By Jim Whitt
As a young actor, Michael Caine was struggling to make a living. One day while in the waiting room of a casting agency, the owner asked him for his coat size and inseam length. Caine told him that he wore a size 40 jacket and his inseam measured 32 inches. The casting agent waved him into his office and told him he would be playing a policeman in a small film the next day. He was selected solely because the wardrobe company’s policeman’s uniform matched his measurements. Michael Caine got the job because he was “a perfect fit” for the role.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger first showed up in Hollywood, the experts said he’d never make it. His name was too long, his accent was too thick and he just didn’t have the right build. At the time he just wasn’t the prototype of a leading man by Hollywood’s standards. So what happens? Arnold becomes a box office money machine. It turns out that his accent is just right, his build is perfect and nobody has a problem pronouncing Schwarzenegger. Arnold created the new prototype for Hollywood’s leading man.
A half century before Arnold made the scene, the screen test assessment of another Hollywood hopeful sounded dismal: “Slightly bald, can’t sing, can dance a little.” They were right — he was slightly bald and he couldn’t sing — but Fred Astaire could dance more than just a little.
I can remember when Elvis Presley first appeared on television in the 1950s. His leg started shaking and teenagers went wild (parents went crazy). He didn’t just sing — he gyrated. Elvis knew he was no world-beater as a singer — but he understood what made him unique. “I’m not fooling anybody,” he said. “My voice is ordinary. If I stood still when I sing I might as well go back to driving a truck.”
Arnold, Fred and Elvis were all very different but each successfully capitalized on their uniqueness. Successful people in any field of endeavor capitalize on their uniqueness.
One day while driving down the road I tuned in to catch Paul Harvey’s news program on the radio. For some reason Sam Donaldson was filling in for Paul Harvey. Sam was reading the same script but it just didn’t have that unique Paul Harvey flavor. Paul Harvey can not only turn a phrase, he can turn a phrase into an adventure. He keeps you hanging on every twist and turn of his verbal adventure until he bids you ado with, “This is Paul Harvey… Good day!”
Having Sam Donaldson fill in for Paul Harvey is like having a bulldog fill in for a collie. Sam Donaldson has made his mark keeping politicians at bay in front of a camera. Listening to Paul Harvey on the radio is kind of like a visit with a member of the family on the phone. Sam Donaldson can’t be Paul Harvey and Paul Harvey can’t be Sam Donaldson. Each has a unique behavioral style that makes them a perfect fit for their respective vehicles.
You, too, have a unique behavioral profile that makes you a perfect fit for specific roles to deliver your verse in life’s powerful play. Ninety-nine percent of the genetic code mapped on the twenty-three chromosomes in each of our cells is the same in all humans. But it is that one percent difference in our DNA that embodies our singular uniqueness. That difference is exhibited in our natural behavior pattern that makes us a perfect fit for specific vehicles and enables us to play different roles.
We use a variety of computer generated assessments that reveal how people are behaviorally equipped to fulfill their purpose. It gives them insight as to what vehicles might best serve their purpose. To help you determine how you’re equipped to fulfill your purpose I’ve included a simple assessment for you to complete at the end of this chapter. None of us are “purebreds.” We are much too individualistic to be put in a box with one label on it but we can broadly categorize behavior into four basic styles. We could call these styles anything but I like to think of them as bulldogs, coyotes, shepherds and pointers.
• Bulldogs are known for their tenacity. “The nose of the bulldog is slanted backwards,” said Winston Churchill, “so that it can breathe without letting go.” If there was ever a bulldog it was Churchill who once delivered a commencement address using only seven words, “Never give up. Never, never give up.”
• Coyotes are wild dogs that are able to adapt to a wide variety of habitats. They are very vocal creatures that like to howl when the sun goes down. In fact, their scientific name, Canis latrans, means “barking dog.”
• Shepherds can be one of several breeds of that belong to a group of dogs classified as herders. The American Kennel Club points out that while many of these dogs may never cross paths with a farm animal their nurturing instinct makes them great companions that gently herd their owners, especially children.
• Pointers are hard-working birddogs with a single-minded focus. They find birds and point, coming to a frozen standstill. They retrieve your bird after you shoot it, then it’s back to finding and pointing.
There are 4 Ps of behavior that help determine which of the four styles you most identify with — how you deal with problems, people, pace and procedures:
• When faced with a problem are you aggressive in solving it or more methodical and analytical?
• Do you verbally influence people or do you prefer to use facts and figures?
• Do you prefer a predictable, steady pace or do you like a lot of variety and change?
• When it comes to policies and procedures do you do things by the book or do you see lots of options?
