From Chapter 15 “Intuition” in Ingredients of Outliers.
Proceed with Caution
Over the years, I’ve kept a list of things that should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The following is a sampling of the red flags I’ve collected. Some are specific to the medical profession, but others may be helpful for anyone charged with screening prospective employees.
- Don’t hire anyone who’s rude to your receptionist or assistant.
- Arrogant people rarely improve their demeanor.
- Laziness and negativity are contagious; eradicate the source or it will infect your entire staff.
- Flirting during an interview is always a red flag.
- Before interviewing prospective employees, check their istagram and Facebook profiles. Comments like, “Thanks for the great weed, dude,” should be worrisome.
- Snapping gum, chewing with mouth open, saying “Like” and “Ya know” every sentence are not positive signs.
- The tougher the pre-hire negotiation, the higher maintenance the employee.
- Applicants who “hit on your staff” during their interview process are never good hires.
- With employees who insist they’re doing their best when obviously they’re well below the mark, believe them – and then free them to find work elsewhere.
- You can’t teach kindness or compassion; if a caregiver doesn’t demonstrate those characteristics, he or she should not be working in a solo job.
- “My prescription for Percocet fell in the toilet; was eaten by my dog; was stolen; etc.” is a red flag, especially in the medical field.
- When nurses say, “Are you sure you want to discharge this patient?” rethink your options.
- Providers who were accused/convicted of having sex with patients are probably not “good hires.”
- Never hire someone who, in the job interview, identifies “turning my boss in to OSHA” as his greatest contribution at his last job.
- Employees who call in sick three days before their shift should raise suspicion.
- Think carefully about hiring candidates who fingernails are stained with nicotine and who clothes or hair smell like smoke; their smoking breaks will outnumber their productive work hours.
- Candidates with tattoos of swastikas or other hate groups, or of “Mom” spelled incorrectly, bear special consideration.
Parenthetically, that last one reminded me of a brief item that appeared in a leading sports magazine some years ago. It seems that a certain well-intentioned football player at a well-known university had his mother’s first name, which is MABEL, tattooed in four-inch-high letters on his chest. The problem: he spelled it MABLE! Definitely a red flag.
Feel free to use any of these red flags as your own. They’ve certainly saved me a few times when I might otherwise have gotten into trouble. Some may even keep you out of court or help you avoid some problems in your business or professional activities.
An “Eureka” Moment
As important a role as intuition serves to warn us of impending danger, it serves an equally important one in motivating and inspiring us to set forth on paths we may never have previously considered. For example, I recently learned the story of a Southern California-based speaker, consultant, and author named Greg Godek. Greg’s business background was in advertising, and for ten years he also taught an adult education class on romance.
One day his sixth sense, his intuition—that still small voice—or however you choose to describe it, whispered to him: “Greg, you ought to write a book about romance.” At that moment, recognizing how much he’d learned during those ten years, he decided to “listen to my heart.” It was 1991, and up to that point he’d never even thought about writing a book. But with that decision made, there’d be no stopping him. “After teaching about romance for all those years,” he said, “I knew the topic inside out. So the writing process was a one-month, 16-hour-a-day brain dump.”
But that was only step one. Once Greg got started, he was determined to keep moving. “My favorite quotation,” he says, “is from David Lloyd George: ‘Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.’” So when he learned that a traditional publisher would take from 12 to 18 months to bring out a new book, he immediately took that big step and decided to self-publish.
In order to pursue his dream, Greg quit his job, designed and printed his book, which he titled 1001 Ways to Be Romantic, and showed up at Book Expo America, the annual industry trade show. “I was green and wide-eyed,” Greg recalls. “But I’m a fast study. I learned that publishing isn’t brain surgery—but it is rocket science! So by working my butt off and mortgaging my house, I made it happen.” Within a few months, his book was on bookstore shelves.
For other first-time authors, that might have been “mission accomplished,” but Greg was just getting started. He knew instinctively that he was on to something big, so he embarked on a book-signing tour. This wasn’t the typical kind spent sitting in bookstores and autographing some books. Instead, Greg bought an RV, wrapped it in graphics that looked like a romantic movie poster featuring the cover of his book, and hit the road. It became what was then—and may still be—the most extensive book signing tour in the history of publishing.
Over a period of two years, Greg traveled back and forth across America four times, visiting forty-three states. How successful was the journey with this author-publisher-marketer at the wheel every mile? Well, his book sold more than two million copies during those years. Along the way, he attracted major media interest, resulting in appearances on Oprah and The Phil Donahue Show and mention by Jay Leno in one of his monologues on The Tonight Show. He was also featured in major newspapers and magazines.
Greg has continued to write and credits much of his success to his fifteen-year career in advertising and to “my relentless pursuit of publicity.” At the same time, he is quick to note that writing “was not my chosen profession, but the following of a muse.”
In his essay titled Self-Reliance, the well-known 19th-century writer and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson penned this sound advice: “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within.”
That gleam of light, that flash of intuition, can serve us all well, both in moments of danger and of inspiration.