Announcer: Welcome to Creating Wealth with Jason Hartman, President of Platinum Properties Investor Network in Costa Mesa, California.  During this program, Jason is going to tell you some really exciting things that you probably haven’t thought of before and a new slant on investing, fresh new approaches to America’s best investment that will enable you to create more wealth and happiness than you ever thought possible.

Jason is a genuine self-made multimillionaire, who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.  He’s been a successful investor for 20 years and currently owns properties in 11 states and 17 cities.  This program will help you follow in Jason’s footsteps on the road to financial freedom.  You really can do it.  And now, here’s your host, Jason Hartman, with the complete solution for real estate investors.

Jason Hartman: Happy holidays and welcome to show No. 80.  This is your host, Jason Hartman.  And you know, a few weeks ago, I came home and turned on the radio, and I was listening to this interview that was very interesting and maybe just a little bit timely.  A professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Barbara Oakley, she wrote a book, entitled Evil Genes:  Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend.  She really brings an interesting scientific approach to this whole concept.

Now, as you know, if you’re a regular listener, you know that every tenth show, on the zeros, so No. 50, 60, 70, 80, etc, we do a totally non-real estate topic.  We don’t talk about finances necessarily or anything like that.  And that’s what this show is about today.  I just thought this was such an unusual subject we had to bring it to you.  It was just a very interesting take on things.

Oakley basically combines a gripping family history with rigorous research to put a scientific face on the subject matter.  Starting with psychology, Oakley explores cutting edge images of the working brain to provide a startling support for the idea that evil – and I’m not saying my girlfriend was this way; I was just mad at her at the time – has to do mainly with the result of dysfunction and has genetic components to it.  In fact, sometimes people are manipulative and this behavior can be programmed genetically.  So I think you’ll find this very interesting.

Barbara is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, where she does research on the effects of electromagnetic fields on biological tissues, as well as working on novel antenna designs.  One of the few women to hold a doctorate in Systems Engineering, Oakley is a recent vice president of the IEEE Engineering and Medicine and Biology Society.  She’s been on the forefront of efforts to expand the bioengineering profession, has won teaching related awards from such organizations as the National Science Foundation.

So I think you’ll really enjoy this very interesting concept and on the next show, No. 81, we have a fantastic guest, who did a fantastic course called The Crash Course and that is Chris Martinson, where we will get back to the subject of money and finances.  But again, every tenth show, we take a diversion and go into a non-financial topic, although, you know, it always seems to relate back to finance in one way or another.  We do touch on the Enron and the Wall Street concept here a little bit as well.  So let’s listen in to the interview with Barb and I hope you enjoy it, and we will look forward to seeing you on the next show.

Interview with Barbara Oakley

Jason Hartman: Barb Oakley, it’s great to have you on the show.

Barbara Oakley: Jason, it’s wonderful to be here.

Jason Hartman: This is such a fascinating topic, a book about Evil Genes:  Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend.  Fantastic title, by the way.  I see that Warren Buffet’s name is listed in the acknowledgements.  Did he really help you with the book?

Barbara Oakley: Yes, he did.  It seemed to me that the information that neuroscience was uncovering about apparently trustworthy, but in reality, very deceitful people had important applications for business.  So I wrote to Warren Buffet and I told him about what I was writing and I invited his comments.  Warren is just inundated with requests from writers in relation to their books, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard right back from him.  As it turns out, Warren feels that being able to size people up well is one of his most important attributes.  I mean imagine that.  Here’s this guy with a photographic memory and an uncanny knack with numbers, and yet he ranks his ability to discern a genuinely good manager from a deceptive imitator as one of his top skills.

Jason Hartman: In determining whether or not he invests in that company.  That’s fascinating.

Barbara Oakley: Precisely.

Jason Hartman: So tell me what he said about this topic or did he really write in the book?

Barbara Oakley: Yes, well, actually, he himself wrote to me.  He said I would agree that I’ve been pretty good at sizing up people.  Not perfect, of course.  I’ve certainly made a few mistakes in selecting managers at Berkshire.  I would say that part of the reason for the success I’ve had is that I only take the easy cases, in other words, the people he can really simply identify as being topnotch.  He says if you gave me 100 people to evaluate on a scale of 1 – 10, in terms of how well they’d work out at Berkshire, I would be pretty good at selecting a few tens.  I would also miss a few other tens in my screening and I would be terrible at differentiating between the threes and the sevens.

But, he says, this is similar to my method of selecting stocks where I only have to be right on a few decisions and can put most of the rest on the too hard pile.  So it’s Buffet’s practical ability to tell the difference between genuinely outstanding managers and their dark doppelgangers that shaped his approach to business and it’s really propelled his efforts to steer Wall Street toward an ethical path.

Jason Hartman: Very, very interesting.  I don’t think much of Wall Street’s ethics, so that’s a very interesting comment.  I mean is there really such a thing as evil genes?  Is evil a genetic concept?

