No Brown M&M's! David Lee Roth and the Power of Checklists

Article 126: No brown M&M’s! (Photo: Mr. T in DC)

Happy New Year, all! I’ll be putting up a “Lessons learned in 2011” post soon. In the meantime, here is a taste of things to come.


I can come across as anal retentive, even severely Monk-ish. One reason for the madness: with rare exceptions, I’ve come to believe that how we do anything is how we do everything.

I’m not alone.

The following is a short excerpt from The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, also reprinted by Tehelka magazine in India. In it, we learn the logic of David Lee Roth’s famous obsession with brown M&M’s:

Listening to the radio, I heard the story behind rocker David Lee Roth’s notorious insistence that Van Halen’s contracts with concert promoters contain a clause specifying that a bowl of M&M’s has to be provided backstage, but with every single brown candy removed, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation to the band. And at least once, Van Halen followed through, peremptorily cancelling a show in Colorado when Roth found some brown M&M’s in his dressing room. This turned out to be, however, not another example of the insane demands of power-mad celebrities but an ingenious ruse.

As Roth explained in his memoir, Crazy from the Heat, “Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, thirdlevel markets.

We’d pull up with nine 18-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move thegear through. The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function.” So just as a little test, buried somewhere in the middle of the rider, would be article 126, the no-brown-M&M’s clause. “When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl,” he wrote, “well, we’d line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error… Guaranteed you’d run into a problem.” These weren’t trifles, the radio story pointed out. The mistakes could be lifethreatening. In Colorado, the band found the local promoters had failed to read the weight requirements and the staging would have fallen through the arena

Do you have any similar tests that you’ve found helpful in business, hiring, life, or love?

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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223 Replies to “No Brown M&M's! David Lee Roth and the Power of Checklists”

  1. “Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, thirdlevel markets.”

    This is the part of the story that I had missed when I’d heard it before – and what makes the M&M test all the more important.

  2. I’ve been obsessively using lists over the past year for almost everything. From note taking to staging blog posts or the writing of an entire book.

    I actually heard this story a while back it’s one of the few reasons I find list making for others so important. Even for simple things, so much needs to be done properly and with the appropriate nuance, you can’t expect everyone to get things done the way you envision in your mind.

    I totally agree with Dave’s logic here and I’m curious about how lists became so important to you. As a fanatical Evernote user, I’d love to swap Evernote taking tips.

  3. Like I always used to say back in my military days, “If it ain’t inspected, it’s neglected.” When lives are on the line you just can’t take the chance. Good on these guys for holding people accountable on the little things…if they screw up the little things, they’ll screw up the big things! Great meeting and talking with you at the Evernote Trunk Conference, Tim. Hope you enjoyed the Barookie Bars!

    1. Just picked up the Kindle edition of the The Checklist Manifesto through your link…thanks for the recommend, Tim.

      1. Random and, extraordinarily off topic, but I could swear I’ve seen you somewhere else on the internet.

  4. It has been said before, but i will bring it back in the spirit of your question. Whenever someone asks me for a professional favor (reference, networking, etc.) I always ask for them to first send me a brief summary of their recent professional accomplishments. It is amazing how FEW people follow through with this tiny request.

    tl/dr: When someone asks a favor give them a small task to complete first. Very few will follow through.

    1. Jason – I do a similar thing when people ask for requests. I am a graphic designer and have friends ask for small design favors which I am happy to fulfill if they are indeed “small.” Usually somebody will call me and talk through their vision and expect me to take detailed notes of their every idea. What I will do is say something like this: “This project sounds exciting. Will you shoot me a quick email with everything you just explained to me and maybe some links of designs that inspire you? I don’t want to have missed anything in our conversation.”

      Less than half do it. It is amazing how many people will ask you for a favor but not invest 5 minutes of their own time. I hate writing down other people’s ideas anyways.

      1. Great approach, Daniel, and so true. Same happens if you ask someone to follow up in a few weeks. 90%+ never do.

  5. Tim,

    Are you aware of the Zappos hiring secret? For Tony’s sake, I won’t out it here but it’s equally as brilliant as David Lee Roth’s brown M&M’s trick.


    1. Hi Clay,

      I’m not, but I know Tony well. If he’s discussed it publicly anywhere, please do feel free to post!


      1. Hey Tim,

        I guess Clay refers to the “offer” from Zappos that tells new employees to quit for a bonus. You can read more about it here and there.

        Here’s an excerpt:

        Apparently, when Zappos hires new employees, it puts them through an intensive four-week training program, immersing them in the company’s culture, strategy, and processes. Then, about one week in, Zappos makes what it calls “The Offer,” telling newbies, “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you have worked, plus a $2,000 bonus.” A BusinessWeek reporter interviewed Hsieh recently. He says only 2% to 3% of people take the offer. The other 97% say no deal—they choose the job over the instant cash.

      2. Clay, are you referring to how Zappos pays people to quit?

        Quick quote from the article above:

        “After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!”

        It’s a similar litmus test.

      3. From what I understand, this offer dollar amount has been “upped” more recently. It was mentioned in a mixergy interview with a former Zappos marketer recently.

    2. Offered the Zappos deal in my twenties I would have totally taken the money to start my own business!

  6. You know after reading this and thinking about it. I do have a check list in my mind in the area of love. For example meeting a girl and asking her questions about her beliefs. And then a couple of weeks later sort testing those beliefs by creating a situations to see if she does follow through with her personal beliefs to see if she is genuine as she says or f she just is a bag of air. Recently, it has worked and I’m beginning to find myself in the pursuit of a girl because her character is solid. And, it’s going to be amazing to see where everything will go between us. I hope this makes sense and it relevant to the post. Am I alone with setting up a check list in the area of love and testing if someone is true to their beliefs?

    1. I don’t think I would use a checklist for ‘love’, I mean, where people are concerned I think intuition is a powerful thing. Sometimes you can write someone off after a few minutes, sometimes it takes a few meetings. Unfortunately, time and circumstances can change a person, making the checklist idea a good short term strategy but probably not a good predictor of long-term success in a romantic relationship. Does that make sense?

      1. People lie, and they do it well, and sometimes not intentionally. They might have high ideals, but not really have the integrity to live them. Hormones, etc., can affect our perceptions. Having a logical way to screen potential mates is good way to avoid wasting time with people aren’t truly compatible.

        I myself had a checklist of 30 or so items. Some were traits I was looking for, some were traits I wouldn’t tolerate. Once I had a clear idea of what I wanted I found it. Happily married for 23 years.

