A Reading from Homer by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1885.

On First Impressions [Vivere #4]

A good first impression can work wonders. -J.K. Rowling

Do first impressions matter? We know from research it does. Someone can tell if you’re “leadership material”, charismatic, or if you’re a person they’ll get along with.

It’s especially true when we want to capture an audience. Whether it’s a career, business, or content, the first contact you make is vital on whether others will engage with you or not.

Living a Full & Balanced Life means living with purpose. Everything we do likely requires relationships.

When we choose to determine the first impression through intentional strategy, we increase our chances for exponential growth. Our impact multiplies and reaches more people than we can ever imagine.

On the internet, first impressions start with words.

Each word matters. Each one should move the sentence forward and connect with your readers. Attention is rare and you only have a few seconds to capture it (and a very unforgiving attention span to keep it).

That’s why I created Best First Lines. It’s a living, free Notion database with 180+ first sentences in books and other creative works.

If a sentence can make you stop in the middle of all the noise, then it’s worthy of studying and implementing it in your own creations.

Why does a first sentence matter? Your valuable asset is attention and the first impression determines if you catch it or not.

It’s a lot like Seth Godin’s Purple Cow.

We’re used to seeing cows if we’re on a road trip passing rural areas. It’s nice but gets boring after driving an hour seeing the same thing. But imagine you see a purple cow in the distance.

You swerve to the side of the road. You take pictures. You wonder why it’s purple and ask more questions like the color of its milk. It’s remarkable and it’s something you can’t ignore.

How can we develop a first impression? What makes you remarkable? What makes you so different that people can’t ignore you?

Study What Works

I wrote an article recently on Making of a Millionaire called 3 Business Lessons from Latin American Fiction. In my first point, I highlight the importance of a great hook that no one can ignore.

My readers and I dissected the following line by Gabriel García Márquez:

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” (One Hundred Years of Solitude)

I state the following:

“Many years later…” invokes a past and context that the reader needs to know, but she has to read more to find out. “As he faced the firing squad…” gives us a sense of danger and urgency because someone is about to die. And why is he facing death anyway? We get a name, “Colonel Aureliano Buendía,” which hints that this might have been from war or a revolution and a distinguished military official getting executed like this makes you wonder who the enemy is.

And then, of course, the Colonel strangely veers off into memory in the “distant afternoon” when he discovered ice with his father. Who would see ice for the first time? Why did it make an impact on him? And why does he remember it now?

First impressions start with original thinking. Thankfully, we are unique. There’s nothing new under the sun, but we can shed light from a different angle.

My favorite ingredients of a first impression are…

  1. Know the Audience
  2. Develop a Unique Perspective
  3. Tell a Great Story

In life, we want purpose. It gives us something to live for and creates a legacy that lasts long after we are gone. And it all starts with a first impression. Create something remarkable that’s worth noticing.

best opening line
“Many Years Later…” Illustration by Sathya, 2021

TThis essay is part of the series, Vivere: On Living a Full and Balanced Life.

Originally published on February 16th, 2021.