Daddy Lessons #4: Perceptions


“You ain’t gotta let everybody know what you know.”

-Richard L. Bush (1948-1998)


I’ve been playing cards for about 30 years now. My mother’s sister, Linda, showed me and a couple of my other cousins how. I think she did this so we would leave each other alone and learn how to play together. For the larger part, we did. From that, my braggadcious nature was born. I am my Daddy’s girl, after all. Playing cards with him embossed this other level of isht-talking that I felt I had to master. And, over time, I did. Along with being ruthlessly competitive and observant of tells and other quirks.

However, the one thing that Dad taught me was how to disguise a tell.

Call it a Poker Face, nerves of steel, or RBF, but I have it. It’s a gift I guess.

However, in the realms of  networking, academia and non-melaninated spaced, the best advice my Dad gave me was to not let everyone know what I know. I don’t have to go into a space with my professional resume pinned to my shirt. I don’t have to kick in every door with all I know or all I can do. My Dad had to pull to the side (more than once) to remind me of this.

I have this this thing about being underestimated. Of being called stupid. Of being seen as less than. That is a personal character flaw. A friend of mine says that’s me ‘being defensive’. I’ll take that though. But Daddy had to remind me that it’s better to get into a room, reading a room, than to let everyone know you must might be the smartest dame in it.

For me, this is a constant balancing act. I have always had to prove myself, and I’m still at the point where I feel that I have to. In spite of my success, I still feel underestimated:  I hate that. I hate that with a passion! But, because God is merciful and wise, He gave me the father I had. Whom was just as driven, just as ambitious, and just as loud. Within all that, lay that wisdom of learning to be quiet and observe. It was his inability to read the room, which had costed him so many opportunities. His attitude was, “You don’t have to let everybody know what you know. Let them think that they want. You prove them wrong when you have to.”

Now, whilst in the thick of building a brand and finishing degrees, do I get all of this right? Not at all. As gracious as my mother tried to raise me to be, my Dad reminded me that ambition is tool of the visionary. And I get there are rooms I am invited in, or told about that will/do see my race and gender as a deficit. What I work on, according to this piece of advice, is to let people think what they want! Why? They will anyway.

I’m learning to take stock of the energy I exude. I’m learning that not everyone needs to know my pedigree and pedagogue. They really don’t! And even if I did rail about it from the mountaintops, or in Jimmy Choos,  there would still be people that wouldn’t care. So, why waste time with it?

The greatest blessing sometimes is making something out of nothing with people watching.