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[00:00:11]

Hello, happiness lab listeners, today you're in for a treat as we're sharing an episode of Malcolm Gladwell, his podcast Revisionist History, Malcolm is the author of best selling books like The Tipping Point Outliers and Talking to Strangers. In his podcast, Revisionist History, Malcolm examines something from the past an event, a person and idea, even a song, and asks, Did we get this right the first time? Each episode of revisionist history allows us to take a new look at our world today and to think about the origins of stuff we take for granted all the time.

[00:00:43]

In this episode, Malcolm takes on the question of job interviews. For years, Malcolm has been holding forth on the right and wrong way to hire people without giving anything away. I can tell you that he's not a real advocate for interviews, but what does his own hiring record tell us to figure out? Malcolm tracked down some of his old assistants to see what they're up to. It's a trip down memory or lack of memory and Malcolm's case lane that whines through an examination of the Peter Principle and his own father's funeral.

[00:01:11]

I hope you enjoy it. And if you haven't listened to revisionist history before, you should. There are five whole seasons of episodes to discover you can download them wherever you get your podcasts. Here's what we're doing today. For polluted, I going to do an episode of revisionist history in which, you know, I'm I'm obsessed with hiring. I've always been obsessed with it.

[00:01:33]

So what I'm doing is I'm interviewing all the people I ever hired.

[00:01:36]

And you you're the first person right now where that bed pretty proudly.

[00:01:43]

I'll tell you what, Stacey Caliche, my first assistant, I'd never had an assistant before, but maybe 15 years ago, right after publishing my second book, Blink, I realized I was spending all my time answering emails and booking travel instead of writing. So I decided I needed some help.

[00:02:04]

I didn't remember the circumstances under which you came to work for me, so I thought I would just ask you. Remind me again how I found you. A big theme of what follows is that I have no memory. Names, faces, dates. I basically forget everything. A normal person doesn't have to do research on their own life, but I'm afraid I do.

[00:02:28]

OK, so I have some funny, funny memories around the whole hiring situation. So you found out how it happened was I had just finished grad school and was looking for a job.

[00:02:46]

Stacy knew someone who knew someone who had an assistant who knew me or something like that. Very complicated. Anyway, I got Stacy's name and just emailed her out of the blue.

[00:02:58]

You're like, you don't know me, but I'm looking for an assistant. Would you be interested?

[00:03:03]

We met the next day for coffee.

[00:03:05]

We chatted for literally, I'm going to say all of 30 minutes. Yeah. And so, yeah, we were you were going to you were traveling to South Africa. All we spoke about of what I can remember is you had said, oh, you have an accent, you have an accent. I'm like, yeah, I was born in South Africa and then, you know, moved to Australia that I'm going to South Africa for business, so, you know, for your speaking engagements the next day.

[00:03:31]

And so I think for about twenty minutes, all we talked about was like recommendations of what you should do in South Africa.

[00:03:37]

That's pretty much, I think was so rigorous job interviews and rigorous like, yes, you really vetted me through and through my knowledge of where best to eat in South Africa. So we talked about that. And I remember hilariously being very concerned because I had just gotten a nose ring and I remember thinking, oh, I don't know, you know, is he going to lecture? I take the nose ring out for the interview. Will he notice? Is this you know, is it proper?

[00:04:06]

A professional of me and I, I literally remember, like maybe six months to a year later when I was obviously had be working for you all that time. And I said to you something about like, did you ever notice that? Or something about my nose ring came out.

[00:04:19]

You're like, Oh, I didn't even know you had one.

[00:04:22]

But I agonize over whether to keep this nose ring in or not for fear that it would you know, I don't know if it would be a bad look. And you did not feel like the entire year, the first year that I worked for you did not even notice that I had a nose ring.

[00:04:39]

I didn't notice then. I don't remember now. This is getting off to a bad start.

[00:04:46]

My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You're listening to my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. In this episode, I turned the unflinching analytic gaze that is revisionist history upon myself. Let us use as our text the immortal lines from the New Testament, Matthew seven, verse five. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye. And then shall thou see clearly to cast out the most out of the brothers eye? You had emailed me and we'd met the next morning because you were leaving, I think shortly after that for South Africa, we spoke for about 30 minutes, 20, 25 of which was about South Africa.

