I had the opportunity to watch Wolf of Wall Street recently.   One of the scenes that caught my attention was when Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jordon Belfort started a new job selling penny stocks.   What was telling about the scene was how everyone was dressed. 

Everyone was dressed in casual or semi-casual clothes.  Everyone except Belfort that is.  Belfort showed up to work in a suit.  Every time we see Belfort at work from that point forward he is always in a suit, while everyone else at his new place of employment is not.  Why is this important?

It is about creating a deep belief within ourselves of success.  In psychology there is the principle of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  This principle is one of the truisms of psychology, but it is often misconstrued as only having to do with conscious thought – for example, if I think I am going to be successful then I will be.  A belief is more than a conscious thought, it also entails the unconscious and nascent messages we hold through the entirety of being.  In other words the self-fulfilling prophecy is a prophecy of belief and not necessarily one of conscious thought.   Though it has to be said that both the conscious and unconscious need to be aligned, which we also need to take heed off.

Belfort in his own way was tying into the self-fulfilling prophecy.  He believed he would be rich.   He acted on this belief and was willing to do whatever it took to achieve that end.  He separated himself from his peers in the way he dressed.  It was an implicit message to self that he would be successful.  In a very real way he was acting “as if” by the way he dressed, but was also being realistic and was not living beyond his means.

Belfort became a multi-millionaire albeit in a nefarious manner.  We cannot say that the way he dressed was the only reason or even the prime reason he became a multi-millionaire.  But we can say that it helped to create a milieu of success.

The way I relate to it is when I started a business many years ago.   Originally I was the sole employee and because of the nature of the work (research orientated) I had limited human contact work wise.  I worked from home.  Even though there was no real reason to get dressed for work, I regularly did so.  It was my signal to self to switch my brain into work mode.   Years later when living in Canada and doing a lot of web related work I was less focussed on the way I dressed.  I was reasonably successful in Canada but did not reach the heights of my former business financially.

I cannot say that the difference was because of the way I dressed, lots of factors interceded.  But I would be dismissive of the importance of setting up good unconscious beliefs as one of the factors contributing to success.

Today, I use a similar philosophy.   I have my therapist clothes.  These are clothes I wear when working with clients in a therapeutic manner.  These clothes are my signal to myself to switch on and be present for my clients.  It is way of switching into therapist mode.   Similarly, I have a purple cap which I wear when gaming.  When I wear that, it’s a signal to game…  I act and behave very differently in these modes.  It is almost as if there are two distinct persons there.  I call this phenomena state switching.

Dressing for success works in a similar way.  It can switch us into a different state of being which is more conducive to doing well in that sphere.   The movie Wolf of Wall Street reminded me of this.

I am off to purchase a red cap/hat to signal to myself, its book writing mode time…