Barbara Oakley: It depends on how you define evil.  For me, I don’t use necessarily religious definitions.  I think evil falls around people who are sadistic, duplicative, and very conniving, and what they’re willing to do to other people.  Psychology has been tiptoeing around for years, doing everything that they possibly could to avoid acknowledging that genes play a powerful role in our personalities.  But now, with the results coming from science, it’s absolutely clear.  In fact, there’s not a single personality trait that they’ve found that is not affected to some degree by our genetics.

Jason Hartman: Well, maybe there’s a conflict of interest with the psychology community because I think they sort of do operate on the premise that you can change behavior through discussion and therapy and so forth.  And if it’s genetic and immutable, then maybe it can’t be changed.  Maybe people are predetermined to some extent or maybe a large extent.

Barbara Oakley: You have really nailed that.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from psychologists is sort of the freewill question.  Oh, you can’t say this about people because it implies that people are hardwired and there’s no real freewill involved.  Most research today involves only the effect of environment on personalities.  Research on genetics is actually actively discouraged in many cases.  I find that academicians can be as bad as fundamentalists in some ways.  They believe that acknowledging the effects of genes somehow kills the freewill, but it really doesn’t.

Jason Hartman: So do you mean by that when you say that part, genes determine the sort of natural propensity of a person’s behavior, but it can still be overcome by freewill?

Barbara Oakley: Yes, it can in some cases.  I mean let’s say that you told me, well, what if there was this gene and it would make people behave unreliably, maybe even aggressively.  Well, the reality is that right now, today, there’s a gene, one gene, that will make you act in a very anti-social manner, and that is the gene that produces Huntington’s disease.  And if you have it, you’ve got it, you’re going to die at an early age, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Jason Hartman: What is Huntington’s disease?

Barbara Oakley: Huntington’s disease is a disease that makes you essentially lose many, if not most, aspects of your personality and your control over your personality so that you die rather young, maybe in your 30’s or 40’s, and I believe it was Arlo Guthrie’s father, he was one of the most prominent people to come down with Huntington’s disease.  And he basically died a very, very difficult death.

And what this really means, all of this, is that, yes, sometimes we don’t have freewill in matters and that applies to personalities as well.  But what’s really important is there is also an enormous plasticity that the brain is capable of.  It’s just that some people genetically don’t have the ability to focus and pay attention to things that they need to change because they can’t see that there’s anything wrong with them, and so because of that, they can’t take advantage of the brain’s enormous ability to change because they have no motivation to do so.  They think that anything that happens happens because of what somebody else is doing and so they just don’t think here’s anything wrong with them.

Jason Hartman: Sort of a “victim” mentality, is that what you’re saying?  Or just no need to change mentality?  It’s okay the way it is.

Barbara Oakley: Both and neither.  These are individuals who are actively projecting blame on other people, so they can’t accept it.  Instead, they will deflect blame to anyone and everyone else.  They simply cannot accept that they’ve done anything.  If anything bad happens, it had to be someone else.  Psychology’s dirty little secret is they don’t study people who don’t come into clinics to be analyzed and many sub-clinically ill people, who are in very prominent positions, are never going to come in to be analyzed.  And so psychologists really know little to nothing about them.

These are the individuals who can show many symptoms of a personality disorder.  They can show gas lighting, black and white thinking, they project their errors on anyone else.

Jason Hartman: What is gas lighting?

Barbara Oakley: Well, gas lighting is – I think it’s an important trait for your listeners to know about.  There was a movie in the 1940’s called “Gas Light” and this movie starred Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, and she was a wealthy heiress out of the, supposedly late 1800’s, and they had gas light in their mansion.  And he had married her and wanted to kill her and get all the money.

So what he decided to do was drive her crazy, so he’d climb up into the attic, he’d mess with the gas that controlled the lights, and then he’d come back down and say hello, how are you doing?  She’d be sitting there and the gaslights would start to flicker.  And she’s say, oh, what’s happened?  The lights just went dim.  And he’d turn to her and say I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I didn’t see anything.

Since that time, that terminology has come to be known as gaslighting, that is, something that is blatant and obvious, and you can see it.  You know it’s true.  And yet a person will stare you right in the face and say oh, no, that’s no true at all.  It’s actually an extremely effective tool to throw someone emotionally off balance.

Jason Hartman: It’s really amazing how some people perceive reality.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s me, but it seems as though some people are way off sometimes about what really is real and what is sort of imagined or created.  You speak of the importance of narcissism for both good and bad, particularly in business.  Can you expand on this?

Barbara Oakley: I am so glad you brought this up.  It’s one of the most important traits and that’s for both good and ill.  But what narcissism does is although it provides people a healthy dose of egotism and sometimes you just have to have that in a real rough business.  I mean Craig Venter, who developed the Shotgun Method for sequencing the human genome, he is known as having extremely healthy ego and that’s a good thing because the potshots that were taken at him as he was attempting to perfect this methodology were unbelievable.  He was disrespected, shall we say, by the best in the business and if he hadn’t had a healthy ego, where he really believed what he was doing was right and he believed in his own capabilities, he would never have gotten anywhere.

