A New Tool For Introducing Yourself

Is introducing yourself to others by giving them a copy of your personal user manual a crazy idea?


I’d like your help with this issue’s idea.

I really like the concept. If everyone adopted it, we’d all:

  • Be able to get to know each other faster
  • Get more out of each other
  • Minimize conflict caused by honest misunderstanding
  • Form a worldwide hand-holding circle to sing Kumbaya in unison

Lots of promise! 

But I haven’t even figured out how to apply the idea for myself. As much as I believe in the potential, it feels forced, self-involved, and try-hard-y. 

So this is where I could use your hand (…not to hold and sing along with—not yet—but to figure out how to improve and implement the idea).

Consider this…

YouTube video
Watch: He has an instruction manual… for himself? (54 seconds) on YouTube, Instagram

Human User Manuals

These days, even my son’s water bottle comes with a 10-step instruction manual. 

But us humans? The most complex machines in the world? 

Nope. We’re expected to figure each other out through trial and error:

  • How we’re wired
  • Conditions for optimal performance
  • Known defects and warnings
  • Preferred fuel and ways to recharge
  • Surprisingly useful, but hidden, functionalities
  • What buttons, if pushed, will cause us to self-combust

Some masochists like my wife Kim enjoy the challenge of piecing this all together. 

Not me. I’m as inadept at figuring people out as I am at putting together an Ikea shelf (even with the instructions).

So in the spirit of “be the change you want to see in the world,” I made my own personal user manual (postPDF). 

Maybe you’ve seen it already?

It’s been on The Zag for a couple of years now. Google Analytics tells me it’s been viewed over 20,158 times. 

But it’s been used by people I’ve actually met… I dunno… twice?  

This is where you come in.

Here are my two problems I’m asking for your help with:

1. How to use it more?

How can I get my user manual in front of more people I meet? 

I’m going to try putting it below my email signature. Should I text it to people I’m meeting with for coffee? Or is that too presumptuous? 

2. How can the manual be improved? 

Am I pushing the user manual trope too far? Should I add more background bio/resume info? Or more fun facts? What could I remove? 

If you were to meet for a coffee/date/meeting, what else would you be curious to know beforehand?  

Personal user manual example

Your Final Instructions

You might be thinking, 

“I have some opinions about this human user manual idea, but 4,849 other people are getting this email. Many will have the same or better ideas as me, so I don’t need to bother responding.”  


Or maybe you’re thinking, 

“What an idiotic idea for so many reasons. But I’m a nice person and don’t want to spoil poor Chris’ day with negativity.”

Double bunk! 

As my manual states (See: Care & Maintenance -> Feedback), I’m unusually unemotional and welcome constructive feedback. Destructive feedback, too. 

So please give me your feedback on:

  • This personal user manual idea in general, and/or
  • My manual specifically

And if you make a manual of your own, send it my way!

Thought Starters

  • 📛 Make your name more memorable? It’s awkward when you forget someone’s name, right? Well, maybe we need to do better at helping other people remember ours. So what if you flip the tricks for remembering others’ names? When introducing yourself, associate yourself with someone they know who has the same name (“Hey, I’m Chris, like Columbus, but not canceled yet.” ), or use a mnemonic (“Hey, I’m crooked Chris, because of my bent nose.”).
  • 👩‍🚀 “So what do you do?” How do you best answer this question? I like the approach from this video (12 min): Come up with a confident 6-word-or-less response, “I help x achieve y,” that intrigues the asker.
  • 🔗 Link your identities. The fastest way to build a bond with someone is to find an overlapping identity. (We’re both UofT grads! We’re both Skor Blizzard lovers!) So with this in mind, maybe it makes sense to list as many identities as possible in our user manuals?
About the author

I'm Chris. Canadian, husband, dad, writer, investor, athlete, and obsessed explorer of the secrets to living a never-boring, always improving, unfollowable life story.

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The Zag shares my adventures off of the boring beaten paths of life and ideas for finding your own unfollowable path.