[00:05:51]

And then you left and you said to me said, OK, great, you know, I've got a couple more people to interview. And so I guess I'll be in touch when I'm back from my travel in like two weeks or so. I'm like, OK, you know, good to meet you. And we've been kind of nervous. You left. I thought, how come I have to wait now for two weeks to find out and about I'm going to say 10 to 15 minutes later, my phone rang and I answered it.

[00:06:17]

And you're like, hey, it's Malcolm again. So listen, you seem nice enough. Why don't you just come by and start tomorrow?

[00:06:28]

This is like this like the least professional hiring story of my life.

[00:06:35]

And the funniest thing as well as I was like, this must have been like a blink moment for him.

[00:06:41]

I mean, you had just finished writing Blink. That's when I'd started with you, like 2005, right after that book. And I remember laughing with you again a few months later, well into, you know, the job and saying to you, you know, when you hired me, you know, we didn't you didn't really vet me much.

[00:06:59]

Was it like a blink moment? You just knew. And you said to me, no, I just couldn't be bothered going through any more interviews. And you seem nice enough that I was like, you seem nice. I just didn't feel like interviewing anyone else.

[00:07:15]

As I've stated, I remember none of this. But it all seems a little strange, doesn't it? I was about to hand Stacey access to all of my business credit cards, male media requests.

[00:07:29]

I would soon make her my main intermediary with the entire outside world.

[00:07:34]

Did I appear to have read your resume?

[00:07:37]

I skimmed maybe. Did I ask you do you mind if I asked you any questions about your schooling? No. Did you have any previous work experience that was relevant?

[00:07:51]

I had interned and worked at Frontline, but I mean, that's more documented.

[00:07:56]

Oh yeah. Really? Yeah. Was on my resume. Obviously did.

[00:08:00]

Well, who knew Frontline. Well that's impressive. I'd done that. I might have might have hired you in ten minutes and then supposed to. Twenty five.

[00:08:10]

Now, my first defensive reaction to what Stacey was telling me was this was my first hire. What did I know then? She reminded me of someone else.

[00:08:20]

Do you still work with the Budnick?

[00:08:24]

Oh, my God. I'd forgotten that story. The Budnick, Don Budnick, even though I've barely gotten started here, this requires a digression.

[00:08:35]

Well, that's a fun story from my end. Well, I'd just like to I'd like to tell us what we call white guilt with this couple thousand five hundred number that I because I'm so fond of the book link had just hit the shelves.

[00:08:53]

Blinkx, in case you hadn't picked up on it, is about the power of first impressions. Don, I just read it and liked it.

[00:09:01]

So anyway, one day I was I was out for lunch or I went to the bank or something and I'm walking back to my office and there and there you are. I see you walking down the street in the opposite direction of me. And I knew immediately who you were, but I couldn't think of your name, couldn't think of your name, couldn't think of your name. You passed me by. I turn I opened my mouth a yellow. Hey, Malcolm.

[00:09:26]

But but I didn't know your name. I just yelled out, Hey, Malcolm, just just like in the book Blink. And you stopped and you turned around and I seemed like a nice enough guy and you picked up on my energy of being excited by the book. So we were standing on the street talking for a while and I said, gee, I would love it if you would autograph my book for me. And then it dawned on me we were around the corner from my office.

[00:09:52]

So I said, you know what, we're the corner from my office, and you came up to my office, he still didn't know my name, you didn't know who I was. I was just a nice guy in the street. And you come up to my office and we're sitting there talking. And that's when you notice things on my desk and you see the initials CPA. And you say to me, oh, you're an accountant. I said, yeah, I'm an accountant, and you said, gee, I'm really not that happy with the accountants I'm using right now.

[00:10:21]

Can I hire you? And I was a little like excited and dumbfounded at the same time. And I said, slow down. I said I said, we'll make an appointment. We'll sit and we'll talk about what your situation is and what kind of advice I could possibly give you. And and then you'll figure out if you want to hire me or not. And you said, no, no, I want to hire. And I said, no, we're going to do this right.

[00:10:51]

We're not going to do this impulsively. And eventually you came to my office and I gave you a consultation and you hired me.

