Gorilla Theory says: We're all a bunch of fucking gorillas, and acknowledging this and acting accordingly will lead to better results.
So today was Saturday, I was hanging out in the office trying to catch up on work when one of my younger staff come in. He's German, really high upside and talented guy. I hired him to do sales because he's got iron willpower, he's massively cocky, he understands rapid learning, and he's fanatic about measurement and metrics and systems-thinking. When interviewing and I asked him to rate himself on a scale of 1 to 10 in every skill, he gave himself mostly 10's. When "sales skills" came up, he said, "I've never done sales... but once I get started, I think 8 out of 10."
This, of course, rubs people the wrong way. My colleague had a, "Who the fuck is this kid?" type reaction. Me? I love it! I told him during our second interview that he's either an A-player or an F-player, and asked him some questions as to whether he's coachable, whether he can learn, how he handles (inevitable) rejection, etc, and I took him on.
He's blowing my expectations away.
I haven't been in the office a couple days. I just flew a talented dude in from the USA on a whim and he and I have been working on seven-figure stuff. As a sidenote, I'm done working on small stuff. I'm either working on big stuff, or I'm going to chill out and read books and write a little. I live for $1,000 per month in Vietnam or Mongolia or wherever, and I made $38,500 the last two weeks. So I'll occasionally do a big job, but I'm otherwise done chasing money and would rather spend my time relaxing and doing art and writing and such.
So today, I'm pleasantly surprised when my young German colleague comes in, and says he's bringing in people to interview. What? Interviewing? What's going on?
Turns out, he's hiring his own staff. Fuck, I love star performers. You're hiring people? Carry on!
Yet... he's never done HR before. Or interviewing. Or hiring. He just assumed it would work out, and wrote his ad as a variant of the one that I posted that he replied to.
Did I mention I love this guy?
Anyways, I tell him, "Go crazy dude, do your thing. I tell you what, after you do the first round with people in the conference room, say you're going to go confer with the executive, and then come in and hang with me. We'll talk over the candidate, and then I'll go do a second round with them if you want my opinion, and I'll show you my general style. Probably a learning experience, and makes it more likely people take your offer. Sound good?"
So, three people came in today. The first guy was good, and we sat and talked through it out, fleshed out some of the working relationship, drew up plans, and now my colleague has someone working for him.
Second person was a little different.
I was sitting here reading up on the Greek War of Independence when he comes in and shuts the door.
"I don't like her... there's not a fit... no culture okay..."
"Okay. If you're that sure, just say goodbye to her, I won't bother."
He pauses. I look at him, speak up.
"What's the lack of fit? She's skilled, but not a culture fit?"
"I think she's skilled. Maybe, yes. But... I don't think I could work with her."
"Alright, I tell you what, let me get in there and see what's going on."
I go in.
She's a stone wall.
I describe that we look for either Excellent Skill Fit / Good Culture Fit, or Good Skill Fit / Excellent Culture Fit, and go on a little about how we really look to develop people our people and get top performance, so I want to see if she makes sense.
So, let's start with your goals, yes?
She won't give anything about her goals.
"I have a lot of goals."
"Okay. Such as?"
"Alright, give me the top 3."
"They're all equally important."
"Okay, just pick one then."
"No, I'm going to do them all, but there's no sense in listing them."
I tell her that, look, we only want top performers. And anyone that's really good won't stay if all their goals aren't being met... you see? I need to know what you want out of life to see if there's a fit, because you need to get all of what you want out of this, or you'll leave if you're good and not getting what you want. And if you're not good, we don't want you.
For example, when I was 19, I decided I wanted to travel the whole world, and now I've traveled/worked/lived through 60-some countries in N. America, Central America, Caribbean, West Europe, East Europe, Middle East, SE Asia, East Asia, etc.
She nods. "Yes, I'd like to travel."
"Okay good! We're getting somewhere--"
"--but not just travel. I want to make a lot of money while traveling."
Interesting. I can roll with that.
"Right. How much do you want to make?"
"As much as I can."
"I don't want to set a number, I want as much as I can get."
I frown. "Okay. Look. You can make as much as you want. I'm not into working your way up. How much do you want to make? Maybe you can't get it here, and if you can't, this isn't a good fit for you anyways. But I don't want you here making less than you want to make anyways..."
"I don't have a number. I want to make as much as I can."
"Okay listen. I want to be making about $2 million per year, roughly. Dollars. That's, umm, 12 million renminbi? So you know, that breaks down to roughly 7,000 dollars per day. If I work 10 hours a day, I've got to be making 700 dollars per hour. You see? I can do that, just barely, the way I currently work. Now, if I wanted 40 million per year, that would break down differently. I couldn't do that the way I currently do, I'd have to get involved with banks or equity or something. And if I wanted a shot at 400 million per year, I'd have to totally re-think everything from the ground up... so... you have to think about what you want. Do you want to work 20 hours per week, or 50 hours per week? Do you want stability, or risk? You probably don't want to make 'as much as you can', because that's probably working 100 hours per week working smart and hard and taking big risks and..."
And a strange reaction happened while I was staying that - she simultaneously loosened up, the stone wall crumbling, and tensed up, getting more nervous.
I ask her, and she goes on to describe her skills, and how she works, and how she likes to work, and the best projects she's done in the past.
