• Home >
  • Blog >
  • How to ‘Look Backstage’ to Build Serious Wealth

How to ‘Look Backstage’ to Build Serious Wealth

Posted on: March 1st, 2019

Shakespeare’s famous words “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women simply players” may be truer than he ever suspected.

Today, many sociologists rely on something called the dramaturgical perspective to help explain how we present ourselves to, and interact with, other people. Some of the savviest self-made members of the Super Rich (people with a net worth of $500 million or more)know and harness this perspective when working with clients, prospects, centers of influence and other people who are key to their continued success.

Here’s how it works—and how to use it to get a good look at people’s “backstage” areas in ways that can enable you to enhance your own results.

Front-stage and backstage

The dramaturgical perspective, a theory developed by the eminent sociologist Erving Goffman, is predicated on a theatrical metaphor—with a stage (front and back), actors and audiences. Goffman’s theory contends that because people are social actors, they will present themselves in various ways to create and nurture the way they want different audiences to perceive them.

If you live and work in the corporate world, you may hear this perspective phrased in a different way: impression management.

Central to the dramaturgical perspective is the concept of “front-stage” and “backstage.”

  • Front-stage is where people can see your behaviors and hear your proclamations. When you are front-stage, you are playing a certain role. It’s all about how you want other people to identify you and think about you.
  • Backstage, in contrast, is about being out of the limelight. It is where you are relaxed and not motivated to put on a “show” for an audience. Backstage, you are unobserved and unconcerned about others’ impressions of you—and how to manage those impressions to your liking.
  • Everyone has a backstage. Other people’s backstage areas are where your focus and concentration should be if you’re trying to build significant wealth. Backstage is where the deepest or “most real” information about a person typically resides. (See Exhibit 2.)

You on stage

Think about yourself through the lens of the dramaturgical perspective. What impressions do you want other people to have of you? What characteristics and qualities would you like other people to attribute to you? This is front-stage.

Examples: Some people want to be seen as the smartest person in the room. Some people prefer to be viewed as industrious. For most people, there is a diverse combination of what they determine to be positive qualities.

Now, think about your life backstage. This includes all the facts about your life that you’d prefer very few people know about and the qualities you see in yourself that you believe to be less than ideal. There are often significant gaps and even contradictions between front-stage and back stage. Backstage is full of “secrets” about yourself that you’d like to keep under wraps.

The self-made Super Rich’s focus on the backstage of others

Professional poker players in high-stakes games will often talk about not only playing the cards, but also playing the other poker players. They are looking for “tells”—physical or verbal signals that other players give that offer clues about the strength of their hands. These poker players are basing some of their decisions on both their knowledge and perceptions of the other players.

Many of the self-made Super Rich are a lot like these world-class professional poker players. They are highly motivated to “look backstage” in order to truly understand the people they are dealing with.

The self-made Super Rich gain knowledge of other people’s backstage in a combination of ways, including:

  • Knowing the history of the people they are dealing with
  • Asking astute and detailed questions
  • Actively listening for pieces of valuable information over time (see the box below for more)
  • Cold reading

The last item in that list requires some explanation. Cold reading is an orientation and a set of techniques that can be used to effectively uncover information. Commonly, cold reading combines making high-probability guesses with quickly picking up on reactions to ascertain the accuracy of the guess (or to speedily move on to other topics).

Example: By talking about health issues, it is possible to get a good understanding of the health concerns of others and how impactful those concerns are for them.

Next level: At times, the self-made Super Rich will be highly proactive and turn to investigators to find useful information. When it comes to big-money negotiations, for example, the self-made Super Rich may use investigators in order to better understand the most important motivations of the other parties involved.

Two ways to use backstage information

Gaining backstage insights about others allows the Super Rich to accomplish two important tasks that help them increase their overall success.

  1. It helps position people as resources and boosts trust. The backstage area is replete with people’s self-identified weaknesses and problems. By helping them better address these issues and concerns, the self-made Super Rich gain credibility with important contacts in their lives—and receive appreciation from those people. Often this can lead to new partnerships, agreements and arrangements to work together that are profitable for all involved.

Example: One type of cold-reading technique is to discuss people’s kids. If a person has a lot of children, a high-probability guess might be that one or more of them is having some sort of challenge or problem. By discovering the parent’s concerns, the self-made Super Rich can potentially position themselves to help—thereby adding value, enhancing rapport and deepening the relationship.

  1. It helps create competitive advantages. Discovering things about people that they would prefer to remain unseen can give the Super Rich a powerful advantage in managing and negotiating situations. It can increase the chance of winning in numerous business scenarios—just as it can give poker players an edge in competitions.


Generally speaking, what is backstage tends to dominate the thinking and actions of people. It is what is behind the costumes and masks that can be the most powerful and important information to know. Adopting the techniques that can get a glimpse at that backstage area can help you in your own efforts to generate wealth, make deals and increase your overall level of success.

This report was prepared by, and is reprinted with permission from, VFO Inner Circle.  AES Nation, LLC is the creator and publisher of VFO Inner Circle reports.

Disclosure: The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra IS or Kestra AS. The material is for informational purposes only. It represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. It is not guaranteed by Kestra IS or Kestra AS for accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS.

Fusion Wealth Management is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. https://www.kestrafinancial.com/disclosures

VFO Inner Circle Special Report
By Russ Alan Prince and John J. Bowen Jr.
© Copyright 2021 by AES Nation, LLC. All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, includ- ing, but not limited to, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or any information storage retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Unauthorized copying may subject violators to criminal penalties as well as liabilities for substantial monetary damages up to $100,000 per infringement, costs and attorneys’ fees.

This publication should not be utilized as a substitute for professional advice in specific situations. If legal, medical, accounting, financial, consulting, coaching or other professional advice is required, the services of the appropriate professional should be sought. Neither the authors nor the publisher may be held liable in any way for any interpretation or use of the information in this publication.

The authors will make recommendations for solutions for you to explore that are not our own. Any recommendation is always based on the authors’ research and experience.

The information contained herein is accurate to the best of the publisher’s and authors’ knowledge; however, the publisher and authors can accept no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of such information or for loss or damage caused by any use thereof.

Unless otherwise noted, the source for all data cited regarding financial advisors in this report is CEG Worldwide, LLC. The source for all data cited regarding business owners and other professionals is AES Nation, LLC.

The only newsletter you need to grow your personal wealth