[00:10:58]

So a perfect stranger, SHAWKI Red Hair runs up to me on Madison Avenue, Malcolm Malcolm. And five minutes later, I'm trying to hire him to handle all of my most sensitive affairs. Who am I? So you wouldn't let me. I was like, oh, I want to hide you, but you wouldn't let me. I wouldn't let you fly. Yeah. Yeah. Because I wanted to have a serious conversation where where I gave you a consultation and I discussed what was planning ideas I had for you.

[00:11:33]

I wanted to make sure that you made your decision not based on impulse, but based on some knowledge and and and trust and confidence that I knew what I was talking about. But I had just told you that the reason I didn't like my old accounts is you never had any conversation with me. I didn't know anything about accounting. So how can I. How can I have an intelligent conversation with you about whether you should be my accountant if I have never had an intelligent conversation with an accountant that I want to be my accountant?

[00:12:06]

Precisely. And it goes around and around and around, whatever.

[00:12:10]

This is getting embarrassing. All right, now comes the part where I try and defend myself. In every season of revisionist history, I fall in love with someone I interview last season, it was Tony Goapele, the tea connoisseur, who accused me of being a Thibeault, meaning Tony, for reasons I don't entirely understand, made me very happy. The season before that, it was Casey Bolz, the musician from Nashville, who sang a song that brings me to tears every time I hear it.

[00:12:41]

She grew up playing Cowgirl. Dream she'd see how her son, KCCI b o l l. S summit is done when this is over, look her up. This season, the interview that surprised me the most was with someone named Adam Cronkhite, I talked about him in the episode on Democratic lotteries. Adam has made it his life's work to convince grade school kids to choose their student council governments by picking names out of a hat. Actually, since Adam works in Bolivia by picking fava beans out of a clay pot.

[00:13:23]

Can I ask you a question? Yeah, that's Adam.

[00:13:26]

After we talked, he seemed slightly mystified about why I had emailed him one day out of the blue.

[00:13:33]

So how did you find out about a selection like Democratic Lottery concept?

[00:13:37]

I was just interested. I've always been interested in lotteries and I just was rooting around online and I ran across the work you were doing. I mean, it's as simple as I was sitting in my coffee shop over there. That was the day I contacted you. I was like, this is really interesting and it's totally random. Now, there's a very important distinction with this whole lottery thing, it's between agnosticism and nihilism.

[00:14:08]

Agnosticism is about indifference.

[00:14:11]

It's an elaborate Gallic shrug.

[00:14:16]

The agnostic would say the reason to choose people randomly for positions of leadership is that basically anyone can do the job. The army in wartime has an agnostic position. Their belief is they can take almost any able bodied person and turn them into a reasonably effective soldier. But that's not Adam Cronkite's position.

[00:14:37]

He absolutely thinks that there are good leaders and bad leaders and not everyone is cut out to be student council president. He just doesn't believe that the systems we currently use are any good. So he says, why bother? Just pull a name out that nobody would argue that's in the interests of a fair system. But let's be clear, he's a nihilist.

[00:15:00]

He does not look at the vast apparatus of Democratic selection honed and perfected over many centuries and shrug. That's what the agnostic would do. No, he looks at those elaborate rituals and he rolls his eyes. He says, Give me a break. That's my position, too, when it comes to hiring. I look at all the folklore and ritual around predicting how well people will perform. And I say, Give me a break. I am an eye roller, not a shraga.

[00:15:29]

I am a nihilist.

[00:15:31]

And my task in this episode of revisionist history is to convince you to be a nihilist to. The patron saint of hiring nihilism, without question, was the author and educator, Lawrence Peter. All of us in the hiring knowledge community worship at his feet, Mary.

[00:16:01]

When I was a boy, I used to leave my parents and leave my teachers and I thought you should have respect for your elders and betters and that the men upstairs knew what they were doing.

[00:16:12]

That's Peter. He was a Canadian, as am I, of course. And I don't know if you remember from the lottery episode, but Adam Cronkhite went to university in Canada. The Nilus strain runs deep in the land of the frozen prairie.

[00:16:26]

Anyway, Lawrence Peter was a great aphorist, famous for saying things like The noblest of all dogs is the hot dog. It feeds the hand that bites it.

