Seeing the Best in Others
Jesse: “Why me?”
Gus: “I like to think I see things in people.”
That exchange occurred between two of mine favorite characters in Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman and Gus Fring. Jesse, who was the verge of having his life snuffed out by Gus not only finds his life spared, but finds himself more or less brought into Gus’ inner circle and wants to know ‘why’. Gus lets Jesse know that he sees potential in Jesse, though it’s hard to know if Gus is genuine or playing mind games with Jesse.
To get the best from others, you must first see the best in them. And, to do that you must use the best qualities in you. To bring out the best in others you have to exude confidence, optimism, and a sense of hope. And, when we get the best out and from others our lives become enriched, too.
Seeing the Best in Others
Seeing the best in others is something we should all do. We all have good qualities, and believe it or not, we all have bad qualities. Sometimes the good qualities are overshadowed by the bad ones, and it takes someone perceptive to see past the bad ones as Gus did with Jessie. It takes someone special to see the potential hidden in all of us.
Rarely, do we live up to our potential. We need help. And, we need people who believe in us, get us to see our own potential, give us guidance, and who demand something of us. We all need “coaches” if you will. To get people to deliver more, they first must believe they have something to deliver or give.
They also must have the basic set of skills and the attitude and desire to deliver more. They have to see that they have what it takes. They need help to see their potential and appreciate their self-value. They need someone to build their confidence – sometimes by putting them in situations to enjoy success as Gus does with Jesse.
Getting the best from others and helping them reach their full potential also involves painting a picture of what the future could be; that the future holds promise. It a nutshell it’s about providing hope. And, don’t we all want to be around people who are hopeful and optimistic?
An absolute essential to get others to deliver more or become more is to gain their trust. Without it little is possible. And, over time Gus has been able to do that with Jesse – gain his trust. And, when you gain someone’s trust they don’t want to disappoint. They become more receptive to learning and more willing to make the necessary effort. They are motivated by their desire to become better, but also motivated not to disappoint.
In Living Life to Its Fullest: Lessons from Dad, I wrote about how my dad saw the good and brought out the best in others. He was very good at getting others to improve themselves. Part of that was the way he went about it. He did it a more or less in a loving way. He first started with what they were doing well – praised them for that. Then in polite ways would broach their deficiencies without being critical. “Here’s where you are. Here’s where you need to be. And, this is how we are going to get there.” It’s a team effort.
All of that means you have to patient with someone. You have to recognize their skill set, not be too judgemental as to what is possible, and develop a plan to help move them from point A to point B, and point B to point C, and so on. It’s a process, and it’s a process that takes time.
Perhaps, most importantly it means taking time to understand the other person.
In a previous post I mentioned that during the first week of medical school we viewed a movie or lecture called What You Are Is Where You Were When by Morris Massey. We are shaped and influenced by our previous experiences. And, if you are going to bring out the best in others you have to understand someone’s past as Gus did with Jessie. You have to see life from their perspective before you can get them to see it from yours. Too often we don’t take the time to understand others by understanding their past.
Why Bad People are Successful – They Value Others and Provide Hope
One of the mysteries of life is how and why people who seem so horrible can enjoy so much success and have so much go their way. I found at least part of the answer tucked away in a little book called As a Man Thinketh published in 1902 and written by James Allen.
It has to do with the degree that we use our good qualities and keep in check our bad qualities. If you have only one good quality but use it consistently you can be very successful and have plenty of friends. And on the contrary, you may have only one bad quality, but if it dominates your being you are going find yourself with few friends and little success. But, if you make people feel valued and extend hope out to them – you can pretty much get whatever you want, regardless if you are good or bad.
Even dictators, criminals and gang leaders have good qualities. And, if they maximally use those good qualities they can be very successful and get others to follow them. One thing they recognize is that we all yearn to be wanted and recognized. And, many people are motivated to some degree by money.
Such “leaders” understand human behavior and motivation. Gangs welcome the outcasts of society, make them feel wanted, and give them an opportunity to enjoy success – possibly for the first time. They frequently give them an opportunity to make money with little skill requirements. They give people hope that the future will be better. Hope is powerful. The two past Presidential elections were won on the power of hope.
Gus has many good qualities and uses them effectively to gets what he wants by getting the most from others as he helps them get what they want while making them feel valued and providing them with hope.
Help People Get What They Want
As Zig Ziglar became famous for saying, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Anybody who has reached the highest level knows that, or at least intuits it. I think many of the so-called bad people instinctively know that pearl of wisdom. It’s about the only thing they have working in their favor – they have to apply that nugget of wisdom.
Politicians know that piece of advice too. The only real difference between many politicians and those involved in organize crime is the side of the law they’re on with politicians hiding behind many of the “corrupt” laws they pass.
Gus is a master at giving people what they want as is Walter White. They both have many good qualities and in many ways they are similar men (perhaps why they struggle to get along) differing, in my opinion, mainly by motives and temperament.
Gus also understands what I refer to as “the paradox of life” for a lack of a better descriptor. He understands that many times you have to do the opposite of what you are inclined to better improve your chances of getting what you want. You have to give to receive. Sometimes you have to be willing to get fired to better get that promotion. Sometimes you have to demonstrate that you are willing to walk away from a relationship to save it. Sometimes you have to let your kids fail for them to ultimately be successful, and so on.
Gus is able to keep his emotions in check and do the opposite of human nature to ultimately get what he wants. He hides in the open, friends his enemies, smiles when angry, remains calm under pressure, is benevolent while doing harm, and more.
To do all of that requires great self-restraint and discipline. He also has the unique gift as does Walter White to think 3-4 steps ahead and anticipate how the other party will play their cards – usually making sure that last card played comes from their own hand. That requires a great understanding of human nature, too.
Gus and Walter are extremely smart and extremely talented. It’s unfortunate that they did not harness all their skill and ability and understanding of human nature to do more good – but then we probably would not have a TV show. But, both men illustrate what it takes to bring out the best in others, and they are classic examples of why “bad people” can be successful.
Much of bringing out the best in people begins with understanding human nature, understanding what motivates a given individual, help them get what they want, and providing hope for a better future. And, if that is your only gift you can move mountains – no matter if you are good or bad.
What’s more perplexing to me isn’t why bad people succeed, but rather why more good people do not succeed more – why good people fail to see the best in those around them, why good people fail to improve themselves and their situations, and why good people resist help from others who want to bring out the best in them . That’s the real mystery.
Related post: Live Life: Lessons from Breaking Bad