I have spent some time in book stores lately, trying to find something new and magical- something that either intrigues me, fiction or nonfiction. I am coming up woefully short on the whole. Why? Many things are seeming so very much the same out there, and very few new or original ideas are being presented.
This is normal- not everything will be new and novel. But my favorite quote is “An original is hard to find but easy to recognize”- we all know what genuine originality looks like- it is a new spin on something, a new point of view. The underlying themes may be classic, but the presentation is fresh and inviting.
Most of the business books out there invite you to the same meat and potatoes meal. If you adopt their 7 (+/-3) step strategy plan, you, too will be ensured immediate success, however you choose to define it. Most self help books of any nature have this same structure. If you can just channel your inner child/Mr. Rogers/Lee Iaccoca/Rudy Guiliani/Harry Potter/character to be named later, you will finally understand how the universe works.
Well, here’s my “original”spin on all of this. People are humans- we are all variants on a theme. We all have brains. These brains are individually customized, determined in part by our genetic gifts, but largely by our experiences. The things that drive people to make the choices they make are largely based on the core motivations we all have pre-programmed into our systems, ranging from meeting our core needs to out-competing others for scarce resources. If you’re an adult, just consider real life office politics- this is really no different from high school, just on a larger scale, with the benefit of earning a salary for your efforts. I swear, I only know about 8 to 12 separate people- everyone else is a variation on a theme. This may seem cold or too reductionist, but if you look for patterns, you may seem the same themes emerging time and time again.
I had this experience not too long ago. There is one particular person I know who just drives me crazy- Lady Z- she is negative, she likes stirring the pot and causing misery for others, and rarely has a nice thing to say about anyone or anything. She is a pessimist at heart. Interestingly, another mom I know, we’ll call her Mommy Y, began sharing an experience she had with another mom, Mommy X, and it finally dawned on me that the reason I never really warmed to Mommy X is that she a) reminded me of the girls I could not stand in grade school, and b) she was the same general personality type as Lady Z. Now, it all made sense. I could now use all the skills I had divined to ease my relationship with Lady Z with my interactions with Mommy X, and Voila- similar results.
This means that finding the patterns makes dealing with the infinite number of people you encounter so much easier! Sure, everyone is an individual, but if you can see the general patterns of behavior in people repeat themselves time and again, predicting behavior and interactions in, say, committee meetings becomes a breeze. Picking the people you want to work with and avoiding those who rub you the wrong way simply saves you time and stress. Plus it keeps you from seeking to change or revise people, when the truth is we all revert to our natural mode of action over time, anyway.
I think people are fascinating, but to a certain extent, we are like legos. We can be put together in an infinite variety of ways, but the same basic structure and the way each piece fits together is the same. What do you think? Does this resonate with you?