcast dissecting kids’ books outside of his day job for fun. Both of these things made me think there’s more to both of them than meets the eye.
Not everyone needs to know your every move. Keep a few things to yourself. If you’ve been writing for a while, having people randomly find out you’ve had a few articles in big-name publications is much more interesting than blasting every word you write on social media.
3. Be bold in the moments that matter
I met a man while walking The Camino this past spring but I didn’t catch his name. Would it be possible to pass on the contact information for any Dutchmen who finished the walk around the same time as me?
A family friend, Miss Marry from Norway, sent this message to the offices of The Camino de Santiago after she couldn’t get a man she met in passing out of her heart and head. Fortunately, the woman she reached had a soft spot for her story. Miss Marry then sat down and wrote each of the names she was given Christmas cards hoping one of them would be the man she met. A few weeks later, she went out to her mailbox, and waiting for her was a reply. Miss Marry and Mister Gerard have been together ever since.
Miss Marry was 87-years-old when she did this. Like other people who fascinate us, she was scared to reach out to a bunch of strangers. But she came to the conclusion a no was better than not knowing — which is a characteristic that runs consistently in many of the fascinating people I’ve met.
4. Give your inner voice the last word
A friend published his first article at the beginning of 2020. 90 days later, he was making more money in a month than most people in his country make in a year.
I asked him what he’d been up to as I hadn’t seen his name in a while. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to code,” he replied. “Now’s the time to do it!”
My friend could be leading a financially rich life today. Instead, he chose to enrich his life by learning something new despite countless people saying it’s a dumb thing to do.
Maybe learning how to code will turn out to be a good decision. Maybe it won’t. But it’s hard to knock the guy for giving himself permission to create his own green lights in life. At their core, people who fascinate us treat their curiosity as their primary responsibility.
5. Bury your head a bit deeper than the average duck
Did you know the first luxury item Oprah bought was a set of Ralph Lauren bath towels as it reminded her of how far she’d come from the young girl who had to share towels with her half-sisters? Or that Benjamin Franklin didn’t use towels at all and let God’s breathe dry him each morning after asking himself — “What good can I do today?”
One of my closest childhood friends isn’t the most outgoing guy in the world. But every time we talk, he drops an interesting tidbit about the world. The same guy speaks 7 languages — and not just according to Duolingo — he used to teach Germans German.
Dale Carnegie may have been talking about conversations when saying, “If you want to be interesting, be interested.” But the advice applies to everything you do. Instead of scanning the internet for articles that catch your eye, steal a line from my childhood friend and bury your head into the things that interest you. According to author Robert Greene, the good stuff resides when we make our way into the inside.
6. Choose your heroes carefully
For someone with writing chops, it’s easier to game the system today to make a buck than it was yesterday. That’s why I enjoy reading people like Stephen Moore so much — he looks for the intersection of what’s not being said around random topics he enjoys.
When I asked him who he models himself after, true to form, he gave a hat tip to another writer who fascinates others by choosing what interests him over what’s trending, Herbert Lui.
Emulate people who light you up over who’s hot. Read Stephen’s work. Definitely read Herbert’s book. They’ve chosen the rare road today of that of a craftsman. Though they aren’t as prolific as some viral machines, the people they’re looking to attract find them fascinating as fark.
7. Give yourself permission to be bad
“I’ll call you in a few hours. I gotta get to belly-dancing class!”
My wife sent me this message shortly after we began dating. I had no idea she spent her Thursday evenings belly dancing. *“I’m horrible at it,*” she replied when I asked her about it. “But that’s what makes it so much fun. The girls and I laugh a lot and grab a beer after. It’s a buzz.”
No matter how much of an expert you are in an area, never stop being a beginner. Your own life won’t be the only thing more fascinating, but so will your reputation.
Plus, no matter your orientation, I bet you’d rather get to know a Catalan belly dancer than spending your time with someone who moves straight from work to the bar or their latest side-hustle people love to constantly talk so much about.
I asked my friend Genius Turner if he had time for a quick call. “Sure thing,” he replied. “I’ll let you know when I begin talking again.”
I don’t know about you, but I found that response absolutely fascinating. In one sentence, Genius summed up the one quality that all the people I’ve written about in this article possess — they dance to their own drum.
In a world full of masks, if you have the stones to do that — while being curious about how the other half lives — it’s only a matter of time before the right people find you fascinating too.