Chapter 4

The Steps to Laddering

Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid or something?

Oh no, it’s just they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

—The Princess Bride

WHETHER WE REALIZE it or not, we put on a mask every morning as we head out into the world. Some of us wear the mask of successful business owner, while some present ourselves as teachers, skaters, doting mothers, or renegades.

We create an external identity of who we are, and we are careful to present ourselves that way as we go about our daily tasks. We use our clothing, appearance, and speech to communicate this identity to others.

Yet who we present ourselves to be in public is very different from what others might observe about us if watching us in our most intimate of places, such as our homes, cars, and offices, or even if looking through our bags and purses. It takes getting into these intimate places—beyond the mask we present—to understand who we really are underneath. And as we move even further into the era of the acceptance of the individual, we choose to buy from and associate with brands that resonate with who we are at our core. We avoid those that try to sell to us or change our fundamental behavior.

In his book Blink (2007), author Malcolm Gladwell introduces and discusses the concept of thin slicing. In my experience, this is a much faster way to get an idea of a person’s core than simply listening to what that person tells you, especially if that ...

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