We all have heard the idiom that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  In fact, entire books have been written about just that philosophy, that so much is learned and decided about a person just from the initial glance at him or her that it is imperative that we always be on our game and conscious of making that great first impression.  I understand it; I just don’t ascribe to it and I challenge society to defy it.

I know, it is hard.  In fact, it can be downright impossible.  With today’s society being so centered on instant-gratification, there is a noticeable lack of patience to discover the real person.  We take on face value who people are and what they are like, because in the time it would take us to delve deeper, we have already moved on to the next big thing.  The internet has trained us to skirt the deeper issues and examine the surface only.  When was the last time you read a full newspaper article?  Don’t we all just go to the web page and read the first few lines?  We don’t have the patience to read deeper, because the internet has re-programmed us into believing that the most important aspects of the story are in the initial paragraph.  Who, what, when, where, why, and how?  Now on to something else.

Which is why this bit of information, which I only just discovered, came as such a shock.  Did you know that in 1938 and 1939 Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?  And that in 1938 he was nominated by a Jewish woman?  I’ll get to the facts of the nominations a little later, but just hearing that bit of information was shocking to me and made me think about first impressions.  This is someone who is well-considered to be one of the most evil and vile people ever to walk the earth.  But on first impression, did he seem to be “peace” loving, such that the highest societal award should be given to him?  Before his war-mongering made him hated, were his leadership and passion worthy of international accolade?

Which is why first impressions to me are, to use a term I first heard from my wife, complete and utter bunk.  Imagine the mistakes that one can make by relying on a first impression.  Consider the great losses that you could experience simply by turning a blind eye once you have made a split-second determination that someone is not worth pursuing. 

Of course, I do understand the flip-side of the equation; that we are all governed by the sands of time and cannot afford to waste such precious time on people who might end up being exactly what we learned from the first impression.  But just having that thought in your head, that your first impression could be wrong, isn’t that enough to at least question whether the first impression can be relied upon?  It doesn’t mean that we have to dispel our first impressions every time, but understanding that they may be wrong… shouldn’t that lead us to at least try to dig deeper?  You never know what gold mine you might find.

So back to the Nobel Peace Prize.  In 1938, Adolf Hitler was nominated by Gertrude Stein, a Jewish author and Nobel Prize winner in her own right.  Her nomination of Hitler was based on her belief that his efforts to drive out the Jews from Germany (at a time when it was believed he simply wanted the Jews displaced and not completely eradicated) were in effort to alleviate the elements that caused struggle and strife in Germany, namely the factors which led to such dissension.

In 1939, the circumstances of the nomination are less distasteful.  Hitler was nominated in that year by a member of the Swedish Parliament to protest the nomination of Great Britain’s Neville Chamberlain for the same prize.  The nomination was retracted a few days later and was not intended to be seriously considered.  Although interestingly enough, Josef Stalin and Benito Mussolini were also nominated for the award.  (As an aside, for nomination, all that is required is that one qualified person make the nomination.  It does not reflect the position of the nominating committee as a whole.)

Nevertheless, the danger of first impressions is evident.  You never know what you might miss… good or bad.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t know where my next client is going to come from… it could come from that guy I just ran into who was having a bad day and didn’t bring his A-game. 

Have a great week.