Sunday, July 15, 2012

Our National Forer Statement

I recently learned about the terms "Barnum Statement" and "Forer Statement," and referenced a Barnum Statement over on Cliff's blog, Right-Side-of-Lowell.

In a nutshell, these are things people can be told by any hack (whether that's a palm reader, tarot card reader, biorhythm expert, or whatever) but will believe uniquely *captures" them.

Here is the initial Forer paragraph:
"You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic." 
Think that applies to you?  If you do, you're in excellent company.  It's just specific enough without overplaying its hand, it's just flattering enough without overdoing it, and, well, it just works.

People that do "cold reads" aren't always doing it in such a cold way, either.  To someone with a visible left-hand ring, it's hard to fail with, "Although you are committed to your current partner, there is someone from your past who still enters your mind from time to time."  To someone who responds positively to a statement about unused potential, you cast aspersions upon their current boss for not picking up on it and harnessing it the right way.

Forer Statements, btw, are named for a psychologist who tested them out on students, and Barnum Statements are named for the all-American huckster P.T. Barnum, most famous for his observation about the birth rate of suckers.

The best Barnum Statement I've ever heard is this: "In your high school, there were several rigidly-defined cliques, but you didn't fit into any simple, neat, particular box.  You were sort of friends with everyone, which was great because it meant you transcended the cliques, but it also left you feeling at times like you were in search of identity."

Find someone who disagrees with that!  Or with the much more basic standby, "You have very eclectic musical tastes."  Really?  You mean I'm the only person born in 1980 who knows all the words to the first NWA album but also lets loose to Pearl Jam Ten?  I must be, like, special or something!

Anyway, reading a post Cliff wrote about elites had me thinking about what George Carlin used to say about driving (anyone driving faster than you is a maniac, anyone driving slower is an idiot).  The big American Barnum Statement similar to that deals with success, and it goes something like this:
"All the success you've had is from the sweat of your own brow.  Sure, others have advanced beyond you, but that's only because they are part of an elite who had everything spoon-fed to them their entire lives.  Meanwhile, the people who haven't made it as far as you have are just not as motivated or intelligent."  
That simultaneously plays to the American 'self-made man' mythos and the idea of some all-powerful, all-knowing cabal of people who use the seasons of the year as verbs, own houses in Newport, use the word 'sport' as every part of speech, and give their kids last names like Parker or Henderson for first names but actually refer to them by playful monikers like "Skipper," "Scooter," and "Boom-Boom."

I'm starting my MBA at Sloan in precisely one month and still hear some of the 'trust fund' comments from people who are apparently terrified of a simple Google search that would show them a cost comparison of various full-time b-schools, an understanding of what 'zero expected contribution' means on an award letter, or the way the Perkins plus the Stafford plus the VA makes for not only a great opportunity with the power to propel someone into an entirely different job stratosphere (perhaps a chance to finally meet these elites?) but also lets them live pretty darned comfortably in the process.

Which is probably a perfect segue into an announcement that I'm going to take this mostly-unthemed blog into a little bit more of a coherent direction starting now and for the next couple years:  I'm going to focus much more on business in general, on start-ups, on the interview and recruiting process, on business education, and everything in between.

Rather than expecting to stumble upon a group of pampered whiners who are whittling away two years that they have nothing better to do with, I'm anticipating interactions with a lot of highly-accomplished, confident, intelligent late-twentysomethings and early-thirtysomethings who have worked in the high finance and consulting worlds, started businesses all over the world, written programs, fought in wars, and performed every kind of public service imaginable.

If you think I'm an elitist for what will be nearly endless mentions of MIT and Sloan, then the best advice I can give you is to please head towards the door and don't let it hit you where the Good Lord split you!

However, if you are interested in pursuing start-up possibilities in Greater Lowell, the "Waltham tech corridor," Kendall Square, or anywhere in between, let's talk.  Seriously.

Also, if you a) live in Greater Lowell, and/or b) are a veteran applying to business schools and looking for some pro bono consulting love regarding the process, get in touch with me.

Let's start a really long and interesting conversation that never really ends.  


C R Krieger said...

"...that never really ends."  Either the movie or religion.  Pretty much everything else perishes.  But, as long as there is hope in These United States we can have the conversation.

Lets avoid the sadness.

Regards  —  Cliff

Nick McNulty said...

Some of those statements were so clearly about me, I am going to print this, cut it into little pieces, and put them in a floating liquid inside an eight ball that I will carry, to be shaken up occasionally for direction at one of life's many crossroads.

More seriously, awesome on the MBA, but too bad about the new blog format. I am sure it will still be interesting, but I for one appreciate the free-range, insight on every-day format. As a paying customer, I thought I'd weigh in!

I will probably hit you up for some guidance in the next 12-24 months, I am going to be looking towards masters programs then.

shazaniq said...

Great blog a perfect segue into an announcement that I'm going to take this mostly-unthemed blog into a little bit.Thanks for sharing......

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