[00:16:38]

He was also deeply involved in something called the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Humboldt County, California, which is really hard to explain except to say that it's kind of like the triathlon of the art world involving sculptures on wheels that are required to perform certain feats. Peter famously proposed a special prize called the Golden Dinosaur Award to be given to the first machine to break down immediately after the start, which if you knew Lawrence Peter, you would recognize as being very Lawn's Peter because his great professional obsession was with incompetence.

[00:17:14]

He had a connoisseur's eye for it.

[00:17:18]

And as I looked around me, I saw a sign on the door that said emergency exit authorized personnel only. I wondered who had written that. But then later I saw another sign that said emergency exit. Not to be used under any circumstances, Lawrence Peter formulated one of the most famous laws in social science, he called it the Peter Principle.

[00:17:47]

The Peter Principle states very simply that in any hierarchy, an employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. That's where he stays.

[00:18:00]

People get promoted based on a prediction about their ability to handle the next job on the hierarchy, and they keep rising until the prediction is wrong.

[00:18:11]

You see, in any organization where competence is essentially eligibility for promotion and incompetence is a bar to promotion, whatever those rules apply.

[00:18:24]

People will rise to the level of incompetence and tend to stay there.

[00:18:29]

Lawrence Peter wrote a book called The Peter Principle in 1969, and it is delightful exactly in a Lawrence Peter sort of way, like he has a whole riff on the special case of someone who is incompetent but promoted anyway, kicked upstairs a move he calls percussive sublimation or the case when an incompetent person is moved out of the way. But given a long job title as compensation, Peter called that a lateral arabesque.

[00:19:01]

Now, chances are you've heard of the Peter Principle, I'm guessing, as a kind of joke, ha ha, that's why my boss is so bad, but it's not a joke.

[00:19:16]

Allow me to direct you to the work of a fellow member of the hiring Nilus club, Helen Benson, economist at the University of Minnesota. While he was doing his doctorate at MIT, he got bitten by the Peter Principle bug. I started to go to sales management conferences and I found that there is this adage that the best salesperson doesn't necessarily make the best manager, but then people would laugh and say, but we do it anyway. And I wanted to find out why.

[00:19:46]

The great advantage of using salespeople to validate the Peter Principle, Benson realizes, is that you can measure performance really easily. It's not like assessing the performance of engineers or politicians. No, it's super straightforward. You just look at how many sales the salesperson has made, and it's also easy to measure how good a sales manager is. You just add up the sales of the salespeople, the managers managing. So Alan Benson finds a tech company that sells one of those software platforms for sales organizations, kind of like Salesforce.com, and he gets access to all of their customers, data, 400 firms, 100000 salespeople.

[00:20:26]

The first thing he finds is a confirmation of the famous 80-20 rule that 20 percent of the salespeople are responsible for 80 percent of the sales across the board. It's not that we don't know who is a good salesperson. We definitely know some people are really good. Second thing, he finds that those superstars get rewarded.

[00:20:50]

What we found in the data was that top salespeople are far, far more likely to be promoted into sales management than people who are outside of that top 20 percent or who aren't the best person on the team.

[00:21:03]

Of course, that makes sense. You give the stars a promotion. That's what everyone does. OK, now it gets interesting what happens when those stars take over as manager.

[00:21:15]

Their salespeople, the salespeople who they manage their performance becomes worse under them than it was under their prior managers.

[00:21:23]

The stars get promoted and they're terrible managers. How terrible. Really terrible. Bentsen looked at an alternate promotion scenario where companies decide to promote not the stars, but the salespeople who are good at collaborating nice, friendly people who work well with others and teams managed by the friendly people do 30 percent better than the teams managed by the superstars 30 percent. That's huge. Now, you might say, what does this have to do with nihilism? This is just an argument for promoting friendly people over superstars that's not eroding or even shrugging.

[00:22:00]

Well, I haven't told you about Bensons last finding because Benson found a fatal flaw in the alternate promoting scenario, the one that seems to work 30 percent better, which is this If you promote the friendly sales people over the top salespeople, then the top salespeople get upset, so upset that their performance suffers and they aren't so top anymore. The whole thing is so magnificently perverse, isn't it? All your sales come from the same small group of people who expect to be promoted as a reward for their excellence.

