Three Indians Around a Campfire

Ok, so there were three Indians sitting around a campfire. Do you have the image? Good. Now put that off to the side because we're going to come back to it later (my apologies to all you Native American enthusiasts, but hold on to your loin-cloths for a moment). As I mentioned in my previous blog I have been busy interviewing this last week - one to two a day in fact. This is extremely flattering to me, but I have been blessed with solid experience and it appears to be paying off currently. Yet, at the same time I am humble enough to know that doesn't ensure my success in the future. I never want to let my past accomplishments blind me to the realities of a future employer's high expectations for me.

It's funny because there are so many books, recruiters and advisers that coach you on how to conduct yourself in an executive level interview. About 90% of what these resources focus on is the image you project of yourself via not just your answers, but how you shake hands, sit in a chair, the tone you use in responses, etc. Again, that's no surprise to anyone, but as I get dressed every morning and run through the mental checklist of items I need to be cognisant of I start to get annoyed. Why? Because all the crap that I "should" do to get the job is not me at all. Right up front I'm supposed to indirectly lie to an employer in order to get what I want.

Yes, I understand that you need to make a good impression that distinguishes yourself from other candidates, and conveys your ability to get the job done. But, everyone is so prepped for interviews that it's easy to "look" the part and not be anywhere near able to do it. Today, in fact, as an interviewer was preparing me to take the company's aptitude test he actually said, "On, the background and preferences portion of the test you need to pick these answers if you want to be considered for the job." I'm thinking, "Ok, what if that's not me? What if I get the job and I hate it and I hate you and I suck and then you hate me cause you think I suck? Guess who's to blame, pal?"

I took the test, only because I like to answer questions about myself. It makes me feel listened to. In fact I tried to answer every question the opposite of what I thought they were looking for which wasn't much of a stretch from what my real answers would have been. After I finished, a nice lady from HR took me to a conference room and congratulated me on passing the test, thus being accepted for the next round of interviews... HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! As she launched into the details about having limited time to meet next week I politely cut her off and explained (in professional terms) I didn't need this shit, but thanks for wasting my (in professional terms) F#%ing morning, and have a nice life. Of course she looked surprised like I had just took a million dollars, set it on fire in front of her and then pissed all over it to put out the flames. She did a sign of the cross as I left because I'm sure she thought I was the devil.

Granted, my imagery and language are little over the top, but every time I dig out that white shirt and start flipping that necktie - you know, the red one... the "power" tie you're coached to wear so you can project confidence in the interview... Oh, but wait. What if you are interviewing with the owner of the company and he isn't wearing a redder, more powerful tie than you? Is he going to turn you down because your tie made him feel insecure in that one day you might take his job? Gosh, now what? I'm not kidding! It gets worse though. I've been coached that on lunch interviews always order fish because it's not the most expensive thing on the menu which makes you not look like a mooch, but it's also not the cheapest thing which ensures you don't look like an ass-kisser, plus you don't have to chew fish which makes it easier to answer questions and allows you to finish your meal on par with your interviewer. Oh, and don't grab the salt and start dumping away the minute your plate hits the table. Good lord, your future boss will think you impetuous and rash - the horror! Instead, take a bite or two then add salt if you must, but remember adding salt is generally unhealthy so your employer may think that you don't take good care of yourself. Um, screw that! People, you want to see me project power in an interview? Ok. I started going to interviews commando. It's my little joke and besides, my interigators think the smile on my face is a sign I am an agreeable and friendly person. Little do they know.

When you boil all this down it comes down to one word - posturing. Our culture - like the interviewing process as an example - kind of forces it, and it's an easy trap for everyone to fall into without thinking, but I'm going to focus my thoughts towards men here. I'm not going to be a hypocrite as I am consciously guilty of it myself - in fact I will even use it to my advantage in certain situations. Is it right or wrong? Clearly there are times when it's wrong while at the same time there are times that it can also be justified (notice I didn't say "right"). I guess what I'm saying is think about either the people you know or someone from history that had an image that was true to themselves. It wasn't really an image at all because it was their true likeness and more often than not they earned a level of respect and admiration for being themselves. You know what else? They seem like very happy people too and I think that's because they aren't struggling with that fight between who they are and who they should posture themselves to be.

