The Damn Test


One quick test I employ to see what someone values is something I call The Damn Test:

  1. In conversation, keep track of whenever they become seriously impressed with something (aka they say "Damn!")
  2. In conversation, keep track of when they pause the conversation, in anticipation of your approval for what they said/did (they're waiting for you to say "Damn!")
  3. See if you can spot a pattern of the things they find impressive. If unclear, keep asking why they found something impressive until you get a general idea.


A: ... so yeah, I'll be taking a Google offer sometime this fall.
B: Damn! Congrats man, I'm so happy for you.
A: Haha thanks mate. And what have you been up to?
B: So, I finally got into YCombinator *pause*
A: ... oh nice!
B: and I'm gonna be interviewing for the Thiel Fellowship next week *long pause*

So B finds name brands like YCombinator, Google, and the Thiel Fellowship very impressive. Does that say something about what they care about? These are the hot, shiny collectibles that fit nicely on a resume. This might give you a sense for what motivates the person.