By Chris Simmons
At some point we’ve all used the idiom “Everybody has a price.” Almost certainly, it was used as a disparaging comment. In my previous life hunting spies and terrorists, it had more sinister connotations. That said, over time I began to envision this paradigm more abstractly and in doing so, understood the more benign, everyday implications of this rule. This tenet, which I call the Second Rule of Human Nature, is closely connected to Rule #1: Self-Interest Trumps Everything. (See The Secret to Never Getting Blindsided). In many ways, it is the corollary to the First Rule.
When conducting espionage and counterespionage operations, we studied and assessed spies to understand their motivations for changing sides. Some did it for money, others sex, while a great many were volunteers who refused payment. Their motivation was more intangible. They did it out of a sense of revenge, to feed an insatiable ego, because of personal insecurities, naivety, to make amends for past misdeeds, or a sense of justice. In every case, these individuals reached a “tipping point” where they began acting upon their motives. Espionage was the price they were willing to pay.
Now transition this scenario over to our personal life. You are at your desk at work. You’ve been a dedicated and hardworking employee for years. The firm has generously rewarded your talents. But today, out of a clear blue sky, another company offers you your “dream job.” Everything about it is perfect. As a result, you walk away from the firm in which you’ve invested your blood, sweat, and tears for so many years. The criterion – or criteria – which constituted the opportunity to follow your “dream” was your “price.”
Perhaps the best test to identify your particular price – in the professional sense – is to answer this question. If you won the lottery tonight, would you show up at work tomorrow? If the answer is no, all you are really doing at work is “marking time.” You are waiting for the right opportunity to come around so you can walk out the door. The only question is: What are the specifics that will lead you elsewhere? What’s your price?