[00:22:37]

But if you promote them out of sales, what you get in return is a lousy manager. And if you don't promote them and you pass them over in favor of some warm and fuzzy interpersonal wust, the top performers will pout and stop trying. So what are you supposed to do? You could pay the superstars more and more and give them fancier titles in the Manouver Lawrence Peter called the Lateral Arabesque, but you've still insulted them by passing them over for the friendly.

[00:23:07]

Was another idea that some Peter Principle theorists have floated is lotteries. They end up where Adam Cronkhite ended up put everyone's name in a hat and promote the winner. I mean, why not? But then why have a boss at all? No concept of a boss is the boss knows more than the people, their boss. There's even a school of thought in the upper reaches of Peter Principle world that the best solution is just to man up, forget everything else, and deliberately promote the incompetent, because this way you won't lose one of your superstars by turning them into a lousy manager.

[00:23:45]

You just transfer an incompetent person from their present position of incompetence to another position of incompetence upstairs, somewhere where they will occupy a position which, according to Peter Principle, was bound to be occupied by an incompetent person sooner or later anyway. Did you follow that? Peter, principle theorizing gets very meta very quickly, which is why most people would rather console themselves with the soothing banalities of merit and prediction and hierarchy, only a select few are willing to face the truth.

[00:24:27]

And who are those brave and lonely heretics? The nihilists, people like me who look at the world with a cold and unflinching eye and say, under the circumstances, why bother to learn the first thing about any new prospective job candidate? Things went well with my first hire, Stacey, but eventually Stacey needed to move on, and so I had to go through the whole process all over again with Sarah.

[00:25:04]

Basically, we didn't talk about anything professional at all. As I recall, it was a little bit about family and that I was half American and that I could you know, that I knew the 50 states of America in alphabetical order.

[00:25:20]

That's Sarah remembering my second ever job interview.

[00:25:25]

And you taught me a Yiddish word. I taught you a Yiddish.

[00:25:30]

Well, you wanted to know if I knew about the or what.

[00:25:35]

Maybe you had just just landed. I don't know. But it's the word that is the kind of the opposite direction of flow of nahas. So being like the joy that your children give you and this word being Lucas'. Yeah. The one that you give that.

[00:25:50]

Yes. Yes. Darcus in the years I have I had just given by giving a speech to like some Jewish organization in Boston. And of course I'm not Jewish. So I was filled with anxiety. And so I said I said, well, I have to impress them early on. And so I began my speech by with something about the distinction between the senators was nice, right? Yeah. So there I was schooling you.

[00:26:25]

Jewish person. Well, about Yiddish. I hired Sarah by email the same afternoon we met, she was another recent college graduate. I didn't really bring up the job description during the interview because by that point, I wasn't really sure what my current assistant was up to. I mean, how would I know her job was to do things so that I didn't have to do them? So if I knew what she was doing, she wouldn't be doing her job, which.

[00:26:52]

So Stacey briefed Sarah about practical things and much more, apparently, because now I remember that the two pieces of advice that she kind of impressed upon me like tablets were respect his privacy and be nice to his parents.

[00:27:08]

As it turned out, Sarah was exceedingly nice to my parents.

[00:27:12]

My father thought you just were the bee's knees. He was like, you were his favorite. You were absolutely his favorite.

[00:27:19]

I think I told you that strange and wonderful dinner that I had just with the two of them. With your mom and dad. What happened? What happened? Oh, just that.

[00:27:29]

It was when it was in our New Yorker festival and you were flying off. And I just went to see if I needed anything. And I went to see if they were OK, and they asked if I wanted to join them for dinner. And no one had told me what you're supposed to do in a moment like that. Like, are you supposed to go for dinner with your boss's parents and you're absolutely not supposed to go for dinner with your boss's parents?

[00:27:50]

So I did. And they were just they were so kind to me, Malcolm, and just like very warm and interesting. And that was that that was the time I think I wrote you about. It was when they asked the waiter, asked if he wanted pepper on our soup. And I just said yes, because I thought, that's what you're supposed to say. And your dad said, I don't know, I haven't tried it yet. And it was just.

[00:28:14]

It just it was it was brilliant to me that you could just I guess he was like he was being a mathematician or a scientist about his soup, but.

