Success via social climbing

Hello there. I'm out social climbing, but if you leave your name and number and if you're anybody, I'll get back to you.
(Erma Bombeck)

The quickest way for folks who are not rich to get rich? Social climbing by ‘marrying up’. In literature, that's the theme of every best-selling Horatio Alger book in the late 19th century, where the poor young hero saves the rich boss's business, and gets his daughter as a reward plus a promotion to management. Works today, too, but you'd better be able to talk about more than the latest TikTok viral video!

In America, getting rich is taken as your measure of personal success. But in real life, circumstances beyond our control usually determine whether we live or die, become happy or miserable, strike it rich or lose everything. For example: most rich people inherit their money. If you aren't rich, the overwhelming probability is that you never will be. Only 2 out of 100 make that fortune themselves. But a large part of a pleasurable life comes from work you enjoy, and you can use social climbing combined with art skills to get better, well-paid, and highly enjoyable middle-class and upper-mddle-class jobs.

Where to begin? Social events attended by rich people. For men, concours car shows. Which are for older vehicles, like my friend’s 1936 Delahaye (What’s that? Find out), and any number of Rolls-Royces, Bugattis, Duesenbergs, Packards, and so on. The cars are each worth millions. The old guys who own them are fiercely competive, even though they appear very mild in their straw hats, dark blue blazers, white shirts, ties, tan pants and polished brown shoes. For women, a charity fashion show. Dress down, not too showy or slutty. Charity events of all sorts are actually fair game, for both men and women. Other places? Boat shows, club houses at horse races and at golf courses.

Of course, rich people are always on their guard against ousiders trying to get into their wallets. Follow the old maxim, ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. When asked what you do, just reply ‘Graphic art’. Or your position, like ‘Art director’ or ‘Creative director’. And leave it at that, unless asked for more info. Then, you can make an enthusiastic but very short elevator pitch about how your design work builds brands, and the satisfaction you get from helping your clients sell more product. And stop right there, and go back to talking about that 1938 Bugatti with a fixed cylinder head, how on earth do they adjust the valves, or do you think Nieman-Marcus will knock off those rather military Paris spring fashions?

The CIA teaches agents how to infiltrate new communities, and the key is to develop new friends at different social levels, from the very rich to the very poor, and everyone else inbetween. This multilevel approach is vitally important in marketing a new product, like yourself. Try it – you’ll quickly get a sense of how folks from different social strata feel about you, your art, and life in general. Listen, and ask questions as often as you can.

Take your time developing new contacts. "Rome wasn't built in a day" is an adage attesting to the need for time to create great things. It is an English translation of a medieval French phrase, 'Rome ne fut pas faite toute en un jour', circa 1190... though it is often expressed in Latin, ‘Roma die uno non aedificata est’. If you are relaxed, friendly, and never ask for a job or money – you have baited the hook, and the fish will come your way, sooner rather than later. Just be yourself. Avoid arguments. Be pleasant, because the guy you are talking to might actually become a valued friend someday, which is worth far more than money.

Project – starting today, set yourself to attending one upscale social event per month. Jump right in, get your feet wet. Don’t have the right clothes? No worry. Observe what most are wearing, then go to a local high-end charity thrift shop. Fun!

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