Recently, I had the pleasure of receiving a ride from the company recruiter. We had a social event going on in town, and he offered to give a few of us a ride to the event. I can be grateful to him for the offer, and it certainly saved me a lot of trouble. However, during the ride I received a glimpse of a personality that I found to be rather frightening. He was a dominant extrovert.
Do not get me wrong. I actually think this man is a decent person when considered by himself. What I did see, however, is that he held some personality quirks that are shared among a great many people who, collectively, are doing a great deal of damage. With that in mind, there are serious problems, so here I am returning his favor with a scathing piece about him and his character. It is a good precaution that I do not use my real name, and I will not mention his name.
The character I rode with was a fine example of a dominant extrovert. If I had to guess, his MBTI was either ESFJ or ESTJ. What I saw was an achievement oriented person with a high need for sensory stimuli. Noise and speed were the rules of the day, and these appear as if they are the rules of world as well.
The Dominant Extrovert Needs Stimuli
This dominant extrovert drove a two door something or other. I don’t know cars, so I could not rightly say what it was. What I can say is that it appeared expensive and he gave a long talk about how pleased he was to be able to afford it. Well, I congratulate him for what it was worth. I envy his ride, but only because it was new enough that breaking down was highly unlikely.
Well, breaking down would have been unlikely had this guy drove like a normal person. On leaving the parking garage he closely tailgated the guy in front, so as to avoid paying the parking fee (because $6 was way too much for a man of his means). The first intersection we were at, he honked at the guy in front because he took 2 seconds too long to turn right. As soon as traffic cleared up, he was traveling at 15-25 mph above the speed limit.
Oh, and the music. Dove-step (learned what that was this week) turned up to the point that the vehicle shook. He was that guy. The guy I had never actually met, but had been hearing for years. The guy you notice at red lights and in rush hour traffic. It seems that when traffic was slow, he would need external stimuli through some other route. Music was one way. Share it with the world. Oh, to be fair, he did ask if it bothered anyone. I was alright. I just noted what it said about him.
All of these behaviors, to me were evidence of a man who lacked the ability to deal with the small inconveniences the rest of us take for granted. You might recall a number of times in your life when you were frustrated and it took some effort to slow down and take a reasoned approach. A time for reflection amid stress. This can be uncomfortable. For this guy, it seems, the discomfort was constant. If there wasn’t noise and he wasn’t charging forward, I imagined he would go insane.
The Dominant Extrovert Is A Salesman
While riding with this dominant extrovert I received a good earful of how he made his money. On the way out, he was in the process of closing a deal on a new hire. The emotional roller-coaster of this process was striking. On the way down the elevator, he complained about the difficulty of hooking a new hire. About twenty minutes later, at the gas station, he was celebrating his success at acquiring a high level engineer. The range of emotions expressed within a half hour was far broader than most of us experience in any of our jobs.
This, I learned, was the way it was for people in his line of work. As a recruiter, he had the dual task of selling the candidate to the company whilst selling the position to the candidate. The higher the level of the candidate, the harder it was to bring them on board. Without sharing too much detail, he explained that he made a great deal of money from each high level person he brought in. Success was awarded immediately. This well explained the rapid shifts in emotion.
From the outside, the entire process appeared very much like a sporting competition. The effort was intense, but relatively short-term. The rewards were immediate and quite large. If you have ever watched motivational videos and found the emotions they inspired to be of little use in your life, it is probably because the work you do is more slow paced. The truth is that some of the highest compensating jobs out there utilize “event driven income”. By “event driven,” I mean that a one time success can yield enormous rewards directly tied to that success.
All of this fitted this dominant extrovert’s personality like a glove. He had a reputation as a person with a short attention span and an enormous amount of nervous energy. For him, it seemed, these were assets to use to his advantage. On a constant search for the next big win in a game that is played on a minute to minute basis, you could say that he profited from his inability to “stop and smell the flowers”.