Jason Hartman: A lot of people say that about Steve Jobs of Apple, too.  But what’s the difference between ego and narcissism, and then just healthy self-esteem or of having faith in yourself?

Barbara Oakley: Well, that’s a good question and research really hasn’t clarified that at all.  The important thing to remember is that narcissism is always tempered by other aspects of a person’s personality.  I’m going to simplify a whole bunch here, but basically, a person has two important neurological circuits.  One relates to their sense of self and the other relates to their sense of others.  That sense of “self” circuit, it seems, is really quite genetically dependent.  In fact, it’s one of the most strongly heritable of all genetically inherited traits.

And this trait, what it does is it can be boosted up and that can allow you to do some very unusual things, and I’ll explain what those things are in just a minute.  First, I want to take a little bit of an aside and say have you ever done something for a good cause, where you kind of skirted the truth a little bit because it was for a good cause?

Jason Hartman: Probably, but I can’t think of one off the moment.

Barbara Oakley: Well, I was trying to think of ones that I do and I bet I do it probably more often than I ever think I’m going to do it.  But I know one thing I’ll do is like if I’m involved in a fundraiser, I might call somebody up and say, oh, I need your help with this fundraiser.  It will only take a half hour of your time.  And those words will go out of my mouth before I even know what I’m saying.

Jason Hartman: And you know it’ll take an hour or more probably, right?

Barbara Oakley: Oh, exactly.  I’ve just lied, but I never really feel that bad about it because I’ve lied for a good cause.

Jason Hartman: So you’ve justified your lie.

Barbara Oakley: Yes, but what a narcissist can do is a narcissist has built into him or herself the best of all possible causes and that’s themselves.  So that means when they lie to help themselves, if they make somebody look bad by lying and it helps themselves, that’s okay because really it’s just for a good cause.

Jason Hartman: It’s like for the greater good theory.  But how can they justify themselves as a good cause, if you will?  Of course, everybody has the instinct for self-preservation that’s built in, but that’s a little arrogant to consider themselves a cause.  They’re not a charity, for most of the people that we’re referring to.

Barbara Oakley: That’s a good question.  I think if you look at someone like Chairman Mao of China and you look at his writings, it’s very, very clear that he truly believed he was among the world’s greatest human beings.  He really did.  And so it’s hard for people who have more normal mentalities, and I like to think of you and I as being among those, to imagine what it’s like inside the brain of someone like this.  But I’ll try and take you there for a minute.

Let’s say that you – and this is a completely different condition – there’s a condition called “Face Blindness.”

Jason Hartman: Face Blindness.

Barbara Oakley: Right, Face Blindness.  You look at a person and you cannot recognize that person, even if you’ve known that person for years and they can even be a close relative of yours.  And you can only recognize them by their voice, perhaps the outline of their body, or if they normally wear distinctive clothes.  But you can’t recognize their face.  You would go, well, now, wait a minute.  You should be able to train this person over time to recognize a face.  But you can’t.  So what researchers have been looking for is what makes it.  They finally found there’s one little area of the brain that’s miss-wired and that makes it so you can’t recognize faces.

So something that is so incredibly obvious and easy for us to understand, they simply can’t do.

Jason Hartman: Are a lot of these breakthroughs, Barb, occurring with MRIs and so forth because now we can really see when we show a picture a person or say something to them or play a sound for them?  We can really see what part of their brain lights up and reacts, right?  Has that really created a big step forward in the evolution of psychology and personality disorders and so forth?

Barbara Oakley: Oh, absolutely.  The great thing is neuroscience is coming up with enormous, just revolutionary breakthroughs in understanding how we work as human beings, how our brains work.  I mean we’re right at the very beginning.  There’s so much more to learn.

But unfortunately, many psychologists, they’ve been trained from the past.  That’s the way our academic, our college institutions, and universities work.  You have academicians, the professors, who are teaching, and they have been trained using sort of the last generation’s method of learning about things.  So a lot of psychology, right now, unfortunately, doesn’t have a scientific basis to it.  And I think we’re going to be seeing a revolution in this coming decade as psychology reasserts itself on brand new footing, that has a good scientific foundation to it, and that will be enormously helpful.

I know that knowing about even just the information that I found in relation to why malevolent people do the kinds of things they do, it was enormously empowering for me, and I know for many of the people who have learned about this through my book and other books.  So I think we’re going to be seeing some terrific, helpful things coming out of this in the future.

Jason Hartman: Very, very interesting.  I’ve heard that there’s actually a federal mandate now in hospitals to make doctors be nicer to their patients.  I have several doctor friends and a long time ago, I read Norman Cousins’ Anatomy of an Illness book and got sort of interested in the whole psychosomatic medicine world, how important the mind is in determining healing.  Tell us about nasty doctors and whether nasty behavior is hardwired in some people or it’s a conscious choice.