She's very impressive.
I ask what the best year she's ever had in earning money.
She says, "My last salary?"
"No. The BEST year you've ever had."
"The salary at my last job..."
"No, I mean, everything. Investments, salary, everything."
"Okay. 24,000 renminbi[*] per month."
[*] Obfuscated slightly.
Here it comes...
"Okay. Hold on a second. You rate yourself very highly?"
She says, "Yes."
"And you want to make as much money as you can?"
"And you've got all these amazing skills?"
"You're one of the best businesspeople you know?"
"So, how come the most you've ever made is 24,000 renminbi per month? That's fucking nothing."
And it was like a nuclear bomb just went off.
"It's because I'm Chinese. Westerners, you have a Western face, you can come in here and people will just --"
"Wait. So you're saying that no one in China pays money to anyone else who is Chinese?"
"Yes! No one will pay me --"
"--haven't there been more billionaires made in China the last 10 years than the whole rest of the world combined?"
I turn to my German colleague and continue, "Isn't that right? Millionaires too, I bet, huh?" He nods. He's enjoying this.
I turn back to her. "Yeah, I think someone in China, somewhere, somehow is making money... why aren't you, if you're so amazing?"
"There's no opportunities! It's not so easy!"
"Who said it was easy? I dropped out of high school at 16, got a full ride scholarship at 17 anyways, dropped out at 19 to do business for myself. I was making $180,000 at age 22... that's... that's over a million renminbi. When I was 22. Without a high school degree. You going to keep making excuses?"
She's shocked. The stone wall is a bunch of pebbles.
"Look, if you call up a high level businessman and his secretary says to you, 'You have to make appointments six months in advance', are you going to say, 'Okay, thank you' and come tell me we'll meet him in July? That's fucking useless. You want to come in here and be high skilled and make a huge amount of money, and then you're just going to give up because it's not easy? Really? Really?"
She gets indignant, and starts listing off all the time she's gotten through secretaries, people she's connected with, amazing ways she's broken down doors, etc, etc. She goes on about how well she's worked, all the things she's done...
...and gets into her goals.
I set another interview with her for mid-next-week, we'll see if she's any good. I told my German colleague that I'll have her report to him, if he wants it, or give him some mix of gifts and cash if she comes onboard and is good but doesn't report to him.
We talked about it afterwards, when we debriefed.
What is this?
It's stupid gorilla shit.
He was explaining to her about how great we are, and trying to convince her to come onboard. He was talking too much. He didn't come across super sharp.
He dressed down because it was Saturday. He was dressed in jeans and a light shirt. (Normally he's a very sharp dresser.)
I said, "Man, dress down any other day except the day you interview people for the first time..."
...and I explained gorilla theory to him.
If you're telling someone there's a great opportunity logically, but they think that they're a bigger gorilla than you, they're not going to take it.
So you've, sadly, got to show them you're the bigger stronger nastier gorilla. Nobody wants to work for a small gorilla.
She was being closed-off and defensive and somewhat combative because she rated herself more highly than my colleague, and started thinking, "Why am I even here?"
And then I have to do some idiot gorilla shit (which I hate, by the way - why can't we all just be logical and intelligent about decisions, instead of emotional animals?) ... and then, she opens up.
There's probably a lesson in here. Gorillas or something.
This is a great post - did you pull a lot of this stuff from The Game and books like it? I also have seen similar things in Pitch Anything. I understand this gorilla mentality in interviews, but how does that affect your relationship with the employee later on?
Also, what were you doing at 22 that allowed you to make $180k?
" I’m done working on small stuff. I’m either working on big stuff, or I’m going to chill out and read books and write a little. I live for $1,000 per month in Vietnam or Mongolia or wherever, and I made $38,500 the last two weeks. So I’ll occasionally do a big job, but I’m otherwise done chasing money and would rather spend my time relaxing and doing art and writing and such."
This is a new preference from you, as far as I am aware. How does this square away with "maximizing your productivity?" For myself, I find that on creative tasks gauging productivity is a very good way to kill anything worthwhile about it.
Awesome post, made me realize that i have it easy, and that i need to step up my game if I want anything to happen. I can't assume that things will just work out, and that I'm better then any other candidate. I sense a reality check coming.
August 11th, 2011. Chiba, Japan.
A mix of confusion and awe as I step off the platform.
I must have made a mistake. But maybe a good mistake.
Birds caw and cicadas click gently, filling the warm afternoon air with sounds of nature. The train platform is open to the air and on the other side of the tracks is a high fence. Beyond it, a bicycle and walking path leading to a park.
Children are running around and playing in the park, but surprisingly quietly. Very Japanese.
I slept most of the flight from San Francisco to Vancouver. I was up until one thirty in the morning the night before, and had to wake up at five in order to get to the airport on time, so I was exhausted. Upon arriving in Vancouver I shuffled half-asleep to the customs station, which I had to go through even though I was only connecting through Vancouver, not stopping there.
The agent asks my name, where I'm going, all the usual stuff. I reply, giving short answers. I always give short answers in customs because first, I'm sort of offended at how they treat you as though you're some kind of criminal, and two, because I figure the agent just wants to hear a succint answer and get on with her day.
"Where are your other bags?"
"I don't have any."