Let’s take a look at my behavior when it comes to the 4 Ps:
• Problems – I never saw a problem I didn’t like. Give me a problem and I won’t quit until it’s solved. I like big challenges. This quality has served me well. I would have never survived that first six months in that run-down old farmhouse if it hadn’t been for my bulldog-like tenacity.
• People – I am a verbal influencer. It’s a coyote trait but I do my howling in front of an audience and not at the moon. I get paid to talk as a speaker and consultant. I use my verbal skills to sell myself and our services. And even though writing is nonverbal communication I have a conversational writing style. Know what I mean?
• Pace – I like a lot of variety. I live by the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, break it.” It’s another coyote trait. Coyotes are among the most curious of animals. I like to explore. Change doesn’t happen to me, I make it happen. I work a varied schedule and juggle a lot of balls. And when consulting with clients, I am either being a catalyst for change or helping them adapt to change.
• Procedures – My computer generated profile describes my approach to procedures like this: “Jim doesn’t mind following the rules as long as he gets to make the rules.” This is probably one part bulldog and one part coyote. As far as I’m concerned, there is more than one way to skin a cat and I’ve skinned a lot of cats trying to figure out every one of them. I see lots of options. As you have probably figured out by now, I definitely color outside the lines.
Speaking, writing and consulting come naturally to me because of the behavioral characteristics I just described. This is my natural behavioral style. It’s natural because I was created with that style. And because it’s natural I’m really good at what I do. No brag, just fact. I can relate to something the legendary Ray Charles said when asked about how he learned to communicate his feelings through song, “It’s natural, babe. I wouldn’t know how to tell somebody else how to do it, and I wouldn’t know how to stop it in myself.”
Michael Jordan was a natural at basketball. But remember what happened when he tried his hand at baseball? He never made it out of the minor leagues. Likewise, I would be a colossal failure, let’s say, at nuclear physics. As an animal science major I was required to take classes in chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physiology and physics. My first two years were the same as pre-med. I found myself in classrooms filled with students who were trying to get into medical or veterinary school and they were the ones setting the curve on the grading scale.
It wasn’t a fair fight.
I graduated with a 3.0000015 grade point average — definitely not at the top of my class. But because I color outside the lines I’ve been able to capitalize on my degree in animal science and agricultural background.
You won’t find many management consultants with animal science degrees. My education, coupled with my work with livestock, has given me a unique perspective of human behavior that led me to many of the conclusions I’m sharing with you in this book.
I had no idea when I was punching cows or selling cow chow that I would end up doing what I am today. But God did. He equipped me perfectly to fulfill my purpose of helping people reach their full potential. He gave me a creative mind to come up with solutions to problems when I consult. He gave me the ability to paint pictures in the minds of my audiences and my readers. He gave me the passion of a poet, the persuasion of a salesman and the perseverance of a bulldog. These attributes are perfectly tailored for the vehicles of consulting, writing and speaking.
Now, let’s see how my wife, Sondra, is uniquely equipped when it comes to the 4 Ps:
• Problems – She has an analytical approach to solving problems and facing challenges. Much of the time, she thinks that “time will take care of it.” Because Sondra believes people have the solutions for their problems within themselves, she seldom “pushes” people but helps them reach the right conclusions on their own and on their own time schedule. This is a shepherd trait.
• People – Sondra can be verbal when the situation calls for it but also uses information, facts and data to influence people. She’s comfortable in a supporting role and doesn’t need to be the center of attention. It is sometimes difficult for her to be in the position of being the “up front” person. But a good shepherd works from behind not in front.
• Pace – She is punctual, patient and tolerant. Another pointer/shepherd trait. Sondra does routine a lot better than I do. She’s more interested in relationships while I’m more interested in results. Relationships require a slower, more methodical pace — a shepherd trait. She likes to know what is expected of her and then she’ll work hard to fulfill those expectations.
• Procedure – She usually believes rules are rules and you’re not supposed to break the rules. If the flashing light says “DO NOT WALK” you do not walk – even if there isn’t a car within 50 miles of the intersection. For this reason, we’ve spent most of our married lives with me halfway across the street while she’s still standing on the curb waiting for the light to change. This is definitely the pointer in her —stay on task and don’t deviate.
Sondra’s purpose is “to set the captive free.” And her natural behavioral pattern serves her well. All of us carry a lot of old baggage that tends to hold us captive. Couple her natural behavioral style with her training in psychology and she’s perfectly equipped to help people rid themselves of the baggage that holds them back from reaching their potential.
Sondra and I each bring a different piece of the puzzle to our partnership and our marriage. Both of our pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly. She has strengths where I have weaknesses and vice versa.
The Transformational Power of Purpose: Finding & Fulfilling Your Purpose in Life contains exercises at the end of each chapter that will help you find your purpose in life and set you on the path of its fulfillment (it makes a great graduation gift!).