What do Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Mark Zuckerberg have in common?
Possibly a few things way beyond us mere mortals.
But the answer I'm looking for is ... [drum roll please] ...
They all wore the same clothes everyday.
Think about it.
Steve Jobs: black Issey Miyake turtleneck sweaters, blue Levi's jeans, and New Balance sneakers.
Mark Zuckerberg: grey T-shirt, blue Levi's jeans, black Nike sneakers.
Einstein: grey suit.
Now Jobs actually had 100 of those turtlenecks hanging in his Californian closet, and Zuck has at least 20 identical grey tees. But Einstein literally wore the same clothes day after day after day (presumably up to the point that his wife Elsa would say: "Really, Albert?" and pop them into the wash).
So, counter-intuitively, the most creative minds have self-regimented to what essentially became a uniform.
(One of Steve Job's wilder ideas was to implement an actual uniform for all his Apple workers, inspired after a visit to Japan, but was never implemented.)
This thrills fans of personal branding who see it as a consistent signal. A signature.
But the reasons run deeper.
It's all to do with decision-making.
Specifically, making one less decision every day.
"What will I wear today?" already scores a massive tick by the time they jump out of bed. And all three have pointed to the fact that their original reason was to think less about that "frivolous" stuff as Zuck calls it, and dedicate their brain's bandwidth to the important stuff of the day.
Which makes sense from a behavioural point of view.
Because we all have a quota of good decisions we can make in a day. And as the day goes on, decision fatigue sets in, and the quality of our decision-making falls off the cliff after lunch.
Here's a tip: make all your big decisions early in the day. Faced with a big decision to make in the late afternoon? Sleep on it and tackle it the next morning.
So, knowing this, how does this affect you?
What clothes or outfit are you the most comfortable and confident in? (The two are often closely related.) Why not go and buy a few pieces of that same outfit, and start wearing them on consecutive days. What are you afraid of? Are you worried that your colleagues or clients will think you're actually wearing the same thing? Or are you secretly worried about standing out by trying to make a signature statement?
In my case, I just organically started mixing and matching my corporate colours (black, red, orange, yellow), until one day I stumbled on some bright orange pants in a men's store. That was it -- I bought two pairs, paired with black shirts. And the reaction was immediate. "That's great -- we can always spot Stu across a crowded conference room," said a Singaporean colleague, Christina. "Just look for the orange pants!" (Hey, and the shiny head!) On the other hand, a (former!) friend, Kerry from Sydney immediately nicknamed me "Professor Pumpkinpants!"
After that I was never going to change my uniform, and have since added several new pairs to the collection. "Haha! How many pairs of those do you have?" laughed SanSan, a client in Malaysia on seeing me again on a recent visit.
It doesn't have to be something creatively over-the-top. In the case of Dan Burton, the buttoned-down CEO who grew his team at Health Catalyst from 3 to over 800 now, wears the same thing everyday. He describes his style and approach as:
"Super boring, as a way to simplify, same Lands End button down shirt and Mens Wearhouse slacks to work everyday."
So, what are you going to wear tomorrow?
Mark Zuckerberg already knows. And if it's good enough for him, perhaps it's worth a try.