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Tale of Two People

We often only see what people want us to see.

In all reality, it is not that simple. We likely see what we want to see. I often utilize this “story” if that is what you want to call it. Maybe it is more of a metaphorical lesson at first. It isn’t an everyday story – I utilize it in leadership discussions at work. I tell the story of two people, or Sailors since I’m in the Navy, in order to demonstrate the fact that we are not privy to everything there is to know about a person. We often witness only one facet of their multi-faceted personality, lifestyle, choices, etc.

Person One: The guy you probably want to work with. Motivated, charismatic, dedicated – the list goes on. These persons carry their weight, show up early, works late, and do whatever it takes. They carry the accolades you’d likely admire in a co-worker. Their resume is riddled with experience and achievements. Sailor of the Year, ROTC Recruiter of the Year, top-ranking evaluations, promoted relatively fast — the list goes on but is irrelevant when it comes to painting the picture. You get it, they do their job well.

Person Two: The guy with a personal life that screams “help.” They’ve been divorced multiple times. They’ve received non-judicial punishment more than once. They’ve gotten a DUI. They filed bankruptcy. The list of detractors for this “poor soul” surmounts their attracting qualities.

When you find out these things about their personal life, you cringe. If this was a new co-worker, you’d probably think, “oh f*ck!” If you’re in the military, you probably think about the burden it would place on you to work with (or work for/supervise) someone with this hideous background.

Which person would you want to work with? I’m willing to bet it’s Person One (unless you like to live dangerously).

In this case, you don’t get to choose. SURPRISE: they could be the SAME person.

Not surprised? Well, then I probably failed to build the suspense. This isn’t a movie and I’m not a screenwriter, so whatever.

The goal of this anecdote, story, tale of two people is to prove a point… or several:

  • You never truly know someone you work with. If you don’t at least make the attempt, you might be missing all the traditional warning signs (think late for work, missing work, emotionally distressed). Be more intrusive. Especially important for anyone who is in a position of leadership.
  • It is possible to separate your personal life from your life at work. What a concept, right? The “separation of church & state” approach is pretty common. It isn’t easy to leave your personal life at the front gate when you drive into base. Just the same, bringing work home with you is inevitable. It isn’t sociopathic behavior to separate the two and not mix water & vinegar. Not everyone is wired that way.
  • Poor mistakes in someone’s personal life do not equate to poor work performance. Huh? Consider the smartest person you know: what’s their house look like? It’s likely in a state of disarray. They aren’t organized by any means. Yet, they are brilliant. Similar concept but doesn’t necessarily mean your poor decision-making coworker is a savant.
  • Don’t judge someone based on their mistakes. It’s 2020 — everyone is aware of the “comeback” or “bounce back” from a poor decision. Your favorite celebrity did the same thing, but they have an expensive publicist and a fixer. Instead, judge someone on how they recovered from that mistake {or mistakes} or what they did to overcome their issue. This walking disaster might be an extremely wise individual based on their experiences and you might learn a thing or two.

Second surprise? Guess…

Everything I described (Person One and Person Two): it’s me.


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