You can thank my friend Joel Tabin for this one.
This rule is true 90% of the time. It’s so true that it’s critical to remember when dealing with new events in your children’s lives as well as managing or hiring an employee.
Pay attention to the beginning; it’s the blueprint from which all else will follow. If someone is late to an interview, they’re going to be late to work. If a child is chronically disorganized in the first grade, chances are, unless you intervene, they’re going to be chronically disorganized throughout school. People are who they are. They don’t change until the pain of making bad choices leads them to want to change.
The beginning is the blueprint
I was once hiring a salesperson. (This has happened several times, unsuccessfully.) The guy in question seemed great (let’s call him Bill), but he didn’t seem hungry enough for the job. Bill said all the right things. But there was no…urgency to the process. And the number one thing salespeople are taught? Always be closing. He didn’t seem concerned enough to be closing the deal and getting the job offer.
For salespeople, competition is the electrical impulse that keeps their heart pumping. They want to win more than anything. If they aren’t hungry, then they probably aren’t born salespeople. And when you’re hiring a salesperson, you want someone whose energy screams salesperson.
But Bill was the last candidate standing and I had invested so much in the process, I felt like I had to hire him (This is called a sunk cost. It’s a bad idea to make a major decision on a sunk cost. More about that in a different post.)
How you know the future isn’t bright
On the day I wanted to make the offer, Bill was driving down to Florida with his kids and didn’t want to pull off the highway to take the phone call. And that was the Aha moment for me. He was about to get a job and he didn’t want to pull off the highway to take the phone call. That told me all I needed to know. If I offered him the job, Bill wasn’t going to pull off the highway to make a sale for my company either. And I needed someone who would have stopped the car to make a sale (like I have done. Many, many, many times).
I know you know how the story ends: An awkward conversation with Bill. But that’s okay. He didn’t have the right energy for me or my company. Letting him go would have been even more awkward.
Yellow flags turn red fast
Pay attention to all the clues in the beginning. If it starts weird, or is uncomfortable, or all these yellow flags pop up, PAY ATTENTION. Things can change, yes, but most of time, if it’s weird, it will stay weird.
Some of you are thinking: But I had first dates that were uncomfortable that turned into a lifelong partner. I had weird interviews that turned into great jobs. I had a colicky baby who became a sweet little girl.
But for all your stories, there are even more stories about how it just started great and continued to be easy, smooth and obvious. Even so, your stories still exist about how things can morph into something better.
So, yes, things can change. My point is to pay close attention to the beginning. Often, with the benefit of hindsight, you will see that you learned everything you needed to know about how things would progress from the beginning. So, watch that start. It will tell you most of what you need to know.