Barbara Oakley: Well, it turns out that studies have shown something like 70 percent of the abusive behavior that nurses experience come from doctors.  There’s legions of horror stories out there.  Sometimes nurses are actually afraid to question patently incorrect prescriptions because the doctors get so nasty if they’re questioned.  Doctors will sometimes refuse to answer the phone when they’re on call or they’ll scream abuse at a nurse when they’re asked a question or when they answer a phone.  They’ll play favorites or ridicule and embarrass nurses.

Jason Hartman: Now, I know that probably the picture in people’s mind here is a male doctor and a female nurse, but it could certainly be the other way around.  Is there a gender component to this or is it fair to write it off as the doctors are under so much pressure, it’s a life and death job?

Barbara Oakley: It is not fair to write this off as doctors are under pressure.

Jason Hartman: How about the gender component?

Barbara Oakley: I think that this is – when you are looking for malevolent behavior, you will find it equally in men and in women.  In women, for example, you might find – see, the hard thing about this is often times, these people are situationally competent; in other words, they can go out to the PTA group and be wonderful human beings.  They go to their churches and everybody loves them, and they come home and they’re just horrible human beings.

Jason Hartman: That has really, really shocked me, by the way, what you mention there.  I’ve seen people that are just horrible human beings in business, who socially seem to be really popular.  I want to think sometimes if you only knew what that person just did to me in the business deal.  It’s amazing how people can partition their lives.  I mean they can really do that, right?

Barbara Oakley: They really can and the bad thing is, like if you try to tell someone, they wouldn’t believe you.

Jason Hartman: They wouldn’t believe you, yeah.

Barbara Oakley: And so you can have a woman, for example, who might do something like just be horribly abusive to her husband and he’s finally had enough and he wants a divorce, and she says honey, you divorce me.  I’m going to accuse you of sexually molesting our daughters.  And then what does he do because when you have that accusation tossed at you, whether or not it’s true, it will taint you for the rest of your life.  So he’s stuck.

Likewise, you can have someone who’s a major cardiac surgeon or a very well known and prominent executive, and everybody thinks they’re the greatest, and yet they can come home and just be absolute and total nightmares.  And again, the wife is in a real hard situation because no one would believe her if she tried to say what this person was really like behind the scenes.

Jason Hartman: Okay, so here’s the $64,000.00 question.  How do you know who you’re getting involved with, whether it be in a relationship, in a business deal, doctor/patient, whatever it is?  I mean can you tell?  Is there a way to know?  Or are these people such good fakers that they can just fool everybody and continue to do it for their whole lives?

Barbara Oakley: Some of them are that good.  I think the most important thing that any person or any manager, anyone who works with people, the most important thing for them to recognize is no matter how good you think you are at reading people, you can be fooled.  Even Warren Buffet admitted it, that he made his fair share of errors in who he’s trusted.

There are two ways for a person to make it to the top.  One, you can be really, really good, so you can be the cream.  And the other way is you’re the scum.  If you’re willing to do anything to anybody and stab them in the back and kind of climb right over them, you can also rise very high that way.  Scum don’t need to have assets.  They just have to have enough of a veneer to make you believe they have the assets.  And that’s surprisingly easy to do, if a person has charm, a quick wit, charisma.  You can find yourself just charmed in minutes and you can feel absolutely convinced that this is Mr. Perfect for whatever job you had in mind or Ms. Perfect.  Unfortunately, that’s sort of the bad side of magnetism.

Jason Hartman: I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes in hiring people that I thought were trustworthy and turned out to be – Steven Covey calls it the character ethic and the personality ethic and I did actually, my 50th show – you’re the 80th show – on that very topic, personality versus character.  But it’s just so hard to tell.  Are you just telling us we can’t tell?  Are there any tips?

Barbara Oakley: Yes, there are.  There are tips.  There really are.  And the first one is don’t trust your emotions and the second one is do your homework.  I’ve lived in the Detroit area here and that’s long been an industry hotbed for decades, and you would be utterly amazed if you knew how many mid-level managers are really deceitful in the kind of reporting they do to the higher ups.  I mean you’ve probably heard the expression “lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

Everybody in the business may think that things are going along just ducky because that’s what’s being reported, but when reality finally rears its ugly head, usually these managers can just duck and cover.  They’re very good at pointing fingers elsewhere.

Jason Hartman: You call that – I like what you call that.  You call that the “social hit man.”  That’s a good name.

Barbara Oakley: They really are.  Here’s what these kind of people like to do.  First off, they like to befriend someone who’s one or two or even more levels of hierarchy above them.  So if you’re one of those higher-level people, you may think this is just the greatest guy.  He’s just so nice and he’s witty and he seems to be sharp, and he can make the tough decisions and the good decisions.  But you have no idea that this friendship is actually being used as a tool for that person to get away with things.

A perfect example of this is Jack Kelley.  He was a top reporter at USA Today and it turned out he was making up a lot of his award winning stories.  And when other reporters –

Jason Hartman: He was just manufacturing news?