      2. The people who have lists for love are the people who are still single years after all their friends are happily married


      3. I used one before, and I have one now. Its not a hard fast one (I broke it before and would again), what it does for me is helpfully weed out girls that are definitely good people that I should be friends with but would not be good for a relationship with me. This isn’t the brown m&ms this is more like what basic things am I looking for? does this person cover them? Do we want similar things?

    2. Have you read Steven Covey’s Seven habits book? He really shows the importance of keeping your word, thanks for reminding me.

  7. I love this test, but the real trick is in applying it to your own situation. How do we get the same immediacy as Van Halen’s brown M&Ms?

    I have written about this in a public service context. Some ideas for what might be the “brown M&Ms” for the public service are:

    *No thought of the citizen / the public in service delivery, policy development and implementation

    *Little or no focus on the future just dealing with immediate problems

    *Absence of alternative view points being presented in discussions

    *Lack of a bias for action, just lots of planning

    *No mistakes

    *People who use the sentence – ‘we can’t raise expectations’

    *Units with an over-representation of 50+ year old men

    *Strong hierarchies

    *People uncomfortable with even a little brainstorming, who divert conversations to frameworks, processes and resources

    *Units that never describe the ‘outcomes’ from their work.

  8. In hiring developers, I’ve found that written communication skill basically is directly proportional to programming capability.

    1. That makes perfect sense, now that I think about it. Structured thought (including if-then) is structured thought, right?

      1. Ok I can understand the need for structured thought, but isn’t the communication ability directly relevant to the language skills within a specific language

        So I always check to see that they have programming language skills, rather than English or any other “language skill” because I recruit a lot of non native speakers of English 🙂

        Oh and btw, this reminds me of the academic arguments about 99% language and .5% research and .5% latex/bibtex

        Thanks again for showing me the way out Tim 🙂

        From Bangkok

    2. I’m doing a startup in software. Would be great if true. Have to do a sep. test for them though while watching over them to speak. I would not trust the material i was sent.

      Also Creatives find it harder to habituate. I am sure I test can be done this. Bet Edison would have done that one had he heard of it!

  9. That is a beautiful test – bury the simple in order to unveil the complex. I would have personally written him off as a maniacal rocker when instead he was just making sure the show would keep going on.

    I don’t have any personal brown M&M tactics, but I do believe we all utilize the simple in order to make the complex more at home. It is these small pieces that bring it all together or shatter it just as fast.

  10. When interviewing potential virtual assistants, Ryan Lee suggests to request them to use a random phrase in reply to his email. Something like “tea at noon” would need to be added somewhere in the response email from the VA to be considered for the job.

    1. I like this idea and am going to use it.

      I need a VA to screen VAs!

      I’ve been having mixed results hiring folks on freelancer and odesk. Right off the bat I nix any generic responses, if the applicant doesn’t respond to specifics of my listing they aren’t even considered.

      I used to always include a random paragraph in the middle of all of my college papers to see if the professors were actually reading them. Only once did a professor notice.

      1. Valerie, instead of hiring overseas VA’s try finding stay at home moms or other folks that aren’t able to work onsite somewhere. You may get better quality of work for the same price. It has worked very well for me in the past. Plus you are hiring local/national vs global…. that is economic stimulation and a small core level… right?

      2. Building on Ray’s comment, another ‘immediate’ good tip is to insist that all responses to jobs start with “Hi there Valerie”. If they can’t follow that simple instruction then…

  11. When I write technical specs for developers and for business owners to sign off on, it’s inevitable that they will skim it, not understand it, and yet sign off on it anyway. This is why I schedule a meeting to go over it, even if they approve it beforehand. For some reason if it’s spec’ed out they think their job is done. There are always questions, even if I write it so that hopefully they only need to read it once. tl;dr seems to be common in executive circles. :-/

  12. Here’s a good one: Henry Ford reportedly took prospective employees out to lunch…

    … and if they reached for the salt before tasting their food, he declined to hire them.


    Ford wanted people to “test” their assumptions… instead of blindly falling into habit.

    Figured you’d like that one, Tim.

    OK, now for mine: I routinely, habitually, even maniacally ask waiters to order for me.

    I figure “Hey, they work here… who’d know better than them?”

    And I’ve found that there are two kinds of people: those who stand there, dumbfounded, and can’t name a single thing… and those who simply give one knowing look, smile and head to the kitchen.

    It’s the second kind that ALWAYS come back delicious.

    And after doing this dozens, even hundreds of times, I’ve learned to take the stragglers with a grain of salt (if you’ll pardon the pun) and order for myself.

    Ford would be proud.

    1. This only works in a restaurant setting, but people try this on me in the big-box retail store cafeteria I work in. We’ve had the same few items for nearly a dozen years – none of it is good to me anymore so a truthful answer would be, “I wouldn’t eat any of this, it is too unhealthy.” lol

    2. I’ve always been curious about this ford’s test

      What if the prospective employee had prior knowledge about the food/ chef or maybe simply he liked more salt than other people ?

  13. I remember an episode of the Mythbusters where Jamie mentioned a test he runs new team members trough:

    He would mark an X on a board and ask them to drill a hole trough it, and see how many questions the newbie made before complying. He expected at least the following:

    -What size? (and other technical questions pertaining the hole itself)

    -How precise does it have to be?

    -How does this piece fit in, in whatever it is we’re doing?

  14. James C. Penny would take a new employee out to lunch/dinner for an interview. If they salt/peppered their food without tasting it first he wouldn’t hire them.

    His thought process was that anyone that assumed something needed extra just for the sake of it, wasn’t an employee he wanted working for him.

    I always thought that was a neat story.

      1. Agreed! Edison did do this. I added it in a comment below. Just found yours! not sure about the other guy, could always google it.

      2. I’ve always *hated* the “salt interview” story, not only because I think the test is a horrible technique in its own right, but also because it glorifies the narcissism, arrogance, and outright laziness of so many decision makers.

        Think about it. Jumbo interviews Teacup. How Teacup chooses to season the Snausages In a Blanket placed before her at lunch has no direct bearing on how she would perform the job (unless she’s seeking a chef’s position). So the test is all about inference, a heavy burden for the toss of a salt shaker to carry.

        Maybe Teacup is like me. She likes a high level of salt, has never in her life thought she destroyed her food by pre-salting it, and is willing to live with the possible future tragedy of eating something that is beyond her preferred optimum level of saltiness. (And in any case, a job interview lunch is more stressful than one with friends, so she might not be paying much attention to the food and salt anyway.)

