When I stopped to pick an apple from the tree pictured here, I noticed that most of the apples had worms in them. Often, a small hole was the clue. We can learn a lot from watching peoples’ patterns and listening carefully to what they say. There are many clues to who people really are behind their masks; the truth is just below the surface.

I knew a fellow who went from wife to wife, using up all their money until they had nothing left, and then moving on to his next target. In all the years I watched him, he never actually produced anything except talk and never made a cent. Had his latest wife been able to see beyond his slimy charm and avoid being hypnotized by his empty promises, had she read this little article and remained logical instead of emotional, she would still be living in the nice home her late husband left her, she would still be financially comfortable, and her senior years would not be the wasteland they are now. Her bullying, parasite husband will soon discard her in favour of his next victim. Indeed, wiser women know that many older men are often either looking for a “Nurse” or a “Purse.”

The patterns – getting fired from every job they get, losing money in every business venture, divorce after divorce or “life partner” after “life partner,” excuse after excuse, addictions that periodically recur, promises broken, conflicts at work – these are the signs of a loser. Are they obese? Do they smoke? Do they shave every day? These are bright neon signs.

And the words they use: blaming others for their bad choices, even adults continually blaming their parents (grow up and get over it), the economy, the weather? Then there are the tell-tale signs of base selfishness and full blown narcissism: do they ever ask about YOU? Do they ever show any interest in YOUR life or challenges? Are they givers or takers, producers or parasites?

On the other hand, winners are like the cream that always rises to the top. They have ups and downs like anyone else, but they have far more ups than downs, they take personal responsibility, they are disciplined, loving, generous, and productive. They expect to win and they usually do. They provide for their wives and children. These are the people to surround yourself with, those who share your values and prove themselves.

Just ask them what books they have read, what they’re reading now, what their religious beliefs are, what their hobbies are, their goals, their past achievements, their strengths and weaknesses, who they vote for, if they smoke or not, and take a good look at who they hang around with, and you will be well on your way to finding out who they really are.

This applies to friends, business, in fact, all relationships. When the mask slips for a moment, believe what you see underneath it, and don’t forget. Avoid the wormy apples.

Robin Elliott  LeverageAdvantage.com