[00:28:22]

It was such a nice oh, that's so bad. I love that I miss my father so much, the soup agnostic says, go ahead, put Pepper in. It's not going to make much difference either way. The soup Nilus says Pepper can make a great deal of difference, but it is impossible for me to find out whether the waiter is offering me pepper because the soup leaves the kitchen deliberately underprepared or because the restaurant offers pepper as an amenity, regardless of the richness of its offerings.

[00:28:53]

Sarah took the Nilus position, as would I. Of course, I always get the pepper. But Graham Gladwell was not a soup nihilist. He was a soup empiricist. He tried to soup, then considered the pepper.

[00:29:08]

But on all other matters, he took the same approach as I do. What do you think? I get it from one snowy day when we were going to visit friends.

[00:29:18]

My father took an off ramp to fast skidded down the embankment and landed on the on ramp facing the wrong direction, whereupon he drove off the on ramp onto a road that none of us had ever seen before. And then he announced, oh, this is the way I wanted to go along. Did he mean that? Yes, he did. He believed that if you were on a road for whatever reason, then that's the road you should take. If an accountant appears before you hire the accountant, if Stacy seems nice, hire Stacy.

[00:29:54]

That is the way Gladwell think.

[00:29:58]

This is, in fact, the subject of my eulogy for my father at his funeral a few years ago, which was one of those funerals that wasn't exactly funereal in a sense that there was so much grand global in the air that about halfway through we all forgot we were supposed to be grieving. For my part, I got up and spoke about all the ways in which my father would have objected to his own funeral.

[00:30:19]

This has been a meticulously planned service so far. My father did not believe in planning anything. The only reason anything in my life, my father's life was planned was because in a spectacularly fortunate failure of due diligence, he married my mother. Then I talked about one of my heroes, Alberto Hirschmann, who is the true godfather of my kind of nihilism even more than Lawrence, Peter Hirschmann was an economist and one of the towering intellectuals of the 20th century.

[00:30:55]

He helped save the lives of countless Jews in the Second World War. Later, he traveled to exotic lands. He was a man of action as well as words.

[00:31:04]

His guiding principle was always that Hamlet was wrong. And by that he meant that Hamlet was someone whose doubts made him incapable of acting right. Hamlet was frozen to be or not to be. That's the question. But Herman's point was that Hamlet had it backwards, that your doubts should free you, because once you've accepted that, you don't know what happens next, that you can't predict or plan everything in your life, then you're free to act. Because what's holding you back?

[00:31:39]

What is there to be afraid of if you've given up on the illusion of knowing what could possibly happen?

[00:31:46]

I love Hirschmann because he reminds me of my father. I think my father thought that Hamlet was wrong. He believed in God.

[00:31:55]

Even though no mathematical proof exists of God's existence, doubt did not compromise his faith.

[00:32:02]

It was what gave him freedom to believe he married my mother, even though the world told him not to do that. He went on walks without knowing where he would end up. He never looked at a map. He would just say, I'm going to follow my nose. He built a greenhouse even though he didn't know anything about carpentry.

[00:32:24]

I remember once looking out the window as a child and I saw the cat, the house cat, streaking at top speed with his ears back and following the cat, our dog at top speed with this years back, look of terror in his eyes and then Pappe sprinting at top speed for the safety of the house.

[00:32:48]

And I thought, what on earth? And then I saw this huge swarm of angry bees.

[00:32:56]

Happy felt the freedom to be a beekeeper, even though we didn't really understand how this works. I like to think that I learned from the best. Hamlet never kept bees, but Hamlet never had any fresh honey. Oh, I'll stop because my if my father thought a speaker had gone on too long, he would just get up and leave.

[00:33:22]

He would actually be taking a walk at this point. My hiring nihilism failed just once it was with the assistant who came after Jane. Jane was Sarah's roommate, whom I hired because I liked Sarah, and I thought under the transitive property that if Sarah was great, surely that meant that Jane would be great, too, because what are the odds Sarah doesn't have good taste in roommates? And sure enough, Jane was great.

[00:33:55]

Jane turned out to be the kind of person who would plan the D-Day invasion and then check in with Churchill and Roosevelt at 5:00 on like a Friday and say, do you need anything more from me before the weekend? Anyway, Jane wanted to move on and I hired I'm going to call her Susan. Susan seemed super nice, but she was not a good assistant. In a span of just a few weeks, she made one error after another, some trivial, some major.