Barbara Oakley: Yes, and he was very good at it, right?  And he was so charming and so everything, but he also could be really scary if you started to cross him at all.  And when other reporters started pointing out many of the obvious flaws in Kelley’s stories, what he did was he just used his friendship with people at high levels to bludgeon those people into silence because, after all, if those people at high levels knew and trusted Kelley as a really gifted journalist and they didn’t know the person who was complaining about him, well, who would they believe, especially if Kelley started badmouthing the would-be whistleblower.

So gossip can be used to hurt other people.  For example, Kelley could have used it to hurt other people.  But at the same time, sometimes gossip is the only tool a manager has to see whether someone acts one way in front of them and a very different way in front of other people.  For example, a person can be humble and self-effacing in front of the manager and a total jerk when they get around other people.  And that’s one reason why it’s good advice to always question how someone acted with a secretary when you’re thinking about hiring someone because sometimes they may feel that the secretary’s just not very important, so they’ll be rude to the secretary where they’re nice to everyone else.

Also, talk to some of the – and I’m saying this in quotation marks – the “little people,” the people who this individual is less likely to think is important.  They may have very, very different ideas about how effective and honest a person is than the person represents themselves to be or their higher-level friends may represent them to be.

I think another thing that’s important to realize, besides these traits of narcissism and situational competence and gas lighting and projecting, is a chameleon-like behavior.  That person really can change in a heartbeat and you wouldn’t believe it if you didn’t see it happen yourself, that people can do this kind of thing.  But it’s actually part and parcel of some of these subclinical disorders, like subclinical manifestations of borderline personality disorder, for example, and it’s very real and they can –

Jason Hartman: Sure.  I mean they can stab you in the back and turn around and smile at the next person and give them a hug.  It’s really, really mind-boggling.

Barbara Oakley: Well, as it turns out, higher levels of management are often very afraid of these kinds of people.  That’s why somebody can get into a position and then they just stay there.  They don’t get fired even though they may create some real difficulties.

Jason Hartman: Because management is afraid to let them go because they think they’ll be vindictive, you mean?

Barbara Oakley: Yes.  That’s why it’s important, however, to set firm limits in what you’re willing to tolerate.  And if you aren’t willing to get rid of people who can do this kind of thing, you will eventually pay the price.  I’d say right now, the automotive industry here in the Detroit area is paying some of the price.  That’s why hospitals have instituted that new federal mandate.  I mean they were paying the price in that people were really – they died because of physician arrogance.  Nurses are afraid to ask them questions.  Obviously, incorrect prescriptions and so forth because the physician can be really nasty human beings.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, “don’t question me.”  “Who do you think you are” type of thing, yeah.

Barbara Oakley: Oh, yes, and it’s something that’s hardwired.  You’ll usually find that it’s like there’s one or two people and they are the problems consistently, over and over and over again.  And often, this person will befriend the individual who’s supposed to be monitoring and handling this kind of situation.  And indeed, they can be utterly charming in front of that person, so that person really has no idea of what others are having to deal with and they don’t take the action that needs to be taken in the situation.

Jason Hartman: Okay, so this is a show about investing and creating wealth.  Let’s talk about the people at Enron.  The Enron is probably the most famous of the Wall Street scams because it was early in the game and it was huge obviously.  In their warped minds, Barb, they are either trying to just make money or they’re driven by profit, power, or simply don’t care about people.  In a society where you’ve got a capitalistic system, and we used to have that just before a few months ago – I’m referring to all the bailouts and it’s funny you mentioned Detroit and you live in Detroit because today, I’ve got FOX Business on in the background here and I’m looking on TV at the automakers.  They’re begging for money.

But should we somehow understand this kind of behavior of, like, the people at Enron or what are your comments about that?  These people just – they ruin people’s retirements.  They stole their money and since Enron, we have seen so many people damaged by the evil behavior on Wall Street, the just patent lying and lining of their own pockets, and in government, too.  I mean hey, Paulson is seemingly such a great example.  The guy is on TV and oh, there’s no problem.  There’s no problem at all.  And then, literally a week later, the world is ending.  What do you make of these people?

Barbara Oakley: Well, first off, the kinds of people I’m talking about they’re genetically predisposed.  Sometimes environment helps them to become truly only self-serving and capable of pretty much any kind of duplicities as long as it benefits themselves.  And these people really only form a small percentage of our society and it’s hard to plug a number into that.  What is it, 2 percent, 5 percent?  Something like that.

Jason Hartman: Okay, but it’s lower than ten, you think.  That’s good.

Barbara Oakley: I think ten is maybe the outside limit, but whatever that percentage is, it does seem that these individuals, because of their greed and their desire for control – and control can be a very good trait – but it’s also a trait that’s often found with people who have other personality disorders, and when it is found with them, it can really make things tough because what that desire for control over other people does is it make them want to climb as high as they can in social hierarchies.  And because these individuals are willing to cheat and do the things that other more ethical people won’t do, it’s actually easier for them to climb up above whatever their level of competence would have normally placed them at.

