How to Stand Out Without Showing Off

A cheat sheet for quiet people who want to be seen

Michael Thompson
Published in
6 min readDec 4, 2020



“What the hell am I doing here?” I thought to myself. “This place isn’t for me!”

Cigarette packs, coffee cups, and manilla folders were everywhere. I felt like I’d just walked into the set of a bad sales movie. The year was 2003. The place was Baltimore. The people who weren’t screaming into their phones were yelling at each other about how many deals they had going.

Just as I began to think about making a run for the back door, the corporate trainer stuck his head outside the conference room and shouted, “We’re in here, Mike! Let’s go!”

I hesitantly walked into the room wrecked with sweat. All the information the corporate trainer threw at me for the next few hours didn’t help to calm my nerves. But towards the end of his talk, he said something that stuck with me: “Your job is simple — pick up the phone 100 times each day. If you do that, I don’t care who you are, the rest will take care of itself!”

Two months later, while attending the year-end party, the man’s words proved correct. Extrovert. Introvert. Ambivert. Young. Older. Single mom. Prep school kid. The numbers didn’t lie. Every single person who received an award that night for being a top producer picked up the phone more than the people who didn’t receive recognition.

As one of the more reserved people in the office, seeing this first-hand was super motivating. It opened my eyes to the fact that you don’t have to be someone who loves the spotlight to catch some rays.

Since that day, 17 years ago, I’ve been observing how quiet people stand out. In addition to choosing to be the type of person who shows up every day, below is a collection of my favorite lessons.

Choose calmness when other people don’t

During the same job as mentioned above, whenever something went wrong, while everyone else in the office was in hysterics, my manager would be thinking instead of speaking.

Since he’d normally be the last to talk, we saw him as the voice of reason. People found this extremely comforting.



Michael Thompson
Writer for

Co-creator of two cool kids with an equally cool woman • Word strategist • Storytelling coach • Free "story" guide: