Got a new car and named it Charles.
Thinking of naming other things in my life Charles: laptop, jockey shorts, sleep apnea machine. Put on your Charles under your pants, Charles.
In my life, something has happened in the past two years that has changed my standing in the world, street cred, and prospects for becoming rich and famous and listened to and lauded.
During this time period, I started a new job and my new boss and co-workers called me Charles because that’s what my resume said and how they addressed me in the interviews.
On the first day, they started calling me Charles and asked if I preferred to be called Charlie. For a second I thought of correcting them by saying for that my whole life I’ve gone by Charlie but decided to just let them keep calling me Charles. To course correct the trajectory of my fledgling and thus far forgettable career, I figured a new branding stunt might as well be given a whirl.
This one strategic decision has made all the difference. During work Zoom calls they ask leading questions such as “What do you think about this, Charles?” “Let’s set up a separate call to talk about this with Charles.” “Let’s give that assignment to Charles because he knows how to do that.” “This is an important strategic decision, so we need Charles to impart his wisdom” and “This company needs an International Men’s Day and Charles is the perfect person to lead that crusade.”
This is really happening. The lesson learned is that Charles is a name people associate with respect and competence and seriousness and grandeur. Makes me wonder, and I’m figuratively kicking myself, for not having people at work call me Charles when I started my career. Instead, until two years ago they called me Charlie because that’s how I asked them to refer to me, being the unsavvy, socially unaware person I was but am no longer.
For 36 years co-workers called me Charlie. For 36 years I made mistakes, got rejected, got fired, underperformed, and – let’s not forget this — said things that made people roll their eyes and have side conversations and email chains about me offline.
Had I only known the power of the name Charles 38 years earlier my life would have been so much more fulfilling and worthy of awards and relevance.
Think about the guys you know named Charles. Consider Charles Woodson – Heisman Trophy Winner, All-Pro in the NFL. Heavy hitter. Everybody respected Charles Woodson and still do and always will. Because his name is Charles.
But what if he had gone by Charlie Woodson? Would he have been as accomplished? I think not. I can imagine opposing quarterbacks trash-talking in the huddle: “Hey let’s go deep on that Charlie Woodson guy. He can’t cover you. No one named Charlie should be respected for his defensive skills. Charlie’s a choke under pressure.”
I venture to say that if Charles Woodson had gone by Charlie Woodson he would not have won the Heisman Trophy. The judges would have subconsciously, or maybe consciously, felt a visceral aversion to voting for a guy named Charlie for the Heisman. “I know he’s good but I just don’t like his name. It’s too vulnerable to ridicule and doesn’t conjure up thoughts of superiority and dominance. If his name was Charles, I would have no problem voting for him.”
Now consider Charles Barkley. Everybody loves him. The dude makes gazillions. None of his excessive good fortunes would have happened if he went by Charlie Barkley. “Ah that Charlie Barkley, he’s as laughable and ignorant as Charlie Hartley,” you can hear them saying at watercoolers across America.
There wouldn’t be all the adulation hurled at him. They wouldn’t turn to him for comments on the latest geopolitical news. No one would want that from Charlie Barkley, but they can’t get enough of it from Charles Barkley.
Another case in point: is Charles Haley. No one messed with, nor will mess with Charles Haley. A lethal-hitting, bull-rushing defensive lineman in the NFL, Charles Haley commanded respect without opening his mouth. But had he gone by Charlie Haley, people would never have felt the same way about him.
“Let’s run this play at Charlie Haley,” I can hear a quarterback saying in the huddle. “He’ll crumble under the pressure. Charlie’s afraid of contact. Let’s run 20 straight off-tackle plays at Charlie and we’ll win the game.”
There are other examples. Charles de Gaulle led the French Revolution or something. No one ever says “Charles de Gaulle was a lightweight” but they would have had his name been Charlie De Gaulle.
Closer to home, there was a guy in college we used to call Chuck Neal who one day said he wanted to be called Charles. He went from a wild jean-jacket-sporting guy as Chuck to a wine entrepreneur intellectual we all became in awe of, and still are — once he became Charles Neal.
Turning to Hollywood, we all thought Charlie Chaplin was funny and creative, but because his name was Charlie we also looked at him with more than a morsel of skepticism. “Charlie Chaplin — hah — gotta be a creep,” we said and still say.
So what’s the lesson here?
Change your name to something more formal and respectable-sounding if you want to pull in more professional respect, gain promotions, get invited to speak at bigwig power-broker dinners, and make bigger bank.
If your name is Bobby, demand they call you Robert from now on. The rest of your life will be more fulfilling. Are you Billy now? Go with William. William Tecumseh Sherman was somebody we learned about in high school history class who was important for some reason that doesn’t matter for our purposes here. He wouldn’t have been mentioned in that class had his name been Billy Tecumseh Sherman. No matter how regal his accomplishments, historians would have pushed this Billy to the appendix if they cited him at all.
Is your name Zack? Make them call you Zachary. Actually, don’t. Zackary will bring more scorn and ridicule on you than Zack.
Do you go by Jimmy? Switch to James. Better yet, call yourself King James and have that royal appellation tattooed on your right bicep along with the words “The Chosen One.”
Do you call yourself Sammy Sportface? Quit that. Demand your fans call you Samuel Sportface. Sammy is a name they fire at you condescendingly. “Hey Sammy, your blogs suck.” They would never say that if your name was Samuel Sportface.
“Hey Samuel, you’re an amazingly insightful and engaging blogger. I named my first kid Samuel Sportface.”
In a similar vein, no one makes fun of the writings of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain). They sure would have had his name been Sammy Langhorne Clemens. “That book Sammy Langhorne Clemens wrote was dreck” and “the writings of Sammy Clemens remind me of the mindless missives Sammy Sportface pukes out.”
Enough of that.
Call me Charles from now on you Harry Higher Schoolers, Wake fellas, Little Flower 29-4 teammates, co-workers, bosses, meticulous retirement financial planners, precise colonoscopist, Sammy the Butcher from “The Brady Bunch,” and the gaggle of guys who know me at the convenience stores: 7-Eleven, Bernardsville Food Store, Cumberland Farms, Cashion’s, Stop and Go, Go and Stop, and Quik Chek, to name a few.
When you walk in, they’ll say “Hey Charles, how many candy bars and slushies are you getting today? Can we buff your shoes while you’re here? People around here think you, Charles, are a celebrity worthy of praise. Would you like to sign autographs at our store one day next week, Charles?”
This new life filled with respect and admiration is happening for me and will continue.
Because I am now Charles. Je m’appele Charles.
Call me Charles.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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