When we are in the throes of manufacturing lollacups, I spend quite a bit of time in the car, driving to and from our factories. One day, I was listening to a “marketplace” segment on NPR that was fascinating. The discussion was about, “Why more athletes are choosing to sport eyewear.” I really have no interest in this particular topic, but the whole discussion really spoke to me.
Apparently the NBA star, Lebron James, wears non-prescription eyeglasses, and Harvard economist Roland Fryer explains the reason as a ‘two-audience signaling mechanism.’ As Fryer puts it, “These guys are saying to one audience, ‘Hey I’m here, I’m an athlete.’ To the other one, ‘Look at my glasses, look at the way I’m dressed, look at the way I carry myself — I can promote your product.'”
This idea of a signaling mechanism intrigued me. Prof. Roland Fryer went on to talk about one of his colleagues who admitted to dying his hair gray to be taken more seriously by his students.
I began to wonder if I have any signaling mechanisms? By blow-drying my hair and putting on makeup before a playdate, am I signaling to other moms that I have my life together? On the rare occasion that I’m dressed up and wearing heels and stop into Target to pick up a prescription with my 2 kids in tow, do people perceive that I am waltzing through parenthood and making time to primp?
The scenarios kept running through my head, until I realized that oftentimes, I do what I do because I truly do want to be “that person.” When I walk into a business meeting, serious but smiling and dressed to the nines in 4-inch heels, I really do want those people to think I am fully capable of achieving and doing it well.
One thing I cannot live without is under-eye concealer. I feel like it instantly makes me look and feel well-rested. I am, by no means, well-rested, but I really do wish I were and for now, to signal to others that I have had a good night’s sleep is fine by me. Maybe I’m not really understanding the gist of the radio segment I was so affected by, but perhaps “signaling mechanisms” are the best form of motivation. Perhaps one day I will make sleep a priority. To begin with, I will try “signaling” to my children that I am in full control of each and every situation, and perhaps, they will buy it!