The Dominant Extrovert Is Full Of Himself
This I noticed before I went on the car trip with this guy. A week earlier, he took the opportunity to corner me in the company kitchen and let me know about how the hours I worked were unhealthy and I really needed to take time to stop and sort out what I wanted out of life. Of course, the topic was really himself. This was said within the context of his life. It was a “don’t do what I did” speech.
I have my suspicions that this was partially a way to let me know just how hard he worked whilst recruiting for Silicon Valley and how successful he was because of it. It was also a means to share his emotional depth and how “tortured” he was to have missed his youth working so hard and winding up single – such an old man in his early thirties.
“Do I make over six figures a year? Sure. Am I well accomplished and at the top of my game? Absolutely. Am I happy? Not really. After so and so many years I woke up one morning and realized that I was single. All my relationships were short-term. My health was poor . . . ”
Thank you, sir.
To be honest, I don’t know that this was entirely conscious. In his mind, he may have believed it an opportunity to “mentor” someone. I suspect that his conscious intentions may have been different from his unconscious motivations. What I saw reminded me of stuff I had done . . . at 21 . . . while drunk. I had occasions in college when I would become intoxicated and then go around sharing my asinine life advice with the freshman class. It was an absurd ego trip that made me cringe the morning after.
Leaving the “mentor-ship” session aside, I got a good earful of how accomplished my colleague was on the drive. Aside from the ample attention given to his car and his celebration of the new hire, I got some new life advice. Music. Yes. That dove-step he played at top volume. That was apparently one of the keys to success. So, I guess I could get me some of that, turn it up loud in the morning and come into work hyped up and motivated to . . . spend the next 9-10 hours methodically getting the right information into 1500 line files of code.
I guess the music would not work well with my profession. Not the point, of course. I was simply riding along to hear this man celebrate his achievements.
The Dominant Extrovert Runs The World
Did you catch this man’s profession? He was a recruiter. I learned that what he did provided a highly compensating form of event-driven income. Other professions that do the same thing are car salesmen, real-estate agents and Wall Street employees who sell financial products and companies. At my company, there are also the people who sought out new business and worked to convince clients to work with us. I suspect (but cannot confirm) that this carried the same sort of event-driven compensation.
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Looking at the above list of professions, do you notice a pattern? These people are gate-keepers. They are the people who bring in the business. They are the lynch pin in determining what work gets done and who does it. For this reason it makes some sense that they get compensated so highly. If you own a company, these people will make or break you. The market dictates that you fight to get the best of these people that you can.
So, who are the best of these people? Well, the dominant extroverts. The quintessential salesmen. The ruckus makers of the world are the ones who rule the world. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan all seem to fit the profile. The rule, it seems, is that to be a “somebody”, you need to make a lot of noise. Even today, the profile remains the same. While my friend may have been able to keep a lid on it in a “professional” environment, the basic temperament was still there. It just expressed itself through a filter of mind-numbing etiquette. This filter does little to make their influence more rational, unfortunately.
So, if you are interested in learning why the world is the way it is, there is one answer. The most powerful people are also the most outrageous. Wonder why American culture permeates the world and is so crass? Here is the formula. A young country that is relatively unhindered by convention provides scope for its “natural rulers” to sport their outrageous eccentricities. Bear in mind, however, that this is need only be representative of the rulers. The rest of us are annoyed to no end by them. It is just that the folks who masterminded the moon-landing, created the internet and created the bulk of the world’s technology are not given center stage. Even the leaders of tech giants are usually either token prize winners or (more often) dominant extroverts and shameless self-promoters themselves. (Larry Ellison, anyone?)
If we are to heal the world, we would do well to find some way of diverting the dominant extroverts from their mindless rise to the top. A genuine system of merit would necessarily apply to businesses. A truly meritorious business would be well integrated into society as a whole and would be compelled to promote itself through its own merits. This is not the way it is, currently, with the most aggressive salesmen usually landing on top with maybe 50% of the credit going to the product, itself. The rules for success will have to change. Meritocracy provides new rules for success.
Jason Calhoughney writing for the Apollo Institute of Reason AIR Review©