Buying a Car


Buying a car can be a daunting task. It requires making tradeoffs that can rarely all be satisfied. Making a good decision means asking which factors are most important. Is there one thing that rises to the top? Something that trumps everything else? Try taking our test to see what you think.

What is really important? That is the big question. — Yuval Noah Harari

Below is a list of attributes one could consider. Do you see one that is most important?

  • Cost

  • Appearance

  • Comfort

  • Reliability

  • Utility

  • Performance

Let's try it this way. If your car often strands you, do you care that it looks great, has four doors, a big trunk, is powerful and luxurious, and was inexpensive? Most cars today have solved the reliability issue, so we take it for granted... until we get a lemon. A good friend used to own an expensive foreign sportscar. Every time I saw him he was complaining how his car was in the shop. When he finally traded it for a mainstream sedan at a quarter the price he couldn't stop gushing about the new car’s reliability.


What if we were choosing members for a professional basketball team? Could we apply the same criteria? In this case we would give more weight to performance, compared to, say, good looks. But reliability still trumps the other five. Stephen Curry has the highest shooting percentage in the NBA. How long do you think he would he last if he failed to show up for even one or two of his games or practices? We all know the answer. He would be off the team almost immediately.


What about in business? Most organizations run as teams, or as collections of sub-teams. When people fail to show up it's like putting a stick in the spokes of the cart. We often hear integrity, skills, and consistency listed as top values. Those things are important, but none of them matter if the person isn't in the room.

Eighty percent of success is just showing up. —Woody Allen

A recent job candidate short-canceled on his interview, asking to do it by videoconference instead. I turned to the other interviewer and said, "We just learned everything we need to know." We thanked the candidate for his interest and moved on. The position needed someone who was dependable, as do most positions. We were unimpressed with the “preview of coming attractions.”

When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. —Maya Angelou

The point of this essay is not just about recruiting. It is equally about who we want to be as team members. Every time we miss an appointment or are late for a meeting, we are setting expectations for what we will do the next time we make a commitment. This reduces people’s trust in us, and thereby the opportunities we will be given. It also casts a vote for who we are in our own psyche, generating bad feelings and self-image. The effects compound over time.


In summation, being reliable is the most important characteristic we can cultivate in ourselves and expect from others. It is the best thing we can do to create great teams!