Lizard Brain

8 Jun

I think everyone should have to experience a job interview every few years. It’s a great exercise for keeping you on your toes, thinking more deeply about what you want and how to get there, and seeing how people size you up.

Confession time: I haven’t had a real job interview since 1999. Since then, I’ve often been the only candidate being considered. I’ve always felt extremely lucky for that…but now I have to do real job interviews and I have almost no practice being the interviewee. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into my first interview in Los Angeles a couple of days ago.

So many things came into play in that 2.5 hours of interview. Active listening. Memory recall. Storytelling. Analytic thought. Emotions and enthusiasm. Physical bearing. Goal orientation. Balancing your goals with those of the interviewers. Time tracking. Flexibility. Honesty and authenticity. Choosing the right words. Assessment and planning next steps. Lizard brain.

Yes, lizard brain.

One of the interviewers mentioned the interesting distinction between our “lizard brain” and “frontal brain”. I misunderstood it to mean what comes to you instinctively (the lizard/primitive part) versus what requires more thought and intentionality. But after some googling (actually, “goodsearching” for those of you who want to help nonprofits earn a penny with each search), I learned that “lizard brain” refers to our survival instinct (attack, run away, eat, mate), adapted to modern life to focus on our social survival.

Seth Godin writes, “The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise…The resistance grows in strength as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That’s because the lizard hates change and achievement and risk.”

Change and achievement and risk. That’s exactly what job interviews are about. That’s exactly what my transition is about. I know my brain already fights with my heart. And now I find out my brain is also battling with itself. But I’m going to use it as a guide to know when I’m really challenging myself – when my lizard brain acts up and I start getting uncomfortable. Time to agitate my lizard brain!


One Response to “Lizard Brain”


  1. Getting by with a little help from my friends « oakland 2 oc - July 2, 2011

    […] like to credit my answer to the lizard brain interview question as getting me the job, but it was really the wonderful person who I know at the organization who […]

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