        Jumbo is so into himself that he thinks anyone who doesn’t share his trivial personal behaviors is simply wrong and unhireable. So he would expect Teacup to taste every bland restaurant meal in her life before making any adjustments. Cumulatively, that would not only waste a lot of her time, but at least one bite per meal. Carrying that approach into the workplace makes for inefficiency.

        (Even if the salt test had any theoretical validity, Jumbo is willing to waste hours of company time, plus a meal, then reject a candidate based on one tangential observation alone. You’d think he’d probe a little, maybe say something like, “My grass and assorted cellulose is a little gritty. How are the Snausages?”)

        What *really* bugs me about the test is the underlying assumption that good employees give everything in their lives maximum attention and diligence. No one can do that and be effective.

    1. You just got fired because you put pepper flakes on your pizza. Tell that to your children. 🙂

      This story is a prime case of misdirection. It sounds good but isn’t.

      First, the story mentions Edison. Because he is famous or was successful in his time that somehow all stories mentioning him has a good point? Of course not. The story assumes that Edison cannot be wrong. Of course he can be. I assume that Tim Ferriss can be incredibly wrong, which is the whole point of critical thinking.

      Second, many times you can tell if a soup needs something extra by smell alone. Ask chefs.

      Third, the way someone eats food does not always reflect on the way that person does his work. Just because you make sounds when you go to the bathroom, does not mean you cannot be silent when it calls for it. (i.e business meeting or funeral)

      Fourth, Edison could afford to use these bad “tests”. So what if he passed on 300 perfect employees? With all the people coming in hopes to work for him, he could hire the 301th perfect employee. No problem.

      Anecdotes of famous people can be credibly misleading. Some are manufactured, some are blown out of proportion.

      It’s always better to listen to them with a grain of salt. 😛 (I know. But I couldn’t help it)

  15. Sorry the story is not very useful.

    There is a hint of arrogance and mischief in the story, which mix the image of a rock star might seem intriguing, smart or inspirational. Unfortunately the story is a sub-standard, if not down right poor and embarrassingly egotistic example of handling matters. Playing games instead of dealing with the actual problem. What if there was no brown M&Ms but the equipment was still setup poorly? It really doesn’t solve anything. Instead of the M&M’s why not put in the rider about the condition of equipment? Are the roadie picking out M&Ms setting up the equipment as well?

    Good story to sell books but not worth firing neurons over.

    From the male perspective, women playing mind games or making up weird tests to “gauge the relationship” is one of the top complaints men have in dating. This story reminds me of that. Nothing useful. Just a lot of sighs and migraines.

    Come on Tim. You can do better than this.

    1. I believe that “How you do anything is how you do everything.” and this story is a great example of that.


      Very powerful tool for finding superstars.

      1. It is a nice quote. Simple and damning. A real crowd pleaser.

        However, I have to disagree with it. It is a minefield for making false assumptions.

    2. Of course it’s not a perfect test. The closest thing to a perfect test would be having a trusted person walk the entire line every time or doing it yourself. In some cases, that’s what it takes – sometimes the stakes are high enough that you detail a VIP to provide the final check. What the candy provides is a simple thing to check disguised as something important. It’s relatively easy to fake – no doubt word spread of the band’s eccentricity and venues became careful to unwittingly focus on the telltale – but there are defenses against that (specify a different color in each contract; make it a different backstage item; rotate its location in the contract). The purpose of the M&M test is not to be a perfect indicator. It provides a reasonably reliable indicator that the venue has at least read the contract without requiring any more effort than it takes to screen candy for color. It’s simply another application of the Pareto principle.

    3. It’s a simple test with two purposes: 1.) to see if the venue actually reads the rider and 2.) to establish consequences if they do not.

      Regardless of where you are, if your name is on the show, you are the one ultimately responsible for it, good or bad.

      It makes perfect sense.

    4. It’s a really effective test, actually. You’re checking for their ability to manage the details. When you’ve got a set up worth hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, details are important. It’s one fast, easy thing to check.

      It doesn’t mean they don’t have to check over everything else, too. It just means if that’s wrong, a lot of other things probably are, too.

      If I go to a restaurant, tell them I’m vegan, and they bring out a salad with eggs on it, I leave. It shows a lack of care. Or if someone with latex allergy goes to the doctor and the dude comes in wearing white latex gloves. I wouldn’t want that dr prescribing me meds.

      Also, it wouldn’t be roadies–who travel with the band. It’d be local staff that’d pick through the candy–this is stuff that’s done before any of the band stuff shows up.

      1. To Peter.

        One has to wonder why brown M&M’s HAD to be a way out. You would think that setup and equipment requirements would already be in the contract/rider. If it wasn’t, one could say the contract was written very poorly and needed to be improved. If it did, then there wouldn’t be a need for a “Brown M&M” test. Promoters would already be in violation of the contract/rider and all you have to do is walk out. The M&M clause wasn’t a fix for the problem. it was a very poor indicator to a non-related problem. it was a very sad example of a very wrong way of problem solving.

        “test” are popular. In gossip magazines, there are tests to see if you are good mother, good person, good lover, does-your-dog-love-you and so many more. It is often hailed as a sorting or qualifying mechanism. People like short cuts, secrets, hidden knowledge, drama of and sense of superiority. Many times, there is a cute story of someone famous using a magic “test” which make it sound legit. Of course, very few consider the fact that maybe those famous people were incorrect. “tests” usually eliminates a large number of your choices, which gives a false impression that it is efficient. “tests” simplifies, so there is no need for critical thinking. Most of the time, “testing” is a illusion for self gratification or to please a crowd which doesn’t want to think for themselves.

        in any case, I stand by my statement that this post was a disappointment and potentially misleading to the readers. I do think Tim can do much better than this. Thanks

    5. @ David to Peter:

      Especially since it’s fairly well known DLR was under the influence of a particular substance that generates extreme ego outbursts and paranoia.

      M&M’s have nothing to do with the tour – it’s just a diva whim under the guise of “importance.”

      How about a clause that all doors ARE measured before shipping equipment?

      Even costuming – ie, cotton socks no thicker than… (so feet breath in boots during performance) – or dietary requirements – room temp and chilled water bottles at ready – make more sense, render the test legitimate, and gain the respect and support of staff because they can UNDERSTAND the reason for demanding said detail.

      If the goal isn’t just to catch someone off-guard to excuse ranting, but to actually get everyone self-motivated to follow details, then you have to use a test with real – not imposed – purpose.

  16. “…how we do anything is how we do everything.”

    Truth-bomb that just blew my mind. Exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks Mr. Ferriss. Keep it up.

