84. This One Thing is Everything
The secret to understanding other people
Author’s Note (as if this entire thing isn’t an author’s note): I have a new rating scale on the bottom which didn’t work last time but it does now cause I’m no longer a buffoon.
I’m a voracious reader. I read well over 50 books each year and am on track for 70 this year. I love books. I love writing. I love reading other people’s writing. I love writing about other people’s writing that I’m reading. I love fox in socks on box with clocks.
Sorry, I had a Dr. Seuss moment there for a second. I’m back now.
When I walk into a person’s house, one of the first things I’m drawn towards is their collection of books. Apparently I have a magnetic attraction to a filled bookshelf. It’s actually kind of rude of me.
“Hi how are you nice house where’s your bookshelf oh I see it over there I’m going to check out what you’re reading I’ll be over here if you need me with my back facing you while I analyze your taste in novels and potentially judge you based on what you’re displaying.”
I’ve always believed that you can tell a lot about a person by the books that they read. Then I dated this one woman.
She was very nice, this woman. On our second or third date, I picked her up at her house and was invited inside as she got ready for us to go to dinner. I walked over to her bookshelf, as I’m known to do, and looked at her display of books. It didn’t take me long to notice that almost every single book on the (small) shelf was about serial killers. John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz, Jeffrey Dahmer and a variety of their peers.
I got really nervous. Nervous enough that I’m still talking about it decades later. Nervous enough that I thought I should turn away. It was just as I was turning away so she didn’t notice me looking when I looked up and noticed that she had noticed me looking.
“Hi,” I said with a shake in my voice. “Don’t you look great.”
“I’m really not a serial killer,” she replied. “I promise.” Which seems like exactly the type of thing that a serial killer would say when they’re pretending not to be a serial killer.
Anyway, we ended up dating for quite awhile and, as it turns out, I was neither murdered nor dismembered by her.
In the end I came to realize that you can’t judge a person by their book covers.
This conveniently brings me back to vegetable peelers, which we talked about in my commentary last week. Unlike books, you actually can tell a person’s personality by their vegetable peeler.
I will explain more in a minute.
The Way We See The World
Stephen Covey, author of the brilliant book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and a really smart, insightful fella, once said:
We see the world, not as it is, but as we are - or as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms.
Whether positive or negative, we all create our perceptions of the world and gather evidence to prove to ourselves that our perceptions are true. I’m an eternal optimist and usually choose to find the positive in things.
Because of what Covey and I believe, when interviewing people for jobs, I try not to hire people who are inherently negative. That negativity will eventually have a negative impact on the business. Even if they have periodic bursts of positivity, negative people are negative and not always the best in high pressure situations.
I have a friend who is inherently a pessimist. “I’m not really a pessimist,” she tells me. “A bunch of times I’m really optimistic about things.”
But she’s wrong - because being inherently pessimistic doesn’t mean you never have bursts of optimism. Somebody who is a nice person is allowed to be mean every now and then because you know they are going to go back to being a nice person. That is, inherently, who they are.
Our core behavior will not change. Or, at least, it will not change quickly and suddenly without a good reason.
One Thing is Everything
The way a person does one thing, is the way they do everything.
This is an important point and the entire purpose of where I’ve been leading us, so let me repeat it but put it in bigger quote-like text
The way a person does one thing, is the way they do everything
Show me a person who lied to make themselves look better, and I guarantee you that person will lie again when put in a corner. Conversely, show me a person who voluntarily tells the truth even though it could make them look bad or get them in trouble, and there’s a person with honesty who can do hard things.
If you send unprofessional business emails with a lot of typos, you’re probably careless in other ways and lack attention to detail.
If you regularly show up late to meetings, you likely miss deadlines on other projects and don’t have a great respect for other people’s time.
If you are calm in a crisis situation, you will probably be a level-headed leader when confronted with time pressures.
If you excel at crafts and design, you will probably bring creative thinking to situations.
Which reminds me again of the vegetable peeler I keep bringing up.
Just like every other example above, when we are confronted with the decision of which vegetable peeler to purchase, we will naturally opt for the one that best matches our personality. To repeat what Covey said, “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are” and so even in such seemingly mundane tasks as buying a vegetable peeler, we can understand human behavior.
The way we do one thing is the way we do everything.
So if you see questionable behavior in a colleague or employee that you decide to push aside, don’t push it too far. Pay attention and see if that behavior reveals itself in different ways. Listen to your gut, and see where it takes you.
Oh, and maybe ask everybody to share a picture of their vegetable peeler.
Other Random Things To Know
Mark Cuban on Hiring: I couldn’t fit this logically into what you just read, but here’s a short piece from CNBC about Mark Cuban’s take on who you should and shouldn’t hire. Read it here.
Run ATL and Me: I am grateful to have been interviewed on the RunATL podcast. Listen here - and subscribe to their podcast.
Top 3 Crackers: Because I know you wanted to know, my Top 3 crackers are: 1) Triscuits, 2) Stoned Wheat Thins, 3) Water Crackers. Post your Top 3 in the comments.
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