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Two events have converged this month that may or may not be related, but given that I intend to address both in this column, I suppose they are related now.

Event No. 1 is this month’s Cincinnati Profile theme, which is “style.” Event No. 2 is my son beginning his own career as an associate at a Cincinnati law firm. One way to meld these two events together? I suppose I could give Ben some advice on style.

Now, there are some challenges with this plan. Challenge one is that Ben is an adult and really doesn’t need advice from some old guy like me. I can see his eyes rolling as I type!

Challenge two is that I’m not a big fan of style tips. The phrase “Dress for Success” came out when I was in law school and I found it annoying. It could just as easily been called “Dress Like Everyone Else.” And to this day, when I read articles by “experts” on style, it just seems to me that the gist of every article is the “expert” is suggesting that people dress the way he or she likes. Which is fine, but to pretend that there is some sort of objective expertise behind the advice seems a little disingenuous. 

But challenge three, and most likely the biggest one, is that I am not what anyone would call “stylish.” My all-time favorite article of clothing was the Bugs Bunny sweater I wore (over my overalls – my second favorite) an inordinate number of days in college. My wife, who I met in college, says that the sweater was the biggest disincentive to dating me. And while I held on to it even after we were married, it later mysteriously “got lost” when she was doing the laundry, which is very similar to the family dog going “to the farm.” Both are vague, but permanent.

But these days, I steer away from Looney Tunes apparel and opt for a conservative look that most people would call boring. This is a direct result from growing up in the 70s. The best way to avoid getting photographed wearing a leisure suit is to avoid trends, and stick to the tried and true. In the tradeoff between boring and ridiculous, I have learned the hard way to take boring every time.

So, having listed the hurdles, I nonetheless offer these style tips. And the first is simply this:  Understand that “style” shouldn’t be about what you wear. 

True style is about how you conduct yourself. A big part of your style should be gratitude. Understand that we are blessed to be where we are and to have the opportunity to serve our clients and the community. A style that features gratitude will make it easier to deal with client demands. Never forget it is the client who makes it possible for you to do this, and you will find yourself working with a smile. A very stylish look indeed.

Don’t forget to incorporate empathy into your style. When you see things through the perspective of others you will automatically be less judgmental, and less self- righteous. That is a winning style by any measure.

And above all else, have style that is gracious. Think of others before yourself. Be generous with credit and stingy with blame. The synonyms for “gracious” are “merciful, compassionate, and kind.” And I can’t think of a more stylish trio of synonyms.