  17. I am a hairstylist for 23 years, and have a test to see what kind of person is in my chair. After shampooing many heads, there are two types of people. I tell everyone to relax their neck and let me do the work. Some lay heavy, which makes the shampoo more vigorous and water won’t shoot down the neck, and others lift their head to help for worry it is heavy. People who relax are more self centered, and pleasure driven. People who lift their heads, even when I repeatedly ask them to relax are worry warts, and controlling. Usually they are women and mostly mothers. The young and the men relax and enjoy their shampoo. Anyone have any ideas how to use this for sales?

    1. If you set up your process so that walk ins were given shampoos before being assigned a stylist, you could then separate the customers to match up with stylist that fit their personalities better.

      Type A people (after the shampoo) could then be moved to “Janet” a very detailed stylist who asks the customer for lots of specifics.

      Type B people (after the shampoo) could then be moved to “Suzie” who is more creative and less concerned about the details.

      I would imagine tips would increase and customer loyalty/retention would be extended.

  18. I have a friend who is a fashion designer in search of interns or assistants on occasion. She advertises the jobs on Craig’s list and instructs the applicants to email resumes with a catch phrase in the subject line. She only reads the emails from applicants that follow the instructions – approximately 30% follow instruction. It saves her a lot of time.

    1. I do the same thing with oDesk when hiring freelancers. I always put an instruction in the body text which says something like:

      Please put the word “toaster” as the first word in your application

      Makes it very easy to tell who takes the time actually read what they’re applying for.

  19. back in Olden Times when I was a young drummer on his second road gig, the grizzled old guitar player began his soliloquy on what he would and would not put up with from people.

    At the top of the list was philandering. “If a guys gonna screw around on his ol’ lady, he’s gonna screw you too. Think about it. If he or she can do that to the person they’ve committed to…who the hell are you? And if you think about the people who screw around, they screw everybody, somehow, even without meanin’ too”

    “I’m not preaching, and I’m no prude, but if you have an ol’ lady and you screw around out here…we’re done.”

    And while his choice of phrases wasn’t exactly PC, it was a HUGE eye opener – and experience has shown that he was perfectly right…

  20. I’ve seen that rider. Quite an interesting read actually. I’ve toured the world over, as a Lighting Designer and/or Tour Manager. I’ve written a few of these as well. Was taught by one of the founders of touring tours, that you always hide something in the rider to make sure they (promoter/venue) have actually read the rider. If they ask, they get a shirt (simple bonus). One of the best Riders (spelling mistakes and all!) can be the one for Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Meet this guy, a cracker of a guy!. Just so you know, it’s a bit of a rough read, rough language, etc.

    Have a fun read!

  21. There used to be a test that did the rounds which tested if you could follow instructions.

    It was a ‘written’ test which had numbered instructions and the user had to follow.

    The first rule was to ‘Read all instructions’. The instructions that followed were things like ‘3. Put your first name in this box’ and so on.

    When you read the full instructions, you noticed that the last instruction said something like ‘Now after reading all the instructions, skip to this step, put down your pencil and sit with your arms folded’.

    Very few people even bothered skimming the instructions and were so keen to show off how good at tests or fast they could complete it, they would race through and answer the questions. I have to admit that I did answer a couple at the start till my RAS noticed the error and stopped me.

    The test is brilliant as it shows straight away to the tester, who can follow simple instructions and shows the type of person it is e.g. impulsive, observant etc.

    1. My home ecomonics teacher in the fifth grade did this! She was having us learn and understand the importance of reading instructions (in this case, recipes) first before doing anything.

  22. Here is another test. It is typically used to test the merits and characteristics of a interviewee. When asked to professionals, it has been reported that 90% get them wrong where as preschoolers get a higher % right. I think that shows that as we get older, we forget how to just do something straight forward, our egos make us want to over complicate things, to rush through tasks without seeing the small details and not seeing the wood for the trees.

    Heres the test and answers, with the reasoning for each test.

    1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

    The correct answer is: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door.

    This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.

    2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

    Did you say, “Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close the refrigerator?” (Wrong Answer)

    Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door.

    This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions.

    3. The King of the Forest is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?

    Correct Answer: The Elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator. You just put him in there. This tests your memory.

    OK, even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you still have one more chance to show your true abilities.

    4. There is a river you must cross but it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?

    Correct Answer: You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the animal conference.

    This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.

    1. Google Theory of mind Appearance-reality task. That is all this is without the physical objects. If you’re older than 4 or 5 you wouldn’t answer these questions this way because it isn’t a logical progression because you’re asking about “a” refrigerator opposed to “The” refrigerator. For these questions to be answered this way by an adult you would have to link them together explicitly while presenting them.

      In short, this “test” was designed to have an adult “fail”.

  23. Andrew Carnegie would take prospective executive level employees out to play golf. He would then give them an opportunity to cheat. His belief was that if you’d cheat in golf, you’d cheat in business.

    1. I would be interested in the learnings you compiled from someones shoes and how you applied the knowledge.

      For example are worn out shoes good or bad if you were looking for a friend or assessing other relationships?

      1. This is ridiculous.

        How do the shoes you wear tell anything about your character, your interests, what you’ve done in life, and any other non-superficial aspects about you as a person?

    2. Classic mistake of assuming your interest/priorities are the same as all others. The most awesome guys I know (successful, good looking, charismatic) do not wear expensive or nice shoes. Nor do they care whether they shined their shoes that the morning. In fact, many prefer their beat up sneakers. You would think that they have more important things on their minds. 🙂

      1. by the way I think Tim was wearing mostly sneakers in all of his “random show” and web appearances. Sorry, Tim. No second date for you. 😛

  24. I mostly agree with the contra from David. Such test results (as most of the examples discussed here) MIGHT say something, but they are not needed to do so. Basically, you might think that the test result shows you a character difference, but that’s only what you are thinking AFTER the experiences with that person/company (the murphy-thinking error).

    A point in my eyes is that most people generally assume others to act like machines, in a very logical manner. For example, if someone does something today in the way X, it is by far NOT said that he will act in the same situation under the same circumstances tomorrow also in the manner X! Why should it be that way?

    I think that the assumption that people would act like that, is by far the bigger overlooking-mistake of the person who makes the test.

    Anyhow, if you want a maybe intresting example i have found: It is a far more complex test which tests a lot of things in the one situation (logical and structural thinking, feel for completeness of the task, acting under time pressure, feel of what is going on in the head of person you are talking to): Let people explain card- or board games. I noticed that like 95% of all people completely suck at this “everyday” task. The way people explain has normally has no structure, no red line, and is by far not complete. And the complexity of explaining of the game is underestimated.