Jason Hartman: So the Peter Principle can be sort of outdone and they can climb above their level of competence by using these evil techniques.  You mentioned, though, Barb, that being controlling is – now, most people would think that’s bad, but you mentioned that it could be good, too.  Tell us how.

Barbara Oakley: Well, certainly.  I mean control, like you want to have good control over what you’re investing in.  You want to understand every facet of what you’re doing and so people who, for example, even for me, when I’m working on a book, I want to have complete control over every aspect of the writing of that book.  I want to verify and check every single fact as much as I humanly can.  And I think that’s a trait of many good authors.  It’s certainly, since I’m an engineer, it’s a trait of many good engineers.  You want to make sure it’s done right.  Of course, it can be overdone and then you can be the compulsive micromanager.

Jason Hartman: I drive my employees a little nuts with that.  I love to quote a great quote.  I think it came from an airline executive in the ’70s and I don’t know the proper attribution of it, but I love the quote.  And here’s the quote.  It says, “Coffee stains on the flip-down trays mean that we don’t maintain the jets properly.”  And that’s the quote I try to instill into my staff because I say that the appearance of our office, the appearance of our website, the appearance of our materials, of the content of our show, that stuff matters because if we’re sloppy in one area, the customer thinks we’re sloppy in other areas.  That’s why I love that quote so much.  But I guess that could be taken to extreme and drive people absolutely nuts, huh?

Barbara Oakley: Could, but I think there’s a lot of truth to that.  They’ve found that if you take care of the little things in neighborhoods that go wrong, the graffiti that goes up – the Broken Window Theory is what they actually call it – if you take care of these little things, it actually will prevent more major crimes from occurring.  And it’s kind of a big leap to talk about how an office looks and how a business functions versus how a neighborhood looks and how that neighborhood functions, but I think it’s really quite analogous.

That goes right back to the idea, though, of limits.  If you tolerate a person acting in an abusive manner to their subordinates, for example, the more you tolerate that, the more they’ll push it a little more.  You need to set firm limits about what you will tolerate and what’s acceptable behavior.

Jason Hartman: And you need to do it at the outset, right?  You need to do it soon.

Barbara Oakley: You need to do it as soon as you possibly can.

Jason Hartman: Early in the game.

Barbara Oakley: Sometimes people have been doing this kind of thing for years and when they have, if you crack down, everything will break loose.  But once you’ve done it and you get through the heck breaking out, things will improve, and lives can be really substantially improved for the people who have to work around an individual like this.

Jason Hartman: Hey, your book title, it’s just such a great title.  Did your sister really steal your mother’s boyfriend?

Barbara Oakley: Yes, she did.  I have a sad laugh when I remember what happened, but my mom had always, always, always wanted to go to Paris, and so late in life, she met his man and he wanted to make her dream come true.  And my sister, at the time, was living in Southern California and my mother was living in Washington State, and my sister happened to call my mother and my mother mentioned that she was going to go to Paris and she was so excited.  Next thing you know, my sister dropped her lease from where she was living in California, moved right up, right beside my mother, and coincidentally, right beside the guy that was going to take her to Paris.

And she turned on that charm and next thing you know, she was the one who was on the plane to Paris.  Here she is with this guy.  He’s 40 years older than her.  He’s on oxygen for his emphysema.  They’re clinking around with his oxygen bottle in Paris.  And as soon as she gets back, she drops the guy like a hot rock.  I mean that was one of many different kinds of things I saw through my life that made me really wonder why do people do things like this.

Jason Hartman: That is so flipping evil and manipulative.  That’s unbelievable.  What should you do with people like that?

Barbara Oakley: If you have someone like this in your life, I do recommend a book called The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder.

Jason Hartman: That sounds kind of academic.

Barbara Oakley: It’s not.  Randi Kreger, she wrote it and she’s not a psychologist, and again, I have to say some really interesting work in psychology is coming from non-psychologists.  She tells you all about, in very simple terms, what is this disorder, why do people act like this, and why are many of them never diagnosed, and what can you do to protect yourself?  People will say, well, you need to set limits.  How do you set limits?  She explains how do you set limits and what to tolerate, what not to tolerate, and also how to – one of the most important things you can develop is dispassion.  Not getting wrapped into someone else’s emotional world.

And that’s often what individuals with these kinds of disorders will attempt to do.  They’ll try and get you –

Jason Hartman: They want to suck you into the whole thing, right.

Barbara Oakley: Right, they’ll bait you and try to get you into their world.  And it takes some degree of practice to have this ability to – if you saw that old Star Trek episode, there was this episode where they were going to shoot bullets through the Star Trek crew, and there was nothing they could do about it.  It was going to happen.  And then they were told that if they imagined the bullets weren’t real, they actually wouldn’t kill them, wouldn’t hurt them.  And so they just let the bullets pass right through them because they knew they weren’t real.

You have to almost have that same mentality with the words that these kinds of individuals can use to grab you and try to get you into their world.  I still have to laugh at that episode because I think it does teach an important idea in relation to words really can’t hurt you.