There are allot of angry men out there (hell, I was one) that are struggling with who they really are and who they are told they "should" be. Take a minute and think about all the words that are used to characterize men and then conversely, think of all the words that can be used to characterize men but aren't considered manly (stick to the positive descriptions - yes, we all can be asses but you know what I'm saying). How different are they? If you took all the un-manly ones to describe a guy you know in a complimentary way how would they react if you shared that with him in front of other guys? Maybe this isn't a perfect scientific experiment but in general I'm trying to demonstrate the image men have to project especially in front of other men.

My favorite place to observe this is in clubs... ones with lots of women present. I love watching guys trying to out-posture other guys who are trying to do the same thing for the attention of a women. Ya, it's natural selection and all, but it's funnier than clowns sliding in shit. They stand there with arms crossed so their arms look bigger, they talk about how much they make, they're decked out in "playa" (play-er: (n) from the Latin meaning horny male looking to nail as many chicks as possible in his lifetime. Also known as a "tool.") clothes. They peel out of the parking lot on their custom rims fitted special to their KIA Spectra and they brag about how much they can drink. The lists goes on. You get the picture. When I'm in observation mode many people mistakenly interpret this as a lack of confidence on my part, but remember what I was saying about using posturing to my advantage?

No, this isn't the part where I talk about how I have it all together, because to get into comparisons is a big part of what fuels this behavior. Frankly, I have my moments too. I'm human and to deny that would be just as a big a lie. In fact, there was a time when posturing so dominated my behaviour I lost sight of who I was. Thankfully, over time and through circumstances I finally came to a place where I centered in on what was real in me (I'll skip the boring details, but pissing on a pile of flaming money figures prominently into the equation). I've even gotten to the place where I can recognize when I'm centered and when I'm posturing. When I'm posturing is easy to see. I just have to be honest with myself and ask why am I trying to put some other guy down in front of a girl or why am I driving like Steve McQueen when I have a female passenger. But when I'm centered the quickest way I realize it is by how others react to me which usually comes in two forms. One reaction is completely disarming even to the biggest posing, posturing, knuckle-dragging, meat head, but interestingly enough, the other reaction is a palpable nervousness. What's also interesting is the fact that the nervous reaction usually gets flushed out of people I thought had it together.

Now here's the kicker to the whole thing. If you are true to yourself and confident about it you can't go around telling everyone. If you are they will know. I was talking to my father recently and in the course of the discussion I pointed out how intimidated our former pastor was of my dad. My dad seemed genuinely surprised by this, so I pointed out some examples of how our pastor reacted to a few situations involving our family and even how he exploited some of our family's vulnerabilities in order to make himself feel a little better. What I noticed was that my dad has always had this quiet confidence that people responded to naturally. A trait that made the pastor nervous. I could tell my dad was flashing that sly grin on the their end of the phone. He knew what I was talking about, but at the same time he wasn't going to claim it either. If you have to point it out then you aren't, which brings me to the story of the three Indians around the campfire.

On the plains of Nebraska three weathered old Indians sat around the village campfire late one night. As they sat gazing into the dying flames, the first Indian stood and broke the silence with a grunt.

"Um, when young warrior, I travel many moons on foot to steal horse from pale face soldier. I kill many pale-face soldier with bare hand, steal many horses and honored as great warrior."

The other old Indians nodded thoughtfully acknowledging the bravery of such a feat. In turn the second Indian stands and steps closer to the crackling fire.

"Um, with hunting party as young warrior great Grizzly big like tree attack young warrior and I kill with bare hands and bring great Grizzly hide to Chief. Me honored by Chief as brave warrior."

The other Indians again nodded thoughtfully in their admiration for the courageous feat, however, after a few minutes of silence the first two warriors Indians looked to the third with the anticipation of his act of Indian bravery. The third Indian sits there stone-faced, looking into the darkness. The first two Indians begin to feel shame and embarrassment for their fellow tribesman because they interpret his silence as an admission that he has no story to share. To their relief the third Indian finally stands and moves to the fire, but again says nothing. The first two Indians begin to feel uncomfortable again and they slowing look at one another to relieve the tension some. However, as they swing their gaze back to their stone-faced friend they notice that the third Indian is stoking the fire's glowing embers with his dick!

There are many lessons I have yet to learn, many mistakes to suffer through and many success to yet be proud of but through it all I hope that deep inside I am always like the third Indian - confident of his strength, reluctant to use it for show, but ultimately recognized as strong through his actions and not his words.

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