  25. When I’m in the cockpit the checklists are a valuable tool, but it is important to realize their limitations. Last spring, just after getting my solo endorsement, I had a tire blow out on landing, there was no checklist for brining a crippled airplane to a stop. I had to think quickly and make sound judgemnt calls on my own to protect myself and my aircraft. Checklists are great for learning the game but there are times you need to cast them aside.

  26. About 15 years ago my friend responded to a job posting in the newspaper and got the job. Why did he get it? The ad instructed to “fax a hand-written resume” he was the only respondent from over 30 to actually hand-write his resume for them. Everyone else sent typed versions.

  27. As a landlord, to find a tenant that won’t destroy your property you can do a few things to ensure that they are the quality tenant you want. First, look at their car. If their car is dirty, that is likely how they keep their home too. Be reluctant to rent to them. Second, when you show them your home, do they ask if they should take their shoes off to walk through it? Most won’t, but if they do ask, it’s a strong indicator that they keep things very clean. Finally, just pay attention to the questions they ask. i.e. Leave one thing dirty like the stove. Did they ask you if it will be cleaned before they move in? If not, they probably don’t worry about having a clean place much. Just paying attention to the questions someone asks, applies in so many situations (outside of being a landlord). If you look for the subtleties, you find things others overlook.

  28. I have used this and it works brilliantly. It eliminated at least 75% of people. This test alone saved me a ton of time. I specified what the reply of the email line should be. If you can’t follow instructions in an interview- you sure as hell can’t work for me!

  29. Im a pilot, and in my job you eat, breathe and sleep checklists. The consequences of getting a single item wrong can be enormous. If I have one switch in the wrong place on startup the wings may unfold. On a tight carrier deck that can cause millions in damage to a nearby airplane, or worse, kill someone. Compound the problem with the fact that these checklists often need to be done so quickly that you simply don’t have time to reference a written piece of paper.

    The solution – habit patterns. Fighter pilots have rituals and habits for the way we check everything. Often times if something is out of place, I will recognize it subconsciously long before my conscious mind can articulate what Ive missed. The brain can easily forget one item in a 100-item procedure. But do that some procedure the same way hundreds of times and eventually if you forget something or do something out of order it will feel wrong.

    1. This is one of the most interesting things about the checklist manefesto, all the checklist practices in the air line industry

  30. FINALLY! An article about “doofus tests”.

    I love these as they are very powerful to weed out the b-grade players from the super stars. And they can also be VERY, VERY FAST.

    I have a long list of these that I use but here’s some of my favorites:

    When hiring someone on Odesk/elance — here’s some of the doofus tests that I set up:

    a) Ask them a few questions in the first email. Most won’t even answer those — they just send canned responses to everybody. FAIL.

    Also — rate their responses based on the language used, sophistication of english understanding and also their social factor.

    b) No picture — no go. What are they hiding?

    c) Set up a meeting time at the worst possible time for THEM. Dan Pena was famous for these. He would test people by setting up meetings on their birthdays and wedding anniversaries to see how they would perform.

    d) Give them an American number and tell them to call you. 95% fail this one.

    e) If they don’t have a good mic — decent internet connection. FAIL..

    f) Bring them through Brad Smart’s “Top Grading” interview.

    g) Then I have many doofus tests based on various positions.

    Just doing these steps increased our superstar hiring from 10-15% to 85-90%.

    Rock on,

    Matt Gallant

    P.S. Here’s a bonus one for hiring superstar salesmen (This one is from Chet Holmes)… I love this one.

    After about 2 or 3 minutes into the interview, you say “I don’t know Tim… I’m not feeling it here. I honestly don’t think you’re the right salesmen for the job.”

    If they CAN’T sell you on continuing the interview. They are NOT a superstar salesmen. Works every time like magic!

    1. “c) Set up a meeting time at the worst possible time for THEM. Dan Pena was famous for these. He would test people by setting up meetings on their birthdays and wedding anniversaries to see how they would perform.”

      What’s the matter, couldn’t schedule it against their mother’s funeral? Why should they work for you, if you are purposely an asshole?

  31. Tim, are you familiar with Elbert Hubbard’s “A Message to Garcia?” I think the message there is perhaps the opposite side of the same coin many commenters are talking about.

  32. Checklists, policies, flows – all sound like stodgy, creativity-squelching things, but the truth is that if you use the tools right then they free up so much mental space for getting things done and thinking creatively.

    My own personal test is taking someone out for a meal and seeing how they treat the waitstaff (or any other situation where I can observe them interacting with service providers). I find this works for both social and business relationships.

  33. A common test in high volume manufacturing is finding out at which point your system breaks, then add a comfortable margin of error away from that point.

    A variation on this is called ‘corner study’. What this means is that if you know that your process is influenced by two critical factors, you do a controlled study maxing out on factor 1 and factor 2 and look at the response. If you are still creating good product, then you have a robust, sustainable process.

    How applicable any of the above is to say… personal productivity or your love life is… left up to the reader.

  34. Took a lot of fails to learn this one. During job interviews I always end by asking the candidates if they have any questions for me. If they say no, or just ask logistical questions about the postion (salary, hours worked, etc) I disqualify them. I figure if they don’t have insatiable curiosity about the project at the start, they won’t develop it. So far, so good.

    1. I like your site, very Tim Ferris like with more updates. Do you think an iphone app programmer is a good job living that kind of lifestyle. Also working on a startup software business, one man to begin with, start small.

  35. It’s a rockstar version of something which is dead important. There are better ways to achieve the result they were after, but most of them wouldn’t be as entertaining to read. There is a decent lesson to take from it… one which I’m glad you just reminded me of. Nice1.

  36. In my consulting business, my price is clearly and visibly stated in my website.

    Whenever a prospective client sends an inquiry about my price, I know that he hasnt done any homework and that what he wants is for someone else to fix his problems, instead of finding a solution and make any real changes towards improvement.

    I dont disqualify them, I just send them the boilerplate email answer with the price upfront, and 19 out of 20 times thats the last I hear from them.

  37. Two things I’ve done:

    1) Just as Dan has stated with the interview process I do that as well. If I lay everything out (and specifically leave out some information) they don’t ask about or even seem engaged then I’m not interested.

    2) Something my Grandfather taught me is if to golf with the people you do business with. If they cheat or take “liberities” on the golf course they will do the same in business. Those who golf know it’s a game of honor and self-refereeing; even if you’re not good don’t cheat. That is truly how “business” should be done on the golf course as I see it.

