We all cope with stress in different ways. Some people don Lycra and get sweaty, others drink too much. Some people even take up hobbies. I have a plethora of methods. Sometimes I amuse myself by intentionally missing out receipts in an expense claim. Occasionally I use my anonymity at the office to wind up accounts interns by pretending to be from the HMRC. But what I enjoy more than anything is making people underestimate me, and it turns out it can be a useful business skill.
There are loads of ways to make people underestimate you. For example, drive a so-called Q-car. This can be almost any car, as long as it looks normal and run-of-the-mill. Underneath, however, it needs to be a thoroughbred racing car, able to outpace any flash Ferrari or steroidal German saloon. The same applies to clothes — I couple my suit with very plain black leather lace-ups that look positively peasant-like in comparison to the ornate loafers my colleagues strut about in. Their shoes cost a bomb — invariably they have been crafted from a pH neutral virgin cow by master craftsmen with bushy eyebrows and half-moon glasses. However, mine are waterproof, which means I can lead my colleagues through puddles and enjoy the rest of the afternoon as they squelch awkwardly about the office.
Equally, during introductions at dinner parties, it is always better to describe oneself as a relative failure. I have tried loads of different sob stories, from terminal unemployment to something far worse — a junior role in HR. People immediately warm to you, knowing that they are better, luckier and more successful. They will tell you things they wouldn't divulge to an equal. Recently, one even lent me the keys to his Aston Martin. He did so in the presence of many people, purely so the others would think: "What a nice chap, being so generous to that poor reprobate who cleans the public loos in Glasgow."
Take another recent example: a corporate 'entertainment' day spent clay pigeon shooting. On the coach, the guys were trying to compete with credentials, claiming paintballing experience or good eyesight. In contrast, I asked the noisiest of them for any tips or advice they had to offer.
I organised a prize fund, and strangely enough the odds on me winning were level pegging with a partially sighted female socialite, who'd been drafted in to make up numbers. As the underdogs we formed a team and won rather a lot of money. The others had underestimated a girl who grew up on a farm prior to residing in Sloane Square and an IT geek who spent four years in the forces.
If you're struggling with stress, it may be worth trying this method. All you need is a Subaru, Gore-Tex-lined shoes, a CV so desperate you'd struggle to get on Jeremy Kyle and one or two hidden skills no one knows about.
Our entrepreneurial correspondent travels the world in search of business, soft beds and good breakfasts.
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