Sunday, April 21, 2013

How To Be... a Super Spy!

This is where it all started. This whole series came out of this idea of what it takes to be a super spy, and it was my wife's idea to use this as my series (she said to make sure she gets the credit for giving me the idea that gave me my idea). You might be wondering why we would be trying to figure out what it takes to be a spy, but, really, it's no secret. We think our daughter would be a great spy. She has so many of the basic personality traits one would need: naturally athletic, a drive "to win," an innate desire to make sure other people do what's "right" while being willing to manipulate events to get what she wants. I could go on. And I will in just a moment but more in general rather than about her specifically.

Let me just make it clear: these are the things you need in order to be super spy like James Bond or Jason Bourne or Sydney Bristow, not just a regular spy. The requirements to be a regular spy are much less and more varied depending upon the kind of spy you want to be. Or are willing to settle on being. I'm just going to assume that everyone wants to be a super spy, so that's what we'll look at.


So... how do you go about being a super spy?

1. A super spy needs to be kinesthetically gifted. While it's possible to learn the physical skills one would need without any natural inclination, it makes it much more difficult. A great spy will be able to learn physical disciplines easily.

2. A super spy needs to have a sort of moral ambiguity about them. Which is not to say that they need to not believe in anything, they might have a very heightened sense of right and wrong (or, at least, what they believe to be right and wrong), but they need to be willing to do what needs to be done for the greater good.

3. A super spy needs to have a facility with languages. This is probably the toughest one (and the one my daughter is missing). A regular spy may or may not know any other languages but probably doesn't know more than three or four. A super spy needs to be able to go anywhere and do anything and be able to understand what's going on around her. Minimally, she needs to at least understand the language when it's being spoken even if she can't speak it back. Information is currency for the spy, and language is the root of that currency.

4. A super spy needs to have strong interpersonal and social skills. The spy needs to be able to blend in with the crowd and appear to belong in any group. The spy also needs to be able to manipulate her target. This doesn't come about by being shy. The spy has to be able to win people over, make them trust her, do her bidding. It's not really the career choice for people that don't like to interact with strangers. If that's you, maybe you'd be better as an analyst. Not that you can't be a regular spy and be an introvert, especially if it's part of your cover, but you'll never make it as a super spy if you can't put yourself out there.

5. A super spy has to be smart. Not just smart, either; a super spy has to be able think quickly and take decisive action. Often within moments. Or seconds. Immediately. Sometimes, it doesn't even have to be the correct action, but no action at all, stopping to think about it, will get you killed.

There are tons of other things, but they're specific skills that apply to these basic concepts. Like a super spy should know Arabic. Or a super spy should know how to sky dive. Or a super spy must be proficient with handguns. Basically, there are a lot of individual things to learn, too many to list, but the individual skills are not as important as the underlying ability to learn and use them.

For free, because I found it interesting, one site I looked at said (and I have no idea if this is based on any actual data or just pulled from some guy's butt) that only about 10% of the population is born with the necessary characteristics to become a true super spy.

26 comments:

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I'm no super spy but this is quite a super list. Nice going Andrew.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm guessing it's less than ten percent considering all of the required qualities.

L.G. Smith said...

I just spent the entire weekend researching spies during the Civil War. Amazing stuff (expect a post soon!) Also, I learned there is a spy museum in Washington DC that I must see. They even have James Bond's Aston Martin on display. :)

Anne said...

My father was MI-6 and life really is nothing like what is shown in the movies. He looked like a regular Joe, but I didn't know what he did for a living until well after he retired. I thought he had a desk job for with the British government. Oh God, how wrong I was!

S. L. Hennessy said...

I think 10 percent may be reaching. I'd guess 5 to 7 percent tops. But Bond, Bourne, and Brystow... definitely super spies.

A Beer For The Shower said...

I think 10% sounds way too high. I mean, out of 1000 people, 100 of those could be capable of being world-class super spies? I surely think not.

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

I used to enjoy playing Top Secret.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Based on your analysis of the qualifications to be a super spy I'm in the 90% of the population. I'd like to be a super spy, but ain't happening in this lifetime.

Rusty Webb said...

To paraphrase Bill Murray - I'm really close on these.

I might need to brush up on a few foreign languages, spend some time in the gym. But, you know, maybe.

The Armchair Squid said...

To be Bond, you also have to specialize in going after villains with a sense of style. No-nonsense, bullet-to-the-head efficiency types need not apply.

Andrew Leon said...

Sheena: Thanks!

Alex: Well, it's not actually people that could be spies but people that are born with the necessary to have the potential to be one.

L.G.: I want to go there!

Anne: Wow! At least he didn't have to kill you after you found out.

S.L.: See the comment I left for Alex.

ABftS: Well, before being ruined by their upbringing? Yeah, maybe.

Michael: I never played that.

C.Lee: Yeah, me, either.

Rusty: Are you gonna be the same kinda spy as Murray?

Andrew Leon said...

TAS: I'm not sure that still applies. They all seem to be bullet to the head types these days. Bond still seems to get all the women, though.

The Armchair Squid said...

I don't know, the guy in the last movie could have taken him out a lot sooner! (I know M was the target - that could have been managed with less fuss, too.)

Andrew Leon said...

Tas: Okay, well, that's true. I was thinking in terms of death traps (like being a strapped to a table with a laser coming up between your legs), but there certainly was a lot of "playing with your food" in the last movie.

Misha Gericke said...

Mmm... I have all of them. Even the athletic talent, except I don't use it as much as the others since there's no reason to.

I'm weird like that.

Nancy Thompson said...

Believe it or not, my son is preparing for work in the spy industry.

The Armchair Squid said...

You've gotta be ready with your standard martini order, too: vodka or gin? shaken or stirred?

Donna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna said...

I don't think this will work for me. Next...

Andrew Leon said...

Misha: Personally, just right off the bat, I am no good with languages. I understand the grammar and structure, but I'm no good with actually remembering the words.

Nancy: That's awesome! I hope my daughter decides to at some point; she'd be good at it.

TAS: I fail at the martini test.

Donna: Tomorrow's is much more cerebral.

The Armchair Squid said...

Me, too. I'm a beer and wine man.

Andrew Leon said...

TAS: I'm not into beer at all. My wife did spend several years getting me to like wine, though.

Angela Ackerman said...

Interesting stat, but then I would believe it. I think you have to have an incredibly honed sense of intuition to make it as a spy!

Angela

Andrew Leon said...

Angela: That may be true. Some of the stuff I looked at talked about "training your 6th sense."

Kristen Dyrr said...

I fit the kinesthetic requirement. I'm pretty good at learning languages, but I've never bothered to learn many of them. I'm also a pretty fast on my feet, and can prove it. But I'm shy, and have strong morals. I guess that wipes out all my dreams of becoming a super spy. LOL

#atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com

Andrew Leon said...

Kristen: Surprisingly enough to people that know me now, I was pretty athletic when I was younger, but I never would have done anything morally ambiguous at the time.