  38. I’ve actually used peoples response to my shoes to figure them out a bit more.

    I jokingly call it the elitest test. If I get a comment on my “topsiders” or “boat shoes” or “Sperrys” depending on what name people use I know more about them because of it. For this to work I don’t wear name brands such as Sperry because then it would just be someone noticing the brand.

    It is surprising how many people do say something and what can be learned. Those who grew up in a costal area can probably relate to this more.

  39. When I got my first car, my father took me to a shop and pointed out dirt and the disorder – the tools strewn all over, and dirty rags and everything else. He said, “Take note of a how a mechanic keeps his shop. If he’s careless with his place, he’ll be careless with your car.” Then he took me to a place where they kept a tidy shop.

    I have never forgotten this.

  40. A buddy of mine has this strategy that I love. Whenever he’s interviewing he asks the person to sing happy birthday to him. If they hesitate he makes it easy for them and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll get the ball rolling” and then starts singing.

    If they chime in it indicates they’re not going to hesitate to do whatever it takes to seal the deal. If they’re not willing to chime in they’re not a keeper.

  41. I own a transportation company and we have a similar test. We’ll make the drivers fuel their vehicles before their trips. We’ll compare the receipt to the time when they say they started their trips. We’ve caught two employees lying on their time cards in the last six months.

  42. Anything that is technically complex enough will at some point require a checklist. The military, aviation, companies that produce a physical product, etc are all big on this for obvious reasons.

    Production of any kind is fairly mechanical and while the more artistic industries out there do require a degree of creativity to be competitive at the end of the day you still need a working product.

    Also, the “ideas folks” while a critical part of any product development are not usually needed in same the numbers as the “process folks” in most organizations.

    For example, you want a creative advertising agent. You don’t want a creative, or imaginative, HR agent. You simply want everyone to get paid on time and to show up to work.

  43. Indeed a great and simple idea. Usually, the important part is in the little things, the details. If you’re not thorough with a task you’re probably treating most of them in a similar way.

  44. I refuse to go out with men who are severely emotionally attached to their exes. Saves me the drama to find out how long ago their break up was. If it was within a few months, no go. My test would be how willing they are to completely cut the contact with them.

    Cheers and have a happy new year champs!

  45. That’s so clever, but I guess one would have to tailor it to his/her own specific situation. Harder than it sounds right?

  46. Simple one — if a restaurant can’t keep their bathroom clean then you can infer the level of care in the kitchen.

  47. This was actually started by Elvis and his manager way back when. They would give the contracting party an ashtray that had to be returned by a certain date. If the ashtray was not returned as contracted, the show was forfeited but paid in full.

    Matt Brandt

    Dongguan China

  48. that’s the idea of comments and community, we all grow and learn from each other, no one person has all the answers but together we own the world.

  49. Interesting. One company (who shall remain nameless) was notorious in Australia for asking graduates, during first interviews, how many staplers they thought existed in the country. On face value, it seems totally irrelevant (the company had nothing to do with staples) – but what they really wanted to see was the thought process of the graduates.

    Population, number of companies, offices, factories producing staplers, working and non-working staplers, etc. – it could be anything, as long as the candidate showed their thought process and developed a theory.

  50. I’ve always liked the Orange Juice Test. I found a description here: You ask someone to do something difficult and challenging. If they say, “No problem.” They fail. If they say, “We can’t do it.” They fail. If they say, “It will be difficult, but we can do it. Here’s what it will cost you.” They pass.

  51. My goal this year is to take the saying “How you do anything is how you do everything” to heart! Thanks for the reminder that small things can really show how you handle big things.

  52. I’ve used the locked door test from the movie A Bronx Tale when out on a date, it doesn’t work as well with automatic locks, but it’s the principle.

    “Sonny: Alright, listen to me. You pull up right where she lives, right? Before you get outta the car, you lock both doors. Then, get outta the car, you walk over to her. You bring her over to the car. Dig out the key, put it in the lock and open the door for her. Then you let her get in. Then you close the door. Then you walk around the back of the car and look through the rear window. If she doesn’t reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in: dump her.

    Calogero ‘C’ Anello: Just like that?

    Sonny: Listen to me, kid. If she doesn’t reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in, that means she’s a selfish broad and all you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg. You dump her and you dump her fast.”

  53. I have a client who leads the hiring process for her attention-to-detail-required positions with very specific instructions; any prospect who flubs following directions is eliminated swiftly.

    This thread also reminds me of Mark McCormack’s, “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School.” I’ve abided by his test of human character, and therefore those with whom I wish to associate for business or pleasure: watch how they treat those from whom they’ve nothing to gain – typically restaurant service staff.

  54. When hiring people online, I always put at the bottom of the job description that when replying to the email, make the subject “My favorite color is ____ (and insert your color)”

    When I get replies with the subject of “Job listing xyz” I know they aren’t paying enough attention to detail.

    Same idea as the VH story!

  55. I have to say Tim, I REALLY like that saying “How you do anything is how you do everything” and it reiterates what my dad told me long ago.. He said, look at how a person keeps their car. It reflects how they keep their life.. If it’s messy and disheveled, their house (and life) is probably that way as well…

    They can have a $2,000 suit on, and look flashy and put together, making a great first impression… follow them to their car to see the real them. 🙂

    -Christopher Rees

  56. Funny… when I saw the headline for this post, I thought it was about the book “No Brown M&M’s!” which got its title from the same story ( It’s got lessons entrepreneurs can learn from rock stars. I’m just starting my own business (based on Four-Hour Work Week) and I like rock music, so it’s a great book.

    My favorite “brown M&M’s” test is when posting a job opening on Craigslist, bury a small, specific, and simple requirement in the description. You’ll know quickly which applicants pay attention, follow directions, and have an eye for detail.

    Also, a guy I know casually mentions his company name in the job ad and then puts the contact as “C. Barger.” If you go to his company website, you’ll clearly see that “C. Barger” is a woman. But a lot of applicants don’t bother to research or put 2 + 2 together, and wrongly address their application to “Mr. Barger.”

  57. Loved the story Tim. I had never heard it before but it is an ingenious way to be sure your contract was read and that the proper precautions were taken.

  58. When creating a job posting I always add a little instruction to test the applicant’s ability to follow direction. Often it is as simple as “paste your resume as text and attach as a word or pdf doc.” This also helps to weed through the responses more quickly.

    I’ve also asked applicants to submit, in lieu of a cover letter, one paragraph describing their favorite dessert. If they respond properly it tells me they can pay attention to detail and more importantly, that they have a sense of humor. I think humor is an indication of an applicants ability to work well in a team atmosphere. Also, I get some interesting dessert recipes out of the exercise.

