Tim Pawlenty is a Knob…And We Can Learn From Him.

Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)

Minnesota's Problem Today. America's Problem Tomorrow?

We can learn something from everyone.  We can learn something positive from everyone, too, even people without much originality or substance.  And I think this is a good lesson. 

Take the governor of Minnesota, for example.  Tim Pawlenty.  If you need proof that even the stiffest stuffed shirt can gain popularity, you need to look no further.  To make the point even more impressive, let’s be clear about how good of model Tim really is.

Tim is a knob.  What’s a knob?  In my neighborhood — which was uncomfortably close to Timmy’s — a knob was a dismissive label for guys who simply drove you nuts.  It was a nerd’s way of defining a line between cool and interesting (e.g., nerds) and annoying and inane (e.g., knobs).  Playground stuff, I know, but it has its place here.  We are talking about Tim Pawlenty, after all.

Whether deliberately or simply because he doesn’t know any better, Tim Pawlenty has steamrolled right over his knobbishness.  He lives without any sense of shame or irony whatsoever.  And this is working for him.

Tim is a relatively young politician, for example, who wants to be young and hip, but he has played Elder Statesman right out the chute.  He has no problem doling out grandfatherly advice in folksy chats.   Like many Republicans, he’s struggling to be Ronald Reagan.

And just a cursory review of his speeches shows how much he sprinkles his message with family anecdotes especially those that bring in mention of his wife.  On his weekly radio show — now co-hosted by his wife — we hear his sickly sweet pet name “Honey” for her a few dozen times more than we need to hear it or want to hear it.  His “Honey” sounds flat, stale, stiff — like Tim — so it might be genuine, but a stage director would either change the line or find a new actor.  I wish we’d do both.

As a rule, when politicians start blending their private and public lives it becomes a bit much regardless of political affiliation.  Politicians who talk less about their family earn more points with me.  Pawlenty sees it differently.  He is trying to demonstrate that he’s a good family man, loves his wife, and he is inviting us in.  That’s a little too contrived and a little too intimate for my tastes.  But I’m not a Republican.

Tim Pawlenty is a successful flop.  He is more Barry Williams than David Cassidy, more Bay City Rollers than Rolling Stones…but he doesn’t seem to know it.  And that’s how he does it. 

Tim Pawlenty has been elected Minnesota’s governor twice and he is popular on the talk show circuit.  He does seem to have some popularity although he does not rank high on national polls for future presidential candidates.  (It seems that the rest of the nation is smarter than Minnesota, something you could not say before guys like Tim grew up and ruined the good state they inherited.) 

Tim Pawlenty is a nearly perfect practitioner of the “Fake It Until You Make It” principle of success.  The idea can be applied to sales and politics, which have a lot in common after all.  Build your confidence by pretending you have it.  Eventually you feel confident.  But politicians can do the same thing to build a reputation.  Keep talking like a folksy wise man and people might think you have something important to say.  Keep calling your wife “Honey” and drag her into your little stories and people might feel like they know you and your family.  Keep telling people you have good ideas and they might start to think it is true.

YOU CAN DO IT TOO!  In fact today I am going out the door with the “Pawlenty is Knob” example in mind.  I don’t care how uncomfortable it feels, I am going to fake it until I make it today.  If I feel like backing down, I’ll lay it on extra thick, like a megachurch preacher’s wife appealing again for just one more contribution to her Save the Children campaign.  I might even slap a back or two, tell an off-color joke and wink a lot.  No Willy Loman today!  All Gordon Gekko.  (I’ll let you know how it turns out.)



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