Famous words of Lincoln and Lydgate – “…you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

bivium logoAfter a recent experience with a candidate, I was reminded of the famous words from poet John Lydgate, later adapted by President Lincoln – and appearing in various permutations:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

This is never more clear in a market increasingly driven by candidate’s widening expectations. If anyone reading this has ever been in a service business – whether in their youth in retail or as a waiter/waitress or perhaps during the software market recession in 2001-2004, you took on a 2nd job dealing with the public at large — those words will make you grin. Over the years, you can always strive to make people happy and offer repeat business, but, every once in a while, you run into a client so absolutely jaded and prepared to make your life miserable, that you never forget, but have a great big laugh after it’s all said and done.

Recently, I had such an experience. To be clear, I am not perfect, but much of life comes down to CLEARLY communicating ones expectations, goals and process. My style and results bear this out, but not everyone wants this.  As a new candidate who works with me, our goal is to find out what you are looking for, compare to the market at large and arrive at an action plan to explore the marketplace. We may find our expectations too high or too low — or hopefully — just right. Much like selling a house these days — pricing & positioning make all the difference. As a hiring manager in the past, I’ve had open positions to hire a Principal Engineer only to meet a candidate who exceeds my needs, but is such a good fit, that I CREATED or expanded the job to fit that person. Creativity and thinking outside of the box are hallmarks of great talent — whether software engineers or software recruiters in Boston! So, if you are working with a good recruiter, do remember, they are doing the best they can do marry your expectations with the market, and trying to make sure possible and probable leads are explored. If your attitude and demeanor makes your placement ‘challenging’, also remember, our next market downturn or recession is statistically somewhere in the next 10 years. Companies and recruiters do have loooong memories… Feffy Geldmen.

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8 comments
  1. Clemens Hemer said:

    Is there any source for John Lydgate having said (or written) this? I’ve been trying to find it in various books of quotations, so far without success. Although I have no reason to doubt that the expression derives from Lydgate, I would love to confirm it somehow. Please let me know.

  2. Raymond Forward said:

    I too have been attempting to ratify the source; the presumption was postulated in 1907 that it was John Lydgate. However, the phraseology, language and words have no reference to his style. Perhaps it fits with his philosophy, but they are not the actual words of John Lydgate. I have a large collection of his work and have not yet found writings that match this in spirit let alone in word direct. It has been said that either Abraham Lincoln or PT Barnum obtained inspiration from Lydgate. But in which book did they read it??? MSS would be deep in some safe repository.

  3. edwin said:

    Maybe there is a reference in Lincoln’s writings somewhere of him giving Lydgate credit?
    It is one of those aphorisms that rings true in any case.

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