The trickiest part of life: other people


How do you attain it?

In any field, there are about half a dozen things that really matter. Mastering them takes time and focus, but it’s usually not too hard to figure out what the essential elements are.

Pay attention to what people who are successful in the field you want to succeed in actually do. Not what they say they do, but what they really do.

Be smart enough to listen to the practitioners who tell you straight and be very wary of the ones that tell you all the answers are contained in their latest “Launch.”

While it may be true there are only a few things you need to do well in order to succeed, there are a countless number of ways to screw up and that’s what this article is about: screwing up.

The facts of life

Very, very few people are on the receiving end of either incredibly good or incredibly bad luck. Some things go our way. Some things don’t.

When we fail, it’s because we do ourselves in.

There are two basic ways to do yourself in:

1. Failing to invest in yourself

2. Tangling your life up with people who bring you down

Let’s look at these two mistakes in detail

1. Failing to invest in yourself

I’m NOT talking about buying an expensive “mentoring” program from some telemarketing boiler room.

I’m talking about simple things like not making the time and effort to uncover your real interests and talents…

…Not reading and taking relevant classes

…Blasting huge amounts of time in unproductive activities like watching TV

…Not making the effort to reach out and develop colleagues who share your interests and values

…In short, not taking the time you have on this earth seriously.

All this comes under the umbrella of not investing in yourself.

Screw Up Method #2...

2. Tangling your life up with people who bring you down

A second and very reliable way to screw up your life is to bring people into it who screw it up for you.

I’m not talking about the so called Law of Attraction.  I’m talking about letting people into your life who screw you up and letting them stay in your life to screw you up another day.

There are a lot of good, hardworking people who take themselves down this way.

How do you get around this one?

When you’re in the middle of it, it can seem the most baffling problem there is.

You might ask yourself:

“Aren’t the people who come into my life a matter of the luck of the draw?”

“Don’t we need people in our lives to have full lives?”

“Don’t people sometimes trick us by presenting themselves as being one way and then turn out to be exactly the opposite?”

Yes,  yes, and yes, but…

The luck of the draw

There is definitely a degree of randomness about the people you meet.

On the other hand, I believe that people who think that you attract who you meet by some mystical force are wrong.

You “attract” whoever happens to be on a collision course with you. That being said what you DO with this accidental event is ENTIRELY up to you and that definitely is an expression of what’s going on in your mind.

Rather than talk about the “Law of Attraction” when it “attracts” the wrong people into your life, it should really be called the “Law of Stubbornly Turning What Could Have Been a One-Time Meeting into an Ongoing and Painful Soap Opera.”

If meetings are random, it’s best to keep moving until you find the right folks: partners, vendors, employees, colleagues, mates, buddies  (fill in the blank.)

The right one, not the one right now. Big difference.

But people need people, right?

Yes, in the long run, but if you want to solve all your people problems now and forever and reliably nip future ones in the bud fast, tattoo the following somewhere where you will never forget it:

“It is infinitely better to have no person in my life than it is to have the wrong person in my life.”

First, the wrong person will drain you and make your life miserable. No fun.

Second, the wrong person will mess you up so much that even if the right person were standing right in front of you with a flashing neon sign over their head, you stand the chance of being too worn down and/or tied up in knots to even notice.

Is is really that hard to tell people who are good for you from those who aren’t?

If you’re scrupulously honest with yourself, you will probably admit that it’s really not that hard.

The “bad seed” who caused you so much grief probably telegraphed his or her massive f*cked-up-ed-ness (a technical term) virtually from Day One, but you didn’t see, or to be more accurate…you didn’t want to see because…

You were not operating from this ironclad principle:

“It is infinitely better to have no person in my life than it is to have the wrong person in my life.”

You needed an employee. Someone put on the charm and nodded a lot during the interview. You hoped for the best and hired them.

You were in a rush to get a vendor and you took the first one who answered the phone.

You had to have a partner to help you with the burdens of your business and…you get the idea.

And you took the person on, let them embed themselves in your life, and you got what you got.

Jean-Paul Satre said: “Hell is other people.”  If you don’t know the deep truth of that statement, you’re one lucky person.

How to steer clear of the bad ones

First, make sure that you’re operating from the principle: “It is infinitely better to have no person in my life, than it is to have the wrong person in my life.”

Second, believe that all God’s creatures are worthy of love and respect and treat them accordingly.

