jama I have this friend who makes me feel like a Basset Hound, nipping at the heels of a Great Dane. It’s all because of a problem she’s had for at least the past 20 years. That’s how long we’ve known each other, which is plenty of time for me to diagnose what ails her. She has what you might call LCWT syndrome–Looking Cool Without Trying.

When I met her for lunch one day this fall, she was wearing a sky blue tunic, black leggings and boots, a stunning ensemble that made the most of her considerable height. If clothes can telegraph a memo, hers said, “I’m professional, but I’m even more fun.”

We work in the same field, are close to the same age, and by rights, have similar reasons for dressing the way we do. Next to her I felt dowdy–and I was wearing a leopard print jacket, for Pete’s sake. The jacket is now in a pile, ready for Goodwill.

Whatever “it” is, Jama has it. By that, I mean people are magnetically drawn to her. Is it the sparkle in her eyes? Could it be the way she refuses to waste time on anything toxic? Scratch that. Maybe it’s her ability to find humor in regular stuff and people. I’ve known her for two decades and I still can’t say exactly what gives her that je ne sais quoi.

In the same way Jama doesn’t try to look cool, she doesn’t try to be nice. That brings me to her second affliction, BNWT syndrome. (Being Nice Without Trying) People who are nice don’t have to try.

What passes for fashion in a given year doesn’t confuse Jama. She knows what looks best on her in every trend and season. Clothes are just an extension of her authenticity.

It’s a great code for style, but an even better one for life. Jama’s travails with LCWT and BNWT generate a lot of sympathy from friends like me. If we didn’t cut her some slack, how could she continue to be our style icon, much less the leader who has brought out the best in us?

I try to follow her example, but that’s a tall order, even when it’s reduced to three bullet points:

  • If the world is rampant with unnecessary snark, stand out by being unfailingly kind to everyone.
  • If you’re competitive and love to win, be the person who plays fair and helps others do the same.
  • Expect the best of people, even when they behave badly. They might eventually want to live up to your expectations because…well…you’re cool.

Who’s the Great Dane in your life? I know you have one!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.