Your weird behavior is the key to finding your career niche

My personal hygiene is holding back the growth of my startup.

This month I am teaching a course: Get the Guts to Start Freelancing. If you are sick of me promoting my courses on this blog, then please note that this is not the post where I am promoting this course. That’ll be another one. In this post I am going to tell you that the course is four days and I will probably not change clothes for any of the days.

Because the truth is, I don’t really change my clothes. I pay someone to do our laundry, and for the first two months she worked for us, she would always ask where my laundry is. She asked me if I had someone else washing my clothes.

I thought of telling her I dry clean everything. But there are no dry cleaners in our whole congressional district. No stoplight, no dry cleaners. So I told her I don’t like the stress of having to feel a different set of clothes on my body. When I already know what one set feels like, I hate the thought of changing it.

She pointed out that sometimes the clothes I’m wearing are so dirty that they must actually get a new texture to them.

The farm encourages this behavior. There is no point in being in fashion on the farm. No one sees me except Matthew and the boys. Matthew likes trashy lingerie and nothing else, and the boys go nuts if they even see my bra strap “Mom! Cover up!” So they cancel each other out and there is really nothing I could wear that anyone would care about.

So I never change clothes. Anyway, in the list of traits that make a good entrepenreur, conscientiousness and IQ were of the same importance: zero.

I read about a guy who bought twenty of the same shirt.

So I did that too. I have a set of cashmere sweaters that I wear year round. I wear a cashmere sweater picking berries in 90-degree weather because I’d rather be too hot than in unfamiliar clothes.

If you have ever seen one of my webinars, you will notice that while other people find it difficult to talk for four hours on the same topic and be fun and useful the whole time, that’s easy for me. The hard part for me is knowing what to wear.

Melissa gave me a list of tops that are approved. But changing my top each day is like jumping into the unknown. The top might be tight in different places than the one before. It might have a different arm length. For some courses I can’t stand the anxiety and I just wear the same top for the second day of the course.

And then I got nervous that people were noticing that I’m not changing clothes, so I announced to everyone in the course: “I am not changing clothes for this course.”

Then Melissa said, “I think people are more concerned that you are not showering.”

This is another thing about hygiene. I did not think people could tell that I don’t wash. When I played beach volleyball in my 20?s, I’d be at the beach for six hours a day, and I’d bike ride 15 miles to the beach and 15 miles back. I never had shampoo or soap. I just sort of jumped into the shower and jumped out and went to work at the bookstore. I focused on getting the sand off me.

It’s a social skill to wash at the same frequency other people wash. Everyone does it but I think I can get away with ignoring it. So I do. Just like I ignore it when people say, “Hi, how are you?” And I just go straight to our conversation. They don’t care. A key trait of successful startup founders is they think conventional rules don’t apply to them. So actually, not asking “How are you?” might be good for my company.

And deciding to skip bathing might be the hygiene corollary of poor conversational skills. So maybe that’s helping me, too.

But Melissa says I at least have to wash my hair when I’m recording a course.

At first I thought she was a nut about hair. After all, she has put in hair extensions and flown from Tokyo to some other Asian country to get her hair flat-ironed for a date.

But then in another course, How to Grow a Six-Figure Coaching Business, they said in the chat—because there is chat and it’s like a conversation—how everyone could tell that I have not showered.

That photo up top, with all the action, maybe my hair is passing. But I can see when things calm down that my hair is really dirty.

Melissa made a rule for me that if I know someone will be at my house with a camera I have to wash my hair. I said okay and assumed no one could tell if I followed the rule or not. Which reminds me of great research from Stanford Business School that says successful startup founders are delusional, independent thinkers and assume they are smarter than everyone.

I also think of that research when I get parents emailing me about how can I help their kid with Aspergers grow up to have a successful career like mine. I try to help. It’s not like me to say that I don’t know—about anything. I’ll take a shot at anything.

One mom told me her daughter is a teenager and doesn’t brush her teeth. I said, “Don’t worry. I didn’t brush my teeth until I went to college. Only because of peer pressure. And even now I still don’t brush them every day.”

Another parent asked me how to get her kid to stop spilling food at the table. I said, “Don’t worry. I do that. I just make sure not to eat when other people are eating. I pretend to eat until I’m alone.”

Maybe, if I thought I could handle looking appropriate for more days this month, I could add a course about how to help your kid with Aspergers get a job. But I can’t handle it. Not this month.