The receptionist reacted immediately without the typical “You have to wait here, because I’m important and you’re not” game, ushering Danner right into the CEO’s office. Not typical at all, Danner thought, unaware he was walking into the strangest interview of his life.
Nice digs, Danner reflected discretely scanning. The old-Europe, dark wood, deep leather furnishing highlighted the rich patterns of thick Persian rugs. The two men in the chairs in the corner stood politely. In their mid-sixties, well dressed, and polished. No hint of arrogance, ego or intellectual snobbishness. Definitely smart, open to negotiation and ready to do business, Danner mused as he gestalted the two men, Show time!
“Welcome to the Green Man Group, Mr. Danner. I’m James Vauner, Chairman of GMG, and this is Preston Gimmel, a director of the board. I hope you had a pleasant journey.”
“A pleasure gentlemen. Please call me Kirk and yes the trip was as pleasurable as it is mysterious.” First volley—What am I doing here?!
“Please sit down, Kirk. Something to drink, eat?”
“Coffee, black, if available.”
“Breakfast of champions, huh, Kirk?” Vauner chuckled.
Vauner poured a cup for Danner and joined them around the table as Gimmel reviewed a document in front of him. Never having learned the bureaucrat’s skill of reading upside down, it was unnecessary this time. Danner knew the format. It was a background investigation on him. Nothing out of the ordinary nowadays, but very unusual they allowed him to see they have it. They’re serious about hiring me, and they won’t be trying to trap me. Showing it to me makes negotiations tougher. Intel gathering, personal analysis, historical experience was filed as Danner’s focus switched to real-time on Gimmel’s beginning.
“I see you flew fighters in the Marine Corps, and went to TOPGUN,” Gimmel starts in. “Impressive. Did you win the TOPGUN trophy?”
Danner smiled. No matter what else is on his resume; law degree, MBA, Marine Officer, Capitol Hill, or business experience, his TOPGUN training is always the first thing anyone wants to talk about. It usually means first dispelling the misconceptions.
“That was a good movie, but when I went through TOPGUN they didn’t have any trophy for the aircrews going through the program.”
Yup, here we go, thinks Danner. With long experience in dealing with people about the Marines, he knew most civilians had only two mindsets, whether they admit it or not. The first is that the military is populated with slow-witted automatons that couldn’t hack it in the real world. The other is that people in the military are incapable of innovation or independent action. Both mindsets are so far from the reality, he equated it to trying to explain to an Earthling what it’s like to live on Venus. There is nothing in your limited life experience that would allow you to comprehend the most fundamental concepts needed to form a basis in communication.
In truth, the traits most civilians think populate the military services are the very ones that can’t survive there. People with those traits, as those without integrity, are the ones who can’t ‘hack it.’ Let’s start this interview easy, Danner thinks.
“When I went through TOPGUN, the instructors knew who they were dealing with,” Danner replied calmly. “As a group, fighter aircrews are the most aggressive, competitive people in the world. You don’t push competition with people like that in a training environment. It’s a difficult concept for most people to understand, but the competition is honed for life and death situations, not winning trophies or making your numbers for one’s annual bonus. The instructors there when I went through did everything possible to tone down competition between the aircrews.”
“They sound like a dangerous group of people,” Gimmel says, watching for a reaction from Danner. Okay they got the easy part, he thinks, let’s see how they do with the important part.
“They are Preston. Very dangerous people. Which is the reason they don’t get there until passing through an extremely rigorous screening process,” replied Danner calmly smiling. “And only after consistently displaying the most important trait. The trait that keeps you an asset to your country, your fellow Marines and yourself, which is…”
“Aggression?” Gimmel interjects. Not even close, Danner flashed as he smiled at the two men.
“There are lots of aggressive people around, Preston. But the necessary trait, the most important of all, is discipline. Without that you’re nothing but a berserk Viking with the ability to burn whole cities in a single pass. That level of aggression in control of such destructive power requires the highest discipline. Without it you’re useless to everyone, including yourself. That’s what most people don’t understand about the military. Without discipline, any military unit is just an extremely lethal mob.”
Gimmel and Vauner look at each other with a discrete nod. Interesting. Danner noted, They got it on the first try. Who are these guys?
“So aggression and discipline is the key. Those traits stay with you?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” Danner replies.
“Unfortunate Kirk? Why unfortunate,” Vauner asks.
Okay, see how they do with the next concept in the politically correct snowflake environment of our society. “They’re traits intimately connected to integrity, and all three aren’t very useful in the modern world.”
“Times change, Kirk. Your bio shows a man without advantage or connections continually going forward. Don’t you think those traits helped you through law school? I see you went to a top law school in DC, while earning an MBA at the same time. Sounds like a lot of discipline while working full time on Capitol Hill.”
“Yeah, well that and $4.50 will get you a cup of coffee in the café downstairs,” Danner replies easily. He had never been comfortable bragging and self deflating humor is a good way to avoid it. Many in modern society think it’s a weakness or an insecurity, but in Danner’s view, just unnecessary. A lion doesn’t try to prove he’s a lion and if someone can’t grasp that concept, tell them to walk over and kick him. Just be sure you’re holding the car keys.