Fuzzy, chewy pig ears
When my kids were growing up, they made their way through an impressive collection of pets. In our house, humans were generally outnumbered. We had to keep the animals happy and well fed… or else.
My children had a home away from home: it was the local pet store. If you wanted a shark, a frog, a snake, a lizard, a cat, a dog, a sheep or a horse, this place could help you. Rodents, insects, reptiles and amphibians: he had everything for sale except single-celled organisms.
One day, as my kids and I were lining up to make our latest purchase (it was either a hairless rat or a newt, I forgot), I noticed a large barrel overflowing with a collection of chew toys. You know the type; those rawhide bones and donuts and knuckles and chew sticks that dogs love to chew on. Then, as my eyes wandered to the right, I saw one of the most disgusting sights ever seen by me or any other upright vertebrate.
A big barrel of them. The real thing. Harvested from real pigs. (I guess post mortem.) Mummified, dried, twisted triangles of cartilage made from premium pork, naturally smoked for irresistible flavor. For some inexplicable reason, I was drawn to the barrel to take a closer look, hoping I was wrong, that somehow these hideous artifacts were actually man-made synthetic facsimiles of the real deal. But it was at that moment that my worst fears were realized. I took one.
The ears were furry.
Yes, delicate tufts of pig hair still sprouted from each pig’s ear, and it occurred to me that it was highly unlikely that these hairs were carefully implanted one by one by underpaid craftsmen in some third-world sweatshop. Now it was undeniable. Real pig body parts for sale at our favorite pet store. Enjoyed by discerning canines everywhere! Delicious, nutritious and satisfying – chewy, furry pig ears!
This “lovely” memory was triggered the other morning when I looked at my face in the bathroom mirror while shaving. As the light reflected off the top of my gleaming bald head, I noticed hair growing from my ears. It was then that I was struck by the cruelest of ironies: the same biological process that is responsible for male pattern baldness causes unwanted hair to appear in other parts of the anatomy. It is almost as if the amount of hair on the body remains constant, it just changes location. Back, shoulders, inside the nose, outside the nose, and yes, you guessed it: the ears.
Fortunately, guys have a variety of options. Ear hair can be shaved, plucked, waxed or electrically removed. Bottom line: I had to deal with it. Denial is not an option, at least not for me. The only alternative is to leave the house every morning like a lynx in a three-piece suit.
Now, I don’t really complain about unwanted hair. After all, it is a relatively common phenomenon for many men. However, I do not agree with all the guys who, knowingly or unknowingly, decide not to exercise their options. It’s a distraction. It’s annoying. It is unsightly. They are not blind. Don’t these guys have a mirror? Maybe they are so preoccupied with other things that they don’t notice their appearance.
I wonder if they have someone in their life who gives them hints, sends them an email, gives them a trimmer for their birthday. Wait for them to fall asleep and chase them with tweezers. I don’t think I worry about my hair follicles becoming rogue, but I do notice them. I guess it’s my attention to detail. Whether they sprout from a pig or a person, I’m pretty undone by the ear hairs.
Now to the point.
No matter how you cut (or shave) it, it’s irrational and ineffective to choose a professional based on whether or not they keep your ear hair under control. Yet I have found myself doing just that. I realized that despite my strong reputation as an objective advisor and professional A-level team builder, I have found myself vulnerable to making snap judgments about people based on the appearance of their ears.
Intellectually, I know it’s ridiculous to fire someone for having fuzzy ears. After all, Albert Einstein was a badly groomed individual. Take a look at the photographs of Dr. Einstein; he had a jungle on his ears and the hairs on his nose grew into a mustache. The guy obviously had more important ideas to ponder. Who knows, if Einstein had spent more time on personal grooming, his Theory of Relativity would never have manifested itself.
A furry-eared colleague and friend of mine, let’s call him Bill, is an investment banker who graduated from Harvard Law. The man has an impressive track record and big time credentials. One day at lunch, Bill was complaining that people weren’t taking him as seriously as he would like. He sat there complaining about how taller, more handsome men get more respect, even though he was better educated (presumably smarter) and highly experienced in his field.