[00:34:24]

Then, just as I was about to go out on a book tour, she announced she was taking another job, leaving me in the lurch. I reprimanded her. She knew it wasn't working out. She was upset and apologized. I had forgotten about the whole incident until in the course of my forensic analysis of my hiring history, one of my old assistants reminded me. So I searched back to my old emails and found this an email from me to Susan.

[00:34:56]

Dear Susan, please don't beat yourself up. Some people are good at this kind of work. Some people are not. It has no larger significance. It's like how high you can jump or whether you were good at bowling. You are probably best for more scholarly pursuits in the end, which is not a bad thing. I was probably exactly the same way your age. I kind of can't believe I wrote that email, it sounds so sweet and understanding, but I'm not sweet and understanding, am I?

[00:35:28]

No, not really. What I am is a hiring nihilist.

[00:35:32]

And the appearance of graciousness is simply one of the wonderful side effects of hiring nihilism, because if you believe that nothing in someone's performance in one job predicts their future performance in another job, if you believe that the whole prediction system when it comes to people is just an extravagant exercise in self-delusion, then you're free to say to Susan, it's OK. The fact that you didn't work out as my assistant has no larger significance.

[00:36:02]

Because it doesn't life's too short, you need an accountant, you meet an accountant, hire the accountant, you meet Stacie and you cancel all your other interviews because you realize what's the point, that Nilus believes that people are mysterious and unpredictable, that life is a big crapshoot and that most of the systems we put in place are there just to satisfy our illusion that we can see into the future. My email went on, I'm sorry I was as harsh as I was with you, it's just that this is a rather stressful time and I have a million things going on.

[00:36:37]

But Jacob, I believe, is just the kind of anal, obsessive, detail oriented sort who will serve me well, smiley face. So all's well that ends well. Good luck with your next job. I wish you all the best m. Wait, Jacob. Yes, Jacob Smith, Susan's successor.

[00:37:03]

Yeah, that's right. Do you remember where the interview was? Who was at your place? And I remember that you know me.

[00:37:10]

I don't really, like, dress up, dress up, but I dressed up as much as I do.

[00:37:14]

And I specifically remember that you were like you weren't wearing shoes. And I think I had to take off my shoes.

[00:37:20]

And do you remember what we what we talked what I asked you about the obviously the thing that always stuck with me is that you asked if I could drive a stick shift. I said, yes, that is the big one. I remember you asked what my parents did, which I thought was a good question.

[00:37:36]

I loved the fact that your parents were teachers. Those two answers sealed it for me.

[00:37:42]

Do you remember how long this interview was?

[00:37:44]

I remember it was at like one and being out of there and it was like one twenty. And I was like, well, that either went really well or really poorly because it's the fastest job interview I ever had. And that's with like five to seven minutes of just probably small talk and kind of getting settled in.

[00:37:59]

Yeah, the three things endeared me to you. You drive, stick, your parents are teachers. And then you said something that like you said, but then I'm so anal that I would do something, something I was like, wait, he's self admitting to be Almaz is fantastic. This is exactly what I want.

[00:38:14]

I know it is funny in retrospect.

[00:38:17]

I don't actually think I'm that anal. I think I was playing that up. I think I was.

[00:38:21]

Yeah but I actually. But no, no. See if I might defend myself. I'm as interested in someone who understands that they need to represent themselves as anal as I am and someone who is truly anal.

[00:38:34]

Right. Right. Yeah. You wouldn't actually want me to be, you know.

[00:38:39]

And how did Jacob work out? Well, for once in your life, listen to the credits. Revisionist history is produced by Jacob Smith and McLibel with leaving us to Alawi's LITTEN and on Aname. Our editor is Julia Barton Flon. Williams is our engineer, fact checking by Beth Johnson, original music by Louis Scarer. Special thanks to Carly Migliore, Heather Fain, Eric Sandler, Maggie Taylor and Lefay Jacob Weisberg.

[00:39:16]

Revisionist History is brought to you by Pushkin Industries and your resident nihilist, Malcolm Gladwell.