What would we have learned if we had interviewed Mark Twain?


Would he have been offered the job?

I am writing this blog, for it seems that being different is not what it is made out to be!

Why would I say that? Some recent conversations with folk make me think this is so.

Yes, business owners say they want someone with that “special X factor” for their business, but do they really? Or is there simply too much risk attached. Mind you friends can be like that too!

Twain was a literary giant. Of that there is no doubt. “ The American” as he liked to call himself who brought American language to life! Where would that boast have landed him at an interview?

So while there is no comparison with the literary genius he was I wonder how he, like many who “dare to be different” would have faired in today’s round of interviews with all the technology of Skype, telephone conferencing, personality testing, group interviews and character references etc.

Somehow those early character references would not have been helpful to our Mr. Twain.

He was a man of layers and contradictions but then, is that not the life we all lead and do we all not have some layers?

We always seem to focus on what we do, the metrics, the outcomes and perhaps not often enough about who we are. Yet is it not the case that what we do or achieve is because of who we are?

So how would the interview with Mr. Twain have gone? Had we asked question about the man behind the words? The being behind the human.

  1. He would have bestowed “TRUST” because the stories he told were similar to ours and they were like ours and as such we knew them.
  2. We would have RELATED to him because he knew people and he had been where we had been, he had seen the good and the bad times. He UNDERSOOD
  3. He was aiming to do something useful HE WANTED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE given the talents he had, we all want to be useful to someone.
  4. He was COMPASSIONATE just read the story of Huckleberry Finn to see the torment that Huck was going through because of his friendship with Jim.
  5. He KNEW PEOPLE not for their color but for their heart and voice, he lived among people and he was the people’s writer.
  6. He had COURAGE when he wrote Huckleberry Finn it was not popular he was a loan voice and many libraries did not carry his book
  7. He was INCLUSIVE he knew the torment and issues around people of different color and cultural backgrounds, he was immensely angry at the way Chinese were being treated.
  8. He STOOD UP FOR WHAT HE BELIEVED – He knew that it may not be popular and in that famous line from Huck Finn- “alright then I’ll go to hell” He knew his beliefs and not what the establishment was telling him.
  9. He was PREPARED FOR THE DIFFICULT CONVERSATION and the adverse outcomes on him personally, when he spoke truth when it was not welcomed.
  10. He was a natural born STORY TELLER, we seek and long for those who can give us the vision and who we can believe in so that we can follow. In his stories he recanted the stories of humanity. And there was BELIEVABILITY.
  11. He was a LEADER he took American literature to a place it had not been before and to a level previously not thought possible, and he created followers everywhere.
  12. He was DIFFERENT yet different is just as bad as change to many people, its simply not a routine that people get used to.
  13. He was INSPIRATIONAL in his work and his worked CONNECTED.
  14. He UNDERSTOOD PEOPLE he knew them as fellow human beings .He understood differences in people and color was not a voice he understood.

Would Mr. Twain, who’s very name, gave people some concern, and who lived on the margin of “ Safe or dangerous waters” be the risk – reward employee that you would choose to hire?

What is likely is that he would have told us like it is, not something many will. He may even have been too honest for our liking as he once said:

“I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead–and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead, and they would be honest so much earlier.”

Now how would that have come across? Would he have said what you wanted to hear or what you really should hear?

Or would you have said.

This is what different means and when we as a business mean we want to be different and differentiate ourselves from all the rest then we need to hire those that differentiae themselves and who will take us there.

Oh by the way, it’s not just about recruitment please think about those friends of yours who live on the edge and are different,

To be different is to be human!


Views: 88

Comment by Maureen Sharib on June 10, 2010 at 7:04am
This was wonderful.
Comment by Peter Lanc on June 10, 2010 at 7:10am
Thanks Maureen. I wrote this because I hear this stuff all the time and yet when courage is needed it is often lacking. I appreciate your reading "my story"
Comment by Peter Lanc on June 11, 2010 at 12:00pm
Thanks for the comment MIke. I wanted to share the uniqueness and the individuality that I saw in the man. Please use this in any way if you believe it to be of any value.- Regards Peter

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