    1. We asked for PDF resumes and cover letters when I worked at a document productivity software startup, and now, I implement the same sort of tests with my own postings. I am continually amazed by few people read directions.

      Glad to learn the M&M thing wasn’t just weird rockstar behavior (as it has been portrayed in the media).

  59. This was a great look into something that seems silly at first. I love that it relates to safety too, because it’s so unexpected.

    I’ve found that having people fill out a form (application or otherwise) before giving them an opportunity to work with you does a little filtering. It’s not the only way to filter, but it does give you an insight into someone’s communication skills and commitment levels.

  60. I am a checklist maniac so this post really hit home for me. It seems that in order to find greater success, I need to find other people who work well with checklists as well.

    Very cool insights as always.

    Side Note: Finished the 4 hour body last night. Now I get to read all of the extras in the back of the book (which I anticipate will be the best part!)

  61. Checklists are a part of my daily life and allow me to take on many projects at the same time.

    The other thing about listing out checklists is that sometimes it’s not just about doing the top priority item first. It can be equally as satisfying to knock off a few easy to do items to get the ball rolling, then tackle those priorities with a greater sense of achievement.

  62. Excellent point!

    Beginning last year I buckled down and began maintaining obsessive checklists and planners – cross-referencing emails & telephones with scheduled rendez-vous and due dates – In retrospect I came to one very costly conclusion…

    It’s sobering the duties clients, coworkers, bosses, and even immigration officials will shirk, and the BS you’ll hear if they learn you don’t care enough about your own time & responsibilities to keep track of them, and then to call them out on it. And it’s your fault if you get stuck in somebody’s crosshairs.

    1. maybe you are dealing across cultures? In some cultures, values like flexibility, family, relationships are weighed more heavily than in other cultures that lean toward a more structured way of leaving… just because you like keeping an agenda, it doesn’t mean that others have to.

  63. Though I can be fussy, no rules that like that come immediately to mind. That said, I knew a guy in high school and college who had one on dating. He’s invariably walk to his car and unlock the passenger-sde door and then hold it for the girl before walking around to the driver’s side. If in the time it took him to walk around the car, the girl didn’t reach across to unlock his side and he had to use his key again, he wouldn’t ask her on another date. He claimed that it was a sufficient sign of a lack of thoughtfulness and consideration as to be a hopelessly bad sign. I know he followed through with that on some occasions.

    Sigh. You know that moment when you realize you’ve told a story that younger readers wouldn’t be able to relate to because of technological changes or changes in social customs…

  64. Very Interesting… I LOVE it…

    In the hiring game, when a candidate/applicant asks about $$$/Compensation/benefits in the first few moments…. RUN FOR THE HILLS…

  65. Wow 90 responses! I’ll be reading them – we have some interesting people here.

    Edison tested people he was hiring with a soup / salt check. If they did not taste the soup before adding salt he did not hire them. This was because he found these people almost always turned out to be not good at inventions. At to be good at inventing you have to not make assumptions and be alert. Such habits would show through in small details like how they eat their soup. Not to say they might not be good (even better?) at other jobs!

  66. It’s important to do the right test for the job. I have a feeling if you Tim were working on this, you would mess up the m&ms ! It’s strikes me the big picture is more important in your line of work. Editors can always correct typos after all. Not true about dancing though I imagine.

  67. This might sound odd but I used to have “can milk a cow by hand” as the last thing in my skills section on my resume.

    The best job I ever had I was hired on the strength of that line. My boss told me that it had told her that I didn’t mind getting my hands dirty, that I was from the country and probably therefore more practical and down-to-earth, and that it was a bold and creative thing to put on a resume for a staid government job.

    It was also a good screen for me: at a different job interview, the two interviewers made snide, sexist comments about it and implied I got the interview despite that being on my resume. I wished them luck finding a good candidate to match their needs, but that I suspected I was probably not a good fit.

  68. Even though the David Lee Roth story is from the book (I like it – it’s entertaining), I think it does a dis-service to the value checklists can bring as described in the book (I read it). For the most part, the checklists that Atul describes are the type where the list is used to confirm an action has been completed. He outlines two types, a ‘read-do’ checklist or a ‘do-confirm’ checklist. Think about the David Lee Roth story… really, did the band leave the process of line-checking everything up to the presence or absence of brown M&M’s? Checklists to confirm action versus quick tests to simplify decision-making are two different discussions. My take on the book is that it largely focused on the former.

    One potential problem with many of the tests proposed in the comments above is that it’s difficult to prove that they’re correct. Most (all?) make sense on some intuitive level, but unless you can go back and test the options you quickly discarded… you don’t actually know if you selected the ‘best’ one.

  69. Tim

    I ve heard this story before. It clarifies a lot of things around WHY it was done.

    I also want to point out that it is a great test to determine the type of person someone wants to hire. Or the type you are currently being. Does some company need an impulsive of observant type?

    For example, I remember experiencing something similar in grade 7. The last line ofa particular test said stop, cross your arms, and do nothing else.

    I remember looking up and noticing this action by some the other students at my table. I kept working on the the test instructions.Ran out of time actually. Then the teacher told all of us to read the last line of the instructions. We all laughed at it.

    Lesson learned, to take your time and read the instructions. Such a lesson has served me in multiple areas of life since that fateful day in grade 7. Thanks for this blog post and the memories it brought back.


  70. Hey Tim,

    Looked a little more into this book and actually read it after discovering it was medically based. I am a recent nursing graduate and I had no idea that the checklists implemented in my operating room experiences were new to the arena.

    It was a great read and it truly opened my eyes, for I thought these checklists were used for ages and now I come to find out that they are not only recent, but not as widely spread as they should be.

  71. Great little article, Tim. Funny as it might sound, it brought to mind a test I’ve used since I first started dating. I believe I picked it up from the movie “A Bronx Tale”; it’s the girlfriend test.

    On that first date, when I pick the girl up, I unlock and open the girls door for her. I then walk around the back ot the car and watch to see if she reaches over to either unlock my door or just pop it open a bit. If she doesn’t, the date continues like usual, but I view it as a major red flag.

    I won’t say it’s a deal breaker, but I have found it to be a good indication of the way she’ll treat me and others. So far, it’s been pretty accurate – if she isn’t courteous to me, she usually isn’t to others, which doesn’t fly.

    It’s a simple thing, but when it comes to relationships, I don’t think it’s asking too much and I won’t settle.

    Anyway, thanks for another good read. Happy New Year!

