Have you ever been listening to someone and wondered, “Who’s this bird and why, exactly, am I listening to him?” Truth be told, this thought constantly reverberates through my brain. And unfortunately, in today’s world of infinite inputs, there’s so much jibber-jabber taking place I actually have to make an effort to keep this question a part of my inner dialogue instead of blurting it right out in the open.
But there’s a reason for this. It’s not that I’m judgmental or elitist; it’s that I’m so experiential and pragmatic that I refuse to go on words alone. The old trust-but-verify is tattooed on my brain. In fact, whenever someone talks theory or hypotheticals with me, it does not compute. So in today’s world where we can’t swing a cat without hitting a consultant, speaker, trainer, leader, manager, entrepreneur, healer, dealer, free-wheeler, expert, or some other self-proclaimed wizard, it pays to pay attention. No one can lead you further than they themselves have gone so it is absolutely critical, if you want to grow, that you follow the trail and guidance of a Sherpa who’s actually made it to the summit.
Back in the 90s there was a great book called Dinosaur Brains: Dealing with All THOSE Impossible People at Work that was all about the Jurassic Jerks that many of us have to cope with every day. So how can you tell if a person is premier or primeval and whether you should stick around to hear what they have to say? Let’s take a trip back in time and retrace the evolution of some modern-day birds of prey to learn if they want to help you take flight or make you crash and burn.
Velociraptor: The name means “swift seizer” and this is the predatory predecessor to the vulture. Quick to take the words right out of your mouth, and the dollars out of your pocket, this one has made it to the top by using others. You are nothing but a means to an end. Relentless and unscrupulous, they draw you into their lush nest proclaiming that this too can all be yours, if you just become one of them. The problem with these birds is that they have to accumulate ever more naïve fledglings in order to fluff their own domain. Their power derives not from what they’ve accomplished but from how many people are beneath them supporting their roost.
Velocicraptor: This bird is the predecessor of the seagull. It typically enters the arena touted as an outside expert sent into the bowels of your organization to fix whatever the managers inside could not take care of. Not to be confused with outside input, which can allow you to see things previously hidden to you, this bird comes in, makes a bunch of noise, craps all over everyone, and then leaves with a big fat check clutched firmly in its talons. If you take input from someone who’s changed jobs/industries/partners/spouses, etc. in a repetitive or abrupt fashion, be forewarned. Their flight path is most likely marked by a path of poop and destruction. If someone seems too good to be true, they are. So don’t buy it.
Velociyaktor: If you find yourself in the presence of someone who won’t stop mimicking the actions, words, or thoughts of others, you have just encountered the original myna bird. They recite whatever junk du jour they can find because they have nothing in their own repertoire to sing. Just like all great actors, they create a scene on life’s stage so real you’d swear it was actually happening. But life isn’t a play, it’s reality, so don’t take council from a parrot-like, pull-string puppet. Living vicariously through others only counts in science fiction.
So you’re probably thinking, “Why so snarky, Tracey? Everybody’s got to make a buck, right? And if a person is too stupid to spot a phony, it’s on them!” Wrong. Representing yourself as possessing wisdom worth sharing with others is an incredibly serious thing. And you MUST be on the up and up about who you are and just why you are qualified to speak on any topic and what action you are requesting others to take. Otherwise you are a huckster, a fraud, or my all-time favorite old-timey word, a charlatan. Being disingenuous is not just about lying and letting the buyer beware. It’s about the less evolved getting caught up in a quagmire of ego and deceit. So don’t listen to these primordial birds; after all, they’re headed for extinction just like their famous ancestors.