Expending Ten Times the Effort

Straight out of college, my first job was in high-tech sales. The sales team that I worked with was great, while I was merely average. And like all great sales teams, they worked very hard to get their ‘merely average’ member to become great. They did that by dragging me through every sales course they could find.

You can learn a lot of interesting stuff in a sales course, but I will never forget one of the most interesting bits of wisdom that I have ever heard:

“It takes ten attaboys to make up for one ‘Oh $#&%!'”

That’s right. It takes ten positive interactions with a customer, to make up for one negative interaction.


Because we see the negative ten times more than we see the positive. That’s why you see me rage against the evil ten times more than you see me praise the good.

That’s a bit hypocritical, since all the people that you hear me moan about are no more evil than I am. For all of my bluster, if I were in their position – with their knowledge and background, etc. – I’d probably be doing the same thing.

We’re all human, which means that we share equally in the capacity for good and evil.

That capacity is writ large in the Middle East. There are no shades of gray here. Evil and good exist side-by-side, and the contrast is magnificent – and awful.

It’s a story of the human condition.

During the war of Independence, Gush Etzion was massacred by her Palestinian neighbors. The survivors owe their lives to a nameless Jordanian officer who had to shoot some of his fellow Arabs to save those few Jews who did survive.

Several years ago, I was in Amman, the capital of Jordan, and I bought an olive-wood keychain for an Israeli boy who collected such things. In my brief conversation with the Palestinian merchant, I learned that he had spent his whole life angry at Israel, yet he offered to inscribe the boy’s name in Hebrew on the keychain – for free.

During the war in southern Lebanon, a friend of mine saw more combat and tragedy than any man should ever see. He said that the best commander that he’d ever had was an Arab. He made sure that the Jewish holidays were properly observed. He took care of every soldier in his command.

I have many more stories like this, but I think that I’ve made my point with these three. Evil is easy to see, but you can find a lot of good if you are willing to expend ten times the effort to look for it.