  72. The brown M&M stipulation is definitely clever… however, on a second analysis, it seems like a dirty trick and a shady way of doing business… it feeds lawyers for sure, but burying a ridiculous clause like that, it is probably a bad faith move. I wonder if that type of clause stands the test of legality, since it is so ridiculous and out of place in a contract for the provision of music services. A lawyer would probably be able to say more about that.


    1. Ramiro, the answer is simple – NEVER sign anything before you read it and more importantly UNDERSTAND it! I think if more people did this, the mortgage crisis might not have been so bad! That along with following the TNSTAAFL – There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

  73. The other commenter showed another example, the Henry Ford example of him not hiring because someone put salt on the food before tasting it… and it is another example of assumptions that go to far. So, because the person did not test the saltiness of the food, then he or she will not test whatever tests he or she needs to make to perform his/her job??? That is the same as saying that because a person is irrational in one area, he must be irrational in all areas of his/her life… the saltiness problem is just a case of a person liking salt in their food more than the average person… guys, why don’t we exercise a little more critical reading??? thanks!

  74. Hi Tim,

    Interesting… I also strongly believe in the “how you do anything is how you do everything” concept, but how do you manage not to go OCD about trivial stuff? It drives my partner insane… She often tells me to stop being freaky and put things in context.

    Admittedly I try to optimise every outcome and minimise every risk, but I also do that for absolutely trivial things… Which is tiring I must admit, also for others around me 😉

    4HWW already thought me that what you do is more important than how you do it in some cases, but how do you resist the urge to want to optimise every aspect of daily life and drive yourself mental doing so?

    Really interested in your take on this…

    Many thanks in advance,



  75. I am glad David above (jan 1, 11:51 pm) already saw through the problem of the brown M&Ms before me. It doesn’t deal with the root cause and most importantly to me it is unethical.

  76. Thank you Tim for writing the post. Great commentary here.

    For corporations, whether its one I’m being recruited for or that may be a potential client, it may be a bit cliche but their website is an amazing view into the company. From the design itself, to how its organized, the voice and tone its written in, the site can tell quite a story about the org. This is especially true the larger the org. For example, if the site’s architecture is complex, over thought, maybe even clumsy, at the least it can highlight questions to ask about corporate structure and operation. The design, good or bad, can highlight potential issues with attention to detail and perspective/politics on areas like marketing and branding.

    It’s not 100% but it’s been a great tool to use in conversation with current/potential contacts.

    For people, especially potential recruits, it’s not easy, always relevant or feasible but playing golf with someone is my #1 way to really get a view of someone. There’s been much written about it, and it really tells quite a story. From how they treat the caddies or starter, do they putt out everything, are they fast or slow in playing, what’s their routine, do they let bad play take them out of sorts and more. It really highlights the good and potential not-so-good in people.

  77. “And remember, Chris, If she smokes, she pokes!” ~Lois Griffin

    As a mountain biker who frequently finds himself airborne and/or blasting down steep, rock and root covered trails at break-neck speeds, I have a personal policy of being the only person who works on my bikes.

    A buddy recently bought a new dirt jumper and found, after an hour or so of riding, that the brakes were loose and ready to come apart all over the trail. He was lucky enough to catch it before disaster struck. The shop has a legal responsibility to check such things before the bike rolls out the door. Perhaps that could have been my buddies epitaph?

    So one of my tests is: If it involves my physical health and I can personally assure its integrity, I do.

  78. I worked for a band that opened for Van Halen in the 1980s. The rumor was that Van Halen had that in their contract to ensure the attorneys had read it. They did trash a few dressing rooms over it though. We did do mushrooms with Van Halen in Cincinnati in 1984 and nothing bad happened.

  79. Much like Glen above, I have also said to post resumes as pdfs when hiring and at my last hire, only 5% of my received resumes were in the pdf format. Makes my job infinitely easier! Great post .. as always 🙂

  80. .. oh .. and when doing a follow up telephone interview, asking “what about our ad attracted you to the position”. I had one guy try twice referencing the wrong ad. Now, this could possibly also speak to the possibility that my ad wasn’t memorable enough but you would hope your candidate knew who they were speaking to .. haha!

  81. Well guys, I find some perfect ideas here. It is not only the original post but the comments too. Great contribution…

    As far as checklists..Yes I do a lot. When I worked as an employee form 9 – 8 I used to make a checklist in my mind while going back to home. This one was to organize the tasks of preparing a fast but healthy dinner (like a soup for instance)!

  82. I loved ‘The Checklist Manifesto’….this story is just a small part of this very interesting read…in fact, I gave it away to a pilot as a Christmas present…the pilots checklist is one of the all-time most effective checklists. I am developing my own personal ‘daily checklist’…to keep myself and my new goals on track for 2012. Thanks for this post Tim!

  83. Man, had no idea Roth was as sharp as that…

    …Seriously, I always had him pegged as a goofy, happy-go-lucky hesher – who knew?

    As for compulsive details, I have an obsession with writing out as many lists as (in)humanly possible to keep up with my rate of progress on projects.

    In fact, if I didn’t, I’d lay awake at night, staring at the ceiling.

  84. Among the maxims on a wall of Lord Naoshige’s castle, there was the last one saying:

    “Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.”

    One day Master Ittei walked past the wall and stopped to read Lord Naoshiges maxims. He then added another maxim:

    “Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.””

  85. When I am hiring, especially outsourcing, I make sure to ask something completely out of the ordinary in the requirements for applying such as “to apply, send your portfolio, 2 references and name your favorite drink”. If there is no drink mentioned in the cover letter, I trash it. I like to get fun or creative answers so my questions can be more colorful but when I get lazy, I just ask for them to start their cover letter with a specific word.

  86. Dear Tim

    Greetings from UK

    I imagine you get a lot of these emails so I will keep it brief.

    Just wanted to say thank you. I read 4 hour work week.

    We took a few days to look at our lives.

    -We now home school our 2 children

    -Use VA in India (I get back a whole day I used to loose every week)

    -Moved my office to back home to just a laptop (sometimes working in a coffee shop or wherever we happen to be!)

    -reduced my essential work to 2 hours per day

    – increased our profits

    Most importantly I now live in the moment!

    Don’t get up to the alarm clock and have time for our family.

    I intend to expand the business still, develop other ideas but only if it fits in with our lives!

    Entrepreneurship is not taught here in UK schools as a core skill. If you ever want to start up a franchise model that teaches your method, let me know!

    Anyway, gottas dash, I am off to the cinema with my kids (on a thursday while everyone else is at school)

    Kind regards

  87. A classmate was having problems when she visited bank branches to evaluate performance. Everyone at the branch assumed she was there to fire someone. I suggested she take them doughnuts. No one who is going to fire you will feed you first. It worked.