We’ve been ruminating on multiple tells we’ve noticed over the year. Before we begin we’re going to put this up front: the *exception* doesn’t disprove the *general* rule. We are certain there are instances where the ideas here will fail. That said we’d at least try to take notice of the observations we outline below and decide if they are a pattern you notice as well. We can’t believe how many people still ask for “verifiable proof or PHD studies” since anything new hasn’t been proven yet (otherwise it wouldn’t be new!). Simply take a look below, let us know if you see the same thing and we think you’ll be surprised that a few (if not several of them) are broadly accurate. As a final disclaimer, always think about context and build a mosaic around the person. This will help prevent bad reads in the near future.
“I see” and “Interesting”: These two phrases are usually used by smart people who don’t want to be rude and say “I disagree” to your face. Context is always important. But. Look out for these two phrases. Typically, when you’re explaining a decision you’re making, if they don’t add anything beyond “I see” as an initial read, they don’t agree with you. The phrase “interesting” is typically used when you describe how something played out. These are critical differences and one should be able to tell how the context is different.
“I See” Example:i In the “I see” example you are specifically explaining a decision you’re about to make. It is not about a decision you already made. You’re explaining the logic behind a specific action you’re going to take and the person responds with “I see” which could be done in a text message or verbally. Generally speaking, you should be wary of this comment if you receive it from someone who is high IQ. Also. There is a direct relationship between the amount of time it takes to explain your decision and the chances of receiving one of these “I see” responses. In short, the longer you speak the more likely you’ll get a negative reaction. This is because good decisions are easier to explain in short sentences and long winded answers usually involve a ton of rationalization in them.
“Interesting” Example: This is not in response to a decision you’re about to make. It relates to something that happened in the past and results. You tell a basic story and give them the conclusion. They don’t agree with the conclusion of the story so they will say “interesting”. It’s not easy to tell what they truly believe but you can bet good money that the conclusion of the story is the part they disagree with. The conclusion could be 1) your interpretation of why things played out as they did or 2) it could be the ramifications now that it has played out. Be careful here particularly if you get an “interesting” response from someone with a deep background in the arena you’re talking about.
What to Do About It: Here it gets tougher. If you call them out on it and the person is honest they will likely give you their real answer or belief. If you don’t call them out on it then you don’t get any information beyond the fact that they disagree. Depending on the situation, you want to call them out or take note of their response. If it is something important to you, calling it out is likely the best answer since it could have bad ramifications for your future. If you want to keep your cards to your chest, sit down and think about how your conclusion or decision could be wrong and try to solve it yourself. There is a time and place for each one. But. One thing is for sure, if you don’t call it out immediately you’re less likely to ever get the real answer (they will become more guarded and smile and nod the next time the story is told).
“Makes Sense”: For some reason people believe that “makes sense” is similar to “interesting” or “i see”. It really isn’t from our experience. Makes sense is typically used by smart people to put a period or end to a specific topic/conversation. As usual, we aren’t interested in the words/phrases used by regular people since their opinions rarely matter in the first place. We’re focused on polite elite people since they matter a lot. When you hear this phrase it means they really do agree and are trying to put a touch of finality around it. You go back and forth with them on a specific topic get to a conclusion and it ends with “makes sense”. For one reason or another there is usually a pause as well before they put the topic to an end and it’s more like “(pause 1,2,3 seconds) makes sense.”
Sound Annoyance: One of the common tells of richer people is their noise cancelling headphones, ear plugs or other items to drown out the noise. Sure some people do listen to a type of music but the point is the same, they dislike noise that is not being controlled by themselves. One item we tweeted about is cell phone ring tones, the vast majority just leave their phone on silent with the vibrator, that’s it. So if we add this up you can build a mosaic as follows: 1) has noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs, 2) doesn’t use his cell phone ring tone – perhaps as an alarm if needed, 3) will go as far as changing and office phone to have a different ring so he never has to worry about missing his line and 4) a social one, easily startled since their focus is pretty intense when staring at a computer screen.
Never Really Jealous: This is a tough one, since it is a special breed of person. If a person is both successful financially and socially it is difficult to make the person jealous or overly competitive in meaningless items. This is kind of funny because your average guy thinks being overly competitive is a good thing “Because omg Michael Jordan was hyper competitive bro!”. The reality is that the majority of successful people don’t need to be the best at everything, they already learned to specialize. So if they aren’t the best soccer player in the group, they will play as hard as possible but they are not going to yell and cry about the game since they know it isn’t their core competency. These people are rare no doubt. But. When you start to see them, they will stand out like sore thumbs. Unless it’s in their area of expertise they don’t have the time and energy to devote serious attention to hobbies. It’s just a fun activity to them and they aren’t sore losers. This overlays into financials as well, even if a guy makes more money than they do, you won’t see a shred of jealousy since the person is already rich so there is no point.
