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Stephen Mayo | The Signals We Send

The Signals We Send

Dec. 20, 2020

Long before he won two Pulitzer Prizes, historian Robert Caro had a routine. 


Before he began writing each day, he would dress immaculately, often including a jacket and tie.  He followed this routine regardless of whether he was scheduled for meetings that day. And he started this rhythm in the days when he didn't have much money, before he was a highly-regarded writer as the author of The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.

It didn't matter to the typewriter what Caro was wearing.  But it mattered to Caro.  And getting dressed was one way that he signaled to himself it's time to work now.


If you examine your own rhythms...'s worth asking: what signals are you sending to yourself about what's important?  Do you wear an elegant shirt on top and sweatpants on bottom, because that's what's required for the Zoom call?  If yes, what does that communicate to you about yourself?


My point is not that we should all be impeccably dressed before work.  My point is that most people tend to pay a lot more attention to the signals they're sending other people, than they do to the signals they're sending themselves.  And I'd argue the latter is equally if not more important to our success and well-being.

What signals are you sending?



P.S. You can read more about Robert Caro here:

About Caro's writing routine in this article by John Leland (NY Times)

About Caro's perspective on power in this article by Rachel Syme (Medium)

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