Jason Hartman: Right, be dispassionate.  That’s the point, right?

Barbara Oakley: Yes.

Jason Hartman: Good point.  Good point.  So it seems as though nowadays, and of course, I don’t know what it was like in the other days, 50 years ago or whatever; it seems as though people are mean.  They’re more hasty.  They jump to conclusions so quickly nowadays.  Are people more mean than they used to be?  Or maybe they’re just that way in words, but before, they were that way in action more so.  I mean certainly the barbarism of the past we’ve all seen in movies and read in books and so forth, studied in history.  What’s your take on that?

Barbara Oakley: My friend, Amy Alkon is writing a book and I love the title of it.  It’s called Revengerella:  One Woman’s Battle to Beat Some Manners into an Impolite Society.  And it’s clear that Amy feels it’s everyone’s responsibility to help maintain a polite and civil society.  I think that the growth of political correctness and a culture that emphasizes self-esteem and not judging others, it has some very good aspects, but it has some other bad –

Jason Hartman: Some real negatives, yeah.

Barbara Oakley: Right, that makes people shy away from correcting rudeness and even behavior like plagiarism or outright clip criminality.  I mean I know that, recently, a professor in Texas was actually fired because he had warned his class in his syllabus that anyone caught plagiarizing would be publicly shamed, and he did that and he was fired.

Jason Hartman: It’s amazing that the right thing to do, it’s like you can’t call someone out on their wrong behavior it seems like nowadays.  It’s just sort of like this lack – we live in this culture of no accountability.  That’s how it feels to me.

Barbara Oakley: Oh, it’s disheartening sometimes in that, for example, I belong to an engineering honor society and one of the things that we take very, very seriously is that people are not inducted in who have character flaws, who are dishonest.  And yet, when I see someone who has been caught cheating be inducted into the society, I cannot say anything about it.  It’s illegal.  It’s amazing.

But by the same token, just knowing about the kinds of things I’m talking about, that some people are naturally wired, they can’t help it, to be the way they are.  I mean they can help it to some extent and they can certainly help it a lot if you help set firm limits.  But just knowing these, what science is uncovering, can be just so tremendously empowering.

Jason Hartman: I couldn’t agree more with that.  One comment on what you were just saying, though.  I think that part of the reason people get away with a lot of this behavior nowadays is No. 1 because of political correctness has silenced people, which you had mentioned and I agree with.  But No. 2 is that people no longer really live in small towns and society today seems much more mobile and transient, and that means that people can just go elsewhere.  They can just go hook up with another group or another town and sort of treat other human beings like they’re just garbage.  They can just go on and get rid of one and just move to another, right?  Everybody’s kind of replaceable sort of attitude, kind of the disposable society attitude.

I mean look at it nowadays, Barb.  If something breaks in your house and it’s any sort of a gadget, you’re probably just going to throw it out and get a new one because it’s more difficult and expensive to fix it than it is to just buy it again, in the case of, say, your coffeemaker, your vacuum cleaner.  There used to be repair shops for all this stuff.  Not so much anymore.

Barbara Oakley: Not so much.  What you’re pointing out is actually it’s an important scientific finding is that the growth of cities and urban environments actually is vastly increasing the ecological niche, you might say, for antisocial behavior.  They’ve found – this may sound kind of funny, but they found that there are more Scottish psychopaths in London prisons than there are in Scottish prisons.

Jason Hartman: Oh, in other words, that’s kind of the mentality of what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas type of thing.  You go out of town to commit your sins.  You don’t do it at home.

Barbara Oakley: That’s right.  And actually, you’re attracted to the city, to the big city, as opposed to the little one.  There’s not much urban activity going on in Scotland, but hey, London’s where it’s at.  And so they can go down to London and it’s much easier to get fresh meat.

Jason Hartman: Fresh victims for your game, yeah.

Barbara Oakley: You find somebody – yeah, you caught them, and you turn around and you run away.  You can easily escape in the crowds and then you can pop up in someone else’s life and just con them for a couple weeks, a couple months, and then off you go with their money or maybe you’ve left a baby behind or whatever.  So the modern urban environment is really built to nurture psychopaths and the sad thing is when this kind of behavior is accepted and tolerated, then other people who are not really naturally this way, they sort of feel compelled to start acting the same way because they can see it’s a way to get ahead.  If the other people are going to cut corners, then they’re sort of forced to start cutting corners, too, because the other people –

Jason Hartman: The playing field’s not level.

Barbara Oakley: Right, right.

Jason Hartman: That’s the problem.  I agree.  I agree.  Yeah, you make me want to go move to a small town where everything’s old fashioned and people are nice.  But there might be a lot of psychosis there, too.  I’m not sure.  A lot of people nosing into your life and things like that, that might not be so healthy either.

Barbara Oakley: Oh, I just think the important thing out of this is just be careful who you select.  You can’t select your relatives and sometimes you just need to learn coping skills, but you can select your friends and your business associates.  And that’s where you just want to be really careful because you want to size someone up and do it accurately and not find out for four years after you’ve believed they’re your trusted business partner that they are actually going to stab you in the back and leave you with nothing.  And that can happen, so just being aware of what science is telling us, that yes, these people are out here, can really help you.

