I have always had a strong connection with my internal wisdom – or intuition. It has been such a strong part of who I am that I taught my children to hone their listening skills, and to this day when they come to me with some issue or challenge, I ask: “what does your gut tell you?”
The funny thing about intuition is that we recognize how valuable it is most often when we have ignored it, and find ourselves in some situation that we would have preferred to avoid. That’s when we realize that we were warned and chose not to pay attention.
When I was a Sailor in San Diego. I had a posse of friends like most of us do at that age, and we often spent Friday nights together at the base club. One night we were all there and someone brought up the idea of breakfast (it was almost 2am). My close friends decided to go home and pass on breakfast, and I was somewhat disappointed. I guess I was hungry for home-cooked food a la some late night diner. One of the newer guys in our group spoke up (in the military, new people show up on a regular basis so this was not out of the ordinary).
“I’m hungry – I’ll go to breakfast.”
I immediately got a twinge in my gut, but I ignored it. He went on. “If you can drop me at the barracks, I’ll grab my wallet and we can go!”
I don’t remember much about him – I think his name was Brian – again, he had not been a part of our crew, and had only recently showed up hanging along the perimeter of a group of people that we knew. He was tall, very muscular (BUDS trainee) and had short-cropped reddish hair. He wore a maroon polo-like shirt and jeans, which has no relevance other than this is what I recall from the evening.
I had a car, so as everyone left the club, Brian got into the passenger side of my car and I drove him across the base to his barracks. He got out, and said: “I’ll be right back.”
I watched him walk in front of my car, across the parking lot and into the barracks. Almost immediately after he disappeared into the building, I heard a voice – as plain as if someone was sitting in my back seat, or leaning into my window: “Get out of here – now!”
I was startled, but this was a very serious voice, and it spoke with the authority of Moses. I also recalled that I had experienced a twinge in my gut when Brian first mentioned going to breakfast. I decided not to question the disembodied voice, and threw my car into reverse and sped into the darkness, back across the base and out the gate without looking back. I was shaking all over as I drove back across that large, beautiful bridge and into the city to my apartment, far from those barracks. Once inside I remembered what he had said: “…I’ll grab my wallet,…”
No one goes to the club without their wallet. First, you can’t get in without ID and second; you need money once you’re in to eat and drink or play pool or pinball (precursor to video games, peeps). This incident scared me enough that I avoided the club for the next year or so. I never heard from Brian, and while I don’t have proof that my instincts were spot-on, I’m sure I made the right decision that night.
At other times in my life I have ignored my intuition, and it has always turned out badly. In a position I held a number of years ago I was hiring someone for my department. It was an entry-level position and I had both internal and external candidates. The hiring process at this place was somewhat arduous and involved several interviews and multiple steps. The person I had identified as the lead candidate was eager, friendly, and talked a good talk about their skills. This seemed to me to be the candidate everyone wanted but something wasn’t quite right. The thing is, in hiring you can’t say “this just doesn’t feel right” to a committee – especially if there are Title VII implications (age, gender, religion, race/ethnicity, etc.) in play. On paper, this person looked like the cat’s meow, and walked and talked the interview like a champ. Everyone was ecstatic, and I fluffed off my concerns because I really needed help and this person seemed like the answer to a number of my problems! I dismissed my feelings and went with the group’s recommendation.
The week before they started, this person showed up to drop off paperwork that we needed. I barely recognized them when they came in. Their energy was very low and dark, and I knew in that instant that my reservations were well-placed. Their eyes had an empty and void energy to them; they could hardly look at me – as if it was painful. I remember being troubled by the stark difference and the intense negativity of the energy they were giving off, but I wouldn’t know how prescient this curious observation would be until months later.
It did not take long for the truth to be revealed. This person brought excessive and unbelievable drama, poor decisions, untruths and a very poor work ethic to the job. Each time I asked for something (like accurate numbers) or coached them on some task that was new, they acted as if doing anything for me was a real problem – a major inconvenience. In attempting to be patient, I had even somewhat jeopardized my job by granting so many exceptions to this person that my boss came to me and said, “if you don’t do something, I will,…“.
In the end as pressure from outside of my office on their performance mounted, this person came into my office and hysterically resigned, waving their hands in the air and proclaiming all kinds of retribution to be rained down on me of the legal kind. Nothing ever became of the threats (no basis), but it was a very painful and hard lesson, and I learned then to pay attention to that look in someone’s eyes. Since then I’ve seen that look a few more times and when I’ve ignored the warning signs, I’ve always been sorry.
No matter how many good times or positive interactions you have with someone, if they show up – even once – exuding low, dark energy and with that look in their eyes – it’s a harbinger of bad news. Begin immediately to put distance between yourself and them. Do it in peace, embodied with intentions that they go on in abundance and Good – just in a different direction. Most of the time I suspect that these folks do not consciously realize that they have an issue with you, however; eyes are a window to the soul. If you see that look, there’s something negative in there festering and eventually, it will explode. Take heed and position yourself to avoid the shrapnel when the bomb finally detonates.
In the animal kingdom we call it instinct. As humans we have retained some of the instincts of our animal cousins but too often in this world of data and intellectual reasoning, we forget that we were born with tools to help us on this path called life. One of those tools is a highly-developed inner wisdom. If you’ve lost touch with yours, I encourage you to reconnect with it, and practice listening to its advice. You’ll never go wrong when you do.