Compassionate psychopaths

While I was travelling in the Philippines last week, I had the chance to read a few business books.

One was by Andy McNab, the former SAS elite soldier turned coach/entrepreneur, speaker and an Oxford University professor.

The book was researching the commonalities among high achievers, like McNabb and leading executives, bankers and entrepreneurs.

The book starts with McNabb walking into a lab at Oxford University and running through a test that concludes he is completely psychopathic, but in a good way, if there is such a thing.

I was intrigued because I recognized some similar traits in me. 

The book was fascinating and led the reader through a series of tests and stories that helped you understand that there are such things as good psychopaths.

The traits exhibited by psychopaths in the traditional sense run across a multitude of personalities and to some degree can improve performance for all of us.

The bottom line for me was that psychopaths are very pragmatic. If they want something, they have a habit of getting it.

Before reading the book, like many others I considered a psychopath to be an all or nothing personality, a social misfit. Not so.

There is a spectrum of psychopathic tendencies that ultimately create the better-known version of the personality, who is usually locked up behind bars somewhere.

There was an intriguing and simple test that the author asked the reader to perform and I wanted to share it with you.

Let's assume you are in a test.

There are 10 red phone boxes (the type you see in the U.K.). Along with nine other people, you are waiting outside and you are told that when you enter, you will see a large, red button with instructions on the wall in front of you.

All 10 of you will be in a separate booth.

You read the instructions, which tell you that the red button is going to light up at some point. 

You have the option to press the button, which will be illuminated for five minutes. However, if you do not press the button and nobody else presses the button, each of the 10 people will receive $10,000.

The alternative is to press the red button before five minutes is up at which point you will walk away with only $2,500 and nobody else gets anything at all. Just as you get to that point, the button lights up.

What would you do?

My family is completely split. 

As a spoiler, it turns out that I have some of the described psychopath in my DNA. 

I would hit that button so fast. Who cares about the other nine? One of them might want the money in which case I am in a race.

The only logical conclusion for me would be to hit the button. However, my wife would really like to see everyone get the money.

My apparently psychopathic mind agrees that would be nice, but that is not in my control. In which case I lose $2,500 if someone else presses the button.

It is a pretty interesting test in which you will find many people are split on the answer.

So can there be such a thing as a compassionate psychopath? I believe so. 

Stay tuned!


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About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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