Superpowers, and so can you

It was 5:00am when the parties reconvened to resume negotiations. None of us had slept for at least 24 hours; the mood was grim. As the other side filed into the conference room, the first thing out of their mouth was:

“Man, you guys look terrible! Well, except for you,” pointing at me, “you look great!” All heads turn to look at me. “What’s your secret?”

My secret? Well, for one, I have superpowers.

And I’ve also got some really good operating rules for how to look my best while sleep-deprived. Here are the top four:

1. What you wear matters. You’re always going to look incrementally worse after working all night than you did before working all night. So if you sense an all-nighter on the horizon, you should start out wearing colors you know you look good in, even at your worst (my default is blue and white) and a style that is at least one notch up from what you’d normally do. That way you end up looking normal, while everyone else looks worse than normal. (For example, I went into last night sporting a natty bow-tie/blazer combination rather than the standard business casual.)

2. So does how you wear it. By 3am, you’re going to be tired and uncomfortable. But that’s no reason to let yourself fall apart! Do not take off your tie or unbutton your collar or let your shirt come untucked or mess with your hair. You can roll up your cuffs, but that’s it. Also, don’t slouch.

3. Say yes to drugs. Whenever I’m super tired, I get headaches and cold symptoms (or, if I already have a cold, it gets worse). So I self-medicate early and aggressively to keep myself from falling apart physically.

4. Eye drops. Always have a bottle of maximum-strength eye drops in your bag (and this really is just a good life rule, even if you’re not pulling all-nighters). Apply liberally and frequently, especially a few minutes before you see someone from whom you’d like to dissimulate your tiredness. (That’s what I did last night — as soon as I learned that discussions were resuming, I ducked into the men’s room to freshen up with another round of drops.)

You’re welcome, and good luck developing your superpowers.

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