Up until the 1840′s warfare was crude and bloody affair. In the Indian wars in Texas in the 1830′s, Texas rangers fought on horseback with muzzle loading rifles, the Indians used their trusty bows and arrows. The Indians had an advantage because they were able to fire “at will” whereas the Rangers only had two shots in their rifles. After that, they were forced to dismount, reload their rifles with gunpowder and buckshot, then tamp it all down with a long rod, get back on the horse and resume the battle, fire two more shots and go through the whole reloading process again. You can imagine how ineffective this start and stop method would be against several hundred charging Indians, firing as fast as they can.
In the late 1830′s, Samuel Colt, invented and began to manufacture and sell the Colt Patent Revolver. It was a pistol revolver with five shots that could be fired in quick succession before an easy reload was required. No dismounting, no powder and shot, no tamping with the long rod. Although no match for a modern “machine gun” like Colt’s signature military U.S. Army issue M-16 which fires at a sustained rate of about 800 rounds per minute, you did a heck of a lot better with five shots and quick reload than the two shot method.
Colt firearms became known as the great equalizers of the West.
Today, in the United States at least, people skills are “the great equalizer.” Someone from even the mostly lowly of backgrounds can “repackage” themselves and manage successfully in American business. Yes, if you went to Harvard or Yale or MIT and your friends are terribly “connected”, that helps. But any resourceful kid can put on a good suit, learn how to present themselves well, how to maintain a conversation, how to sound smart, how to communicate ideas and they can find success in their chosen field.
Unlike the British society of old where, without family lineage, without a decent pedigree, a young man or woman had little chance for success outside marriage or “the trades,” in the business world of today, with a little skill and a little presentation, the world is open to you. Our popular mythology is rife with stories of the self-made man or woman who rose from nothing to become a titan of industry, to found a great organization, to do amazing things. With a good idea and a good plan, if you work hard and are able to communicate well, the world is your oyster.
Or course, if it were that easy, every half-wit who could hold a conversation would be vacationing in the south of France. But a lack these skills is certainly a limiting factor. Without interpersonal skills or a partner who has them, sees your brilliance and will communicate for you, your life, your career, your future will be far more difficult.
Most products, most technologies, in fact nearly every significant human endeavor takes human intelligence, of course, but it takes more than that. It takes cooperation among people. And usually, it takes cooperation among many very diverse people.
Think about launching a missile, for example. It takes scientists, mathematicians, telemetry experts, meteorologists, managers, electronics experts, schedulers, finance people, purchasing agents, technical writers, mechanics, assistants, secretaries, salespeople, lobbyists, contract specialists – and the list goes on. Somehow, all of these folks are forced to work with at least one other person, and usually hundreds of other people, to make the thing work.
No animal species has developed the intricate system of cooperation, of social cues and responses that humans have. We not only have to speak the same verbal language to get something done, they also have to speak the same non-verbal language. There are more social rules and cues that even the most astute practitioner of the social arts is aware of.
Yet often the most inventive and intelligent among us are the least socially adept. But, what if those socially inept braniacs could raise their social IQs just a few points? It could make a total wimp into a brawny hulk.
On more personal and practical levels, life is far easier when other people like you. You may be a rocket scientist but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a business/social network greases the wheels of almost any interaction. Now is the time to develop that other side of yourself that will ultimately make your life rich and more successful.