First born?: Birth order tells a lot

I'm a sucker for birth order theory. I love it because it explains so much about a person so quickly. Birth order theory will help you understand someone's world-view quickly. It will also give you insight about what motivates someone. And, after all, one of the fastest ways to success is to understand people quickly. Birth order theory is another tool in your arsenal so you can figure out how to relate to people faster.

Here are the basics: First-born children come into a world where parents give them all the attention, and the world feels very good. These kids spend their lives trying to preserve order. Youngest kids, by virtue of not being oldest, disrupt order in the world to get attention from their parents. These kids spend their lives disrupting order to get what they want. Middle children are less sure of their place than the oldest or the youngest. These kids are good negotiators but have a difficult time figuring out a place for themselves.

Not convinced? The French revolution was led almost exclusively by younger siblings, as were most other revolutions. Harvard's undergraduate admissions committee inadvertently selects first-born children almost exclusively. Middle children are statistically likely to make less money than their oldest or youngest sibling.

There are exceptions, of course. But the list of exceptions is not nearly as long as you'd think. Here's an example of one: the first-born daughter of two first-born parents usually gives up her place to the second-born because the parental pressure is too intense since first-borns are likely to be perfectionists. (I am in this category, which might explain why I end up taking an alternative route to everything, and my younger brother walks a straight line.)

Understanding your own birth order place helps you see why you act in certain ways, and it helps you have more patience with yourself. Finding out a little bit about the birth order of people you work with will help you to work more effectively with them by understanding them better.

There are statistically good and bad pairings according to birth order, also. Not that you can do a lot to change who your work with, but you can work better by understanding your relationship to each other. Two first-borns might have trouble working together because they're both used to ordering everyone around. And two last-borns are used to having someone else get to the plan first, so things might move slowly with two youngest in charge. A great pairing is a youngest and an oldest. (Note, this is true for marriage, also. People should read a birth order book or two before they ever go out on a date.)

Before you send emails telling me about the exceptions to these rules, let me tell you about St Augustine. In college I wrote a paper that argued with his early Christian philosophies. I got a "C." My teacher said, "Rewrite the paper to show that you understand St Augustine's ideas." I argued for five extra pages and got a "C." My teacher said, "You'd learn a lot more in the world if you would struggle as hard to understand the merits of a theory as you do to argue with it."

I wrote and wrote and wrote about St. Augustine until I actually saw the importance of his ideas. I got an "A," but that's beside the point. I learned the importance of understanding a theory so well that you can't help but find something to agree with. St. Augustine is very difficult reading– be grateful I'm recommending birth order theory instead.