Three, know beyond any shadow of a doubt that at least nine out of ten of the people you encounter in life will have major HIDDEN competence, reliability, and/or  integrity issues. A small percentage will be flat out mentally ill and a percentage of that number criminally so.

Let me put it another way, when you meet a new person, they are 900% more likely to become a problem for you than a boon if you let them into your life.

As if that’s not a grim enough statistic, consider this:  Some of the very worst people come in the very nicest and most pleasing packages. They’re masters at creating “positive first impressions.”

They can also be very good at projecting “sweet , harmless and innocent.” It’s part of their pathology and modus operandi.

We’re social creatures

Normal human beings love to bond, they love to make new friends, they love to fall in love.

That’s great, but here’s a suggestion:

You can just as easily bond, make a friend and fall in love with someone after you’ve checked them out as thoroughly as you can. Fireworks, good times, charm alone are never a good reason alone to open the door to someone.

The next time you find yourself getting all excited about someone new ask:

1. Is there a big gaping hole in my life for this kind of person? (Be honest.)

2. Am I methodically overlooking flaws in this person and dreaming I’ve found a winner based on zero information, or worse, my own vivid imagination? (You don’t have to be asleep to be dreaming you know.)

3. Am I putting myself in a position where this person can do me harm before doing a thorough examination of their character? (which is easily determined by: a) watching how they act and b) checking their track record)

What’s that old saying? “Trust everyone, but cut the cards.”

And never, ever underestimate the harm the wrong person can do to your morale, your energy level, you bank account, your reputation. The downside is often much bigger than you think.

Trust and verify

First, know what your bottom line is. What you really want and what you won’t accept.

I’d say that competence, reliability and integrity are three good places to start.

Lack of integrity should be an instant deal killer.  Lack of reliability is its cousin. Lack or reliability in small things telegraphs lack of reliability in big things.

When you see signs of these two things cut and run. There is no possible way you can win in any situation with a human being who is reliability and/or integrity challenged.

As for lack of competence, if you really think you’ll be happy endlessly picking up the slack for an employee, a partner, a vendor, a mate etc. who lacks competence in areas that matter to you, have at it. It won’t kill you, but it probably will get to be old faster than you think.

People change, right?

Generally, people do not change, unless it’s for the worse.

The employee who showed up late the first day and had a reason he had to leave early is just going to get worse and worse.

The date who whips out his or her cell phone at dinner to take a long call will find newer, grander ways to disrespect you in the future.

The colleague who takes and takes and never quite gets around to giving back will find ever creative new ways to extend the trend until he’s bled you dry and kicked you to the curb.

So don’t expect that it will ever get better than it is right now – with this particular person.

What you see is what you get and if it’s bad now, it will probably get worse, much worse.

It’s not all bleak – in fact, the future is quite bright

Some may say I have a negative outlook because I’m recommending you take a long, hard look at negative things.

These same people might accuse of me of failing to use positive thinking.

I accept these accusations because I believe that mindlessly parroting positive thinking principles can be the most dangerous thing in the world.

Parroting positive thinking keeps people in bad situations, hoping that the situation will get better just as it propelled them into the bad situation they never should have gotten involved in in the first place.

Instead of being “parrot positive” be truly positive.

Know that “it is infinitely better to have no person in my life than it is to have the wrong person in my life” – and that you’ve got the strength to wait as long as it takes.

Know that all God’s creatures are worthy of love and respect and treat them accordingly – and use your God-given judgement to weed out trouble-making people from your life before they become a problem for you, or, failing that, as soon as you realize you’ve made a mistake.

Finally, know that in spite of the super abundance of trouble-causing people, the world is full of human gems. One out of ten, give or take.  And among that number, some truly amazing ones. Not perfect, but decent, honest folks you can rely on and will even surprise you by going beyond what you could ever reasonably expect.

They exist and there are plenty of them…

…If you will take the time to look…

…If you will take smart steps to avoid and eliminate negative entanglements that are wearing you out and…

…If you will value yourself, your time and your energy enough not to randomly hand it over to unsuitable people just because they happened to cross your path at the same moment you happened to think you needed someone like them.

Success really is for the taking.

Invest in yourself and have high standards for the people you allow in your life and you’ll be improving the odds for your success exponentially.

You’ll also have a whole lot more fun along the way.

– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.

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