Follow your gut.
My guess is that in many careers there are people who in their early years followed their instincts more than anything else – more than data, more than intricate analyses of either problems to be solved or opportunities to be seized.
For one thing, if you go back 15 years or more, we did not have available through a keystroke or two the massive amounts of statistics brought together from technology and algorithms.
So, in many cases, novices in business had little choice but to go with their gut and make decisions that were intuitive. It also helped to be risk averse. At least that was the case with me.
I used to believe that my instinct about people, particularly those I hired – and didn’t hire – was my best and most successful tool.
Somehow I imagined that over time I would become even more risk averse and follow my instincts even more. But time and perhaps the accumulation of “things,” things that equated to material wealth and promotions and better jobs, produced the reverse.
I began to labor more over business decisions and the more I labored, it seemed, less success followed.
Lately I am veering back to following my instincts.
Strangely, of all the people and events that have reminded me to listen to the internal voice saying “trust yourself,” Michael Flynn and his recent guilty plea for lying to the FBI brought me back to reality.
Flynn was a highly decorated Army general who served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama – until Obama booted him out of that job and into retirement. Flynn later became a vociferous supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Trump picked him to be national security adviser soon after the election. It was all downhill from there.
As we now know, Flynn spent at least part of his time in the weeks before Trump’s January inauguration chatting up Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. For reasons that aren’t entirely – or even slightly – clear, Flynn lied about these conversations when the FBI asked him about them after the inauguration. The lies led to his firing as national security adviser in February and eventually to the indictment that forced his Dec. 1 guilty plea.
It would be hard to believe that Flynn suddenly turned into a liar last January. Most likely he lied during his military career and even before that time. If that’s the case, it’s also reasonable to believe that people who knew him and worked with him doubted his veracity but looked the other way. And surely there were folks who thought it but never said it: “I just don’t trust this guy.”
One day within the last two years a friend of mine was at a breakfast meeting in Dallas and was introduced to Flynn. My friend had a photo taken with the famous military man and contacted me to say that Flynn was available, for a fee, to speak at a Business Press event.
I immediately thought the suggestion a bad idea. Can’t tell you why. I just did. But I phoned another friend who was also at the Dallas event and had several interactions with Flynn.
My friend is street smart and for many years has worked in politics, just as I have worked in journalism. Both trades will teach you to be on the lookout for fakers – and liars.
“Flynn?” he said. “The general is a phony. He’s a blowhard.”
I relayed the message and said we had no interest in being involved with Flynn. My gut told me he was not authentic.
Suffice to say, with Flynn’s dishonesty now a matter of record, I’m making it a point these days to resume my long-ago practice of trusting my gut. It might be a wise course for others to take as well.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at email@example.com