I noticed something today that I found fascinating.
I know a guy in information security who is pretty much stellar in every category. Dependable. Smart. Well-rounded. Professional. Polished.
He has it all.
But he doesn’t stand out at all. He blends into the background. People who don’t know what he’s capable of based on experience simply dismiss him as some sort of generalist.
So I’m on a call with him and I say that I’m going to mention his name in this thing that might get some notice. Here was his response:
Well, even if it does get printed, all the other John Johnson’s are going to think it is talking about them…
His name is John Johnson (not really, but something like it), and I cannot help but wonder if this is why he has chosen to be so non-descript his whole life.
He’s way more talented than he lets on. It’s as if his name has squelched him—a consistent voice telling him that he’s not special.
And this led me to think about the opposite.
I have noticed for years that many C-level types I meet have highly individualized names.
A number of years ago I worked at a place where the CEO was named Casper Zublin.
How the hell do you not expect great things from that guy. He’s unique. He stands out. He’s special. You can tell right from his name.
So here’s what I wonder: What if the rich have figured out a massive advantage that separates them even further from the bottom and middle? What if they’ve figured out that breaking common naming conventions gives their offspring a massive advantage in life?
And perhaps the poor and middle classes are too structured and conventional to do the same.
A few other observations:
- Maybe immigrants thrive more because they stand out more?
- Asians are known for blending in, being quiet, and following convention. Could it be because they are one of many with the same name? I’ve not seen many Asians named Casper. Maybe there are Casper analogs in China, and I’m sure there are, but it’d be interesting to see how they do relative to the common names.
Anyway, my takeaway is that names are silently powerful. They can shine a spotlight on you for your entire life, urging you to become the star you were destined to be, or they can usher you into the corner to blend with the wallpaper.
If I were a parent, I’d be naming my kids something special. Because I want them, and everyone around them, to know that they are.