We’re going to pause here because if you read this it sounds totally wrong. Why? Well in the work place it is totally wrong. Everyone thinks they are the best and they are directly competing with one another. So of course that is an area where everyone will compete as hard as they can. Similarly, that same guy who was okay being a mediocre soccer player is going to ratchet it up 5,000 notches if it’s related to the company he runs. He isn’t going to waste his energy on soccer he is going to focus it all on killing that other start up trying to eat into his market share. As we warned in the earlier part of this post, context matters. A lot!
No Need to Pass Blame: You’re really dealing with someone who is high up the chain when the person is unwilling to pass the blame and takes ownership/accountability. You will never see this in middle management. Okay never is an overstatement but it’s not far from the truth. The only people who are unwilling to pass the blame are the people who are too critical to the firms success. That’s you as the CEO or “you” as the high up person within any organization. Passing the blame is one of the most common tactics used by middle level people trying to look good. They don’t want to touch anything negative so they sluff off all the negative items to the side (hurting someone else). This is also why they are quick to get fired. The ones who pass the blame enough get caught and popped.
Spotting Blame Passers: For fun, the most common physical tell of a blame passer is a guy with his hands in his pockets constantly. “Hello Wall Street and the financial districts” we see all you guys walking around with one hand in your pocket constantly. Why is this a tell? It is a tell of insecurity. Insecure men typically walk with their hands in their pockets (generally one) and is seen constantly in financial services. People who believe they are important but don’t want to take on any risk/responsibility for any failures they incur. If you didn’t spot this one before you’re going to spot it over and over and over again if you work on Wall Street in particular.
Obsessive Compulsive: It’s a bit of a running joke that successful people can suffer from mild autism and obsessive compulsive disorder. Unsurprisingly, we agree with this joke. There is some truth to it since it is not quite natural to have intense focus for multiple hours in a day. If you find that someone has *minor* amounts of OCD or somewhat autistic behavior, they are likely intelligent. Don’t let a couple of the odd mannerisms take you off guard, you probably have some of them as well anyway!
Eyes and Tone: Ever notice that smart people in cartoons/movies are always depicted as having more intense focused stares and a tone of voice that is nerdier? Well that’s because those two items are pretty accurate. As time goes by and Artificial Intelligence becomes more accurate, we’re able to see that “he looks smart/stupid” is a legitimate statement. It’s not 100% accurate but the baseline reading can be accurate for something around 80% of people AI reads. There is the natural “attractive or unattractive” which is dependent on symmetry, but, there is also intelligent or unintelligent. There is a “dead” features in the eyes for people who are of lower intelligence and there is a “intense” feature for the eyes of people who are of higher intelligence. We’re trying to figure out a better way to explain it, but a good way to practice is to look at a year book of random high schools and guess the person’s GPA. This isn’t a great test but will help improve accuracy since the photos are in a similar stance across the board.
Finding Lucky People: This is more of a bonus for the post. At the end of the day, luck is a big factor in the magnitude of success. Anyone can be successful, but magnitude is amplified by good luck. While we’ve created a decent blue print to get lucky, here are a few tells to spot lucky individuals. The answer: look at timing. Timing is really what luck is about. Did someone close a massive deal right before their Investment Banking Bonus is being decided? Did the person buy a stock/crypto currency right before it really took off? Did the guy have *bad* luck in a time frame where it *didn’t* matter at all? Did the guy have no emotional reaction to said bad luck? Did the guy hit the right market product/sku just before it became a fad? Did he sell or exit his company when there was still a “blue sky” scenario on the table to command a larger valuation?
These are the things we’re also working on to help flush out the right people to hang out with. We’ve essentially come to the belief that luck is contagious. It is a disease, an addiction a transferable product by osmosis. Seriously. We believe this now. As you continue to move up the ladder you’ll find that the people you hang out with are generally luckier. In fact, you could even argue you’re *forced* to hang out with lucky people since they were born with the right genetics to become successful or have natural good looks (women in this case). Luck is nothing more than a transferable infectious *good* disease. So we hope you also take those items into account now that you’ll be using the above tips to sift through and find smart, rich, successful people. Good luck!
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