As Bill spoke, I couldn’t help but notice his (you guessed it) ears. They seemed hairier than usual. The hairs seemed to be growing as he spoke, like a time-lapse photograph. To make matters worse, Bill also had a nasty tear in the crotch of his pants. No, I was NOT looking at his crotch. My eyes caught the bright white of his briefs peeking through a split seam in his dark gray pants. It was like a flash of neon; I couldn’t help but notice it.
Since Bill really wanted my opinion, I decided to offer my opinion. Maybe it could help you improve your results and possibly reduce your hellish whining.
“People’s tastes are not taken into account,” I told him. “People value things and other people based on a variety of factors. That range of factors runs the gamut from very well reasoned and rational to extremely unreasonable and irrational.”
I asked Bill if he had ever seen a professional stylist, someone who could advise him on wardrobe and grooming. He replied, “No, I don’t need anyone like that.” I told him that every two years I hired a stylist to help me with these matters. So I said, “If you change your mind, let me know and I’ll recommend someone to you.” Bill’s response was resolute: “Well, that’s highly unlikely to happen.” As I stared at him in frustration, I could have sworn one of his nose hairs grew a quarter of an inch.
Bill complained about how he is often dismissed out of hand by business owners, despite the fact that he is immensely competent, trustworthy and effective at achieving positive results related to investment banking. Instead, they choose the smartly groomed “pretty boy” wearing the $5,000 suit, only to find out later that it didn’t achieve the desired result. After wasting several precious months, wasting a lot of money, and suffering great emotional anxiety, will these clients admit they made a bad decision?
Unfortunately, there are endless opportunities to choose an advisor who talks the talk but doesn’t. Everything sizzling and no steak. Most of the time, the second time is no better than the first. Why is this the case so often? Why is it so hard for some of us to align with HAWPS, or at least learn from our mistakes?
You could say that my friend Bill suffered from a debilitating lack of self-awareness. He bitterly tried to make sense of his dilemma: “Perhaps clients will reject me and my advice because I’m too honest with them. or recapitalization.”
Bill continued, “My competition downplays all of this. They present a prettier image, easier experience, and lower estimated cost. On the other hand, my view looks too expensive and time consuming. The competition won’t guarantee the desired result, but they certainly imply that if they are chosen, success is almost guaranteed. Plus, it will be less expensive and easier.”
Bill had a good point. Most people prefer easier and less expensive. After all, the path of least resistance often sounds more appealing than a more difficult and expensive journey. Bill and I had collaborated in the past and I reminded him of the many successes we share with our clients. Invariably, they were business owners or management teams who were well above average in business knowledge and acumen. Conscientious and experienced people have a broader and deeper perspective and are much less likely to fall into the “easier and cheaper” trap. I observed that more often than not Bill “won the beauty contest” as long as the client was sufficiently developed and therefore better able to make a rational, well-reasoned choice. The funny thing is that these experienced and insightful customers never had a problem with Bill’s ears.
It was quite obvious to me that Bill was in denial about his appearance and therefore unwilling to polish himself to improve his chances in “the beauty pageant” for new clients. So I suggested that he write a book that helps business owners and management teams gain greater insight into the details, expense, and time associated with making their business more salable, transferable, or investment-worthy. That would probably be the most effective, as it would educate potential customers and improve their discernment. Bill’s attention to detail, comprehensive understanding, wisdom, and courage would be clearly articulated and contrasted with those less capable “pretty people” with their hollow promises of “easier and cheaper.” And the hair on his ear could be touched up from his photo on the book jacket.
When I suggested this to him, he recognized that it was a great idea. He then said, “Once I graduated from law school, I promised that I would never write an article or a thesis again, so there is no way I would ever write a book again.”
I watched as the nose hair grew another quarter inch.
Albert Einstein, the hairiest of geniuses, offered this bit of wisdom: “One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing expecting a different result.” Well, without putting his wisdom in writing and sharing it with the world, Furry-Eared Bill is destined to bang his head against the same wall, over and over again, losing one beauty pageant after another to competitors whose integrity, abilities and intellects are far inferior to yours. But Bill’s furry ears were never really the problem. It’s what’s between the ears that counts most. So, of course, what we actually do with vital information and wise advice is an important factor in every important aspect of our lives, businesses, and relationships.