Jason Hartman: Good point.  There’s a school of thought that says, especially in the religious lines that love the sinner, hate the sin.  It’s like it’s not the person that’s being evil.  It’s the deed.  It’s the act.  What do you say about that?

Barbara Oakley: Well, I have to think back to the fellow, the Green River killer.  He was the worst serial killer they’ve ever found.  As far as I know, he’s killed I think on the order of 50 that they know of and this was a guy who had absolutely no remorse, no compassion, no nothing, and he was innocuous – he was a painter for a truck company – and they couldn’t catch him –

Jason Hartman: And let me guess, Barb.  The neighbors all said, “And he seemed like such a nice guy.”

Barbara Oakley: Oh, yeah.

Jason Hartman: Like they said about Jeff Dahmer and all the rest.

Barbara Oakley: Oh, yeah.  And the thing about this guy, though, is, when they brought him to trial and they brought the families of all these women who he had murdered and they all came up to testify, many of them berated him and called him names and so forth.  But a few of them said they forgive him.  They forgave him on the stand.  And when that would happen, he would actually start showing some emotion.  He would start crying.  It was the first time where he actually showed emotion.  And so people would react with, gosh, religion actually got through to him.

But my reaction to that is this.  He only cried when people thought about him.

Jason Hartman: Oh, yeah, very self-centered view.

Barbara Oakley: Exactly right.  And so sometimes by forgiving the sinner, what you’re actually – or forgiving the acts and so forth – you’re setting yourself up to have the same sort of thing happen again and again from a person.  And so you have to be careful.  You can –

Jason Hartman: You can’t make it acceptable.  It’s not acceptable.  People just sort of keep doing things and they might use religion as a crutch and they act like, well, I’m just going to be forgiven.  I can do whatever I want.  I definitely heard that line of – I’ve witnessed that line of behavior and I’ve heard that line of reasoning, too.

Barbara Oakley: Oh, yes, but some people, on the other hand, will say I must be a bad person because I can’t forgive that individual.  And to my mind, forgiveness is a good thing because it helps you get out of the emotions involved, but boy, if you forgive and forget, you can be in huge trouble.

Jason Hartman: Maybe it’s forgive, but don’t forget.  Maybe there’s a distinction there that’s good to think about.

Barbara Oakley: I think there’s something in evolution that has driven our reactions, that if you’re always forgiving, if you always turn the other cheek, there are some people who are genetically predisposed to use that against you.

Jason Hartman: Do you believe people can rid their evilness?  Can they be cured?

Barbara Oakley: I don’t know about cured and I think it depends on how bad you are, but I sure do think that some people can change.  And the big thing is just trying to get that individual to understand the consequences of what their actions are.  Every once in a while, you can break through to that person and, boy, then they can really make enormous changes in themselves.

I have a friend who’s – it’s a very sad situation.  His son was being just your typical worst teenage nightmare.  He was like 19, living at home, refusing to work, refusing to do anything, and then giving a bad time to anyone who got on his case.  And finally, his father had a bit too much to drink one night and slammed him up against the wall and just said I can’t take this anymore.  And the kid turned him in to the cops and this guy ended up – he couldn’t say anything because he didn’t want to split the family up, so he just took the punishment.

And then the son, though, was told he had to go in the military.  So the son went into the military.  After basic training, he calls up the family.  He is so incredibly remorseful for what he’s done and it completely changed him as a human being.  So this experience, where he had to get outside himself, I truly believe it actually made physical changes in his brain in how he looked at things and how he thought about things.

Jason Hartman: In other words, working on a team in the military, sort of being dedicated to something greater than himself, is that what you’re getting at?

Barbara Oakley: Yes or just not thinking that he himself lives to be all and end all, that his wants and needs were the most important.  Boy, believe me, when you’re in front of that drill sergeant – I’ve been in the military.  Sometimes I laugh because people will say what’s worse, having a baby or being in the military, and I always say well, actually, it’s having the baby because when you’re in the military, if they’re screaming at you and you do what they tell you to do, then they’ll stop.  But that doesn’t happen with babies.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, that’s true.  Okay, good.  Well, Barb, anything you want to say in closing?  This has been a very interesting show.

Barbara Oakley: I just think that it’s very, very uplifting actually and empowering to learn about people’s best traits and also about the flipside.  And by doing that, you can make a lot better choices in your life, so I would encourage you, if you can, to either check out Evil Genes or take a copy of it.  And also, if you’re suffering from this kind of person in your life, also see if you can get a copy of The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder.  I think that’s a good book, too.

Jason Hartman: Barb, it’s been great having you on the show.  All the listeners go to www.evilgenes.com and check out Barb’s work, and Barb, thanks so much for being on the show.

Barbara Oakley: Oh, you’re very welcome.

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[End of Audio]

Duration:  62 minutes