- Christine Forest, M.D.
- Los Angeles, California
- I have initially created the Better Than Cured Guide to Healing and Happiness to help patients in my psychiatric private practice who were suffering from anxiety and depression. My goal was not only to help them get well, but beyond that, to also help them find a viable path to a happier life. They were loosing any hope that they can ever be healthy and happy again. They were amazed when they did it. If hundreds of my patients could do it, so can you, my dear reader. I hope their stories of courage and success will empower you to reinvent yourself and rekindle the hope that your life too can be better and that your pain can be healed. Set your life course on a "better than cured" path that leads to your own profound and personal journey to healing and happiness. For more information about my medical career and my private practice, please visit my web site at drforest.com.
Friday, November 20, 2009
BEING TOO GOOD OF A SALESMAN CAN BE A PROBLEM TOO
"It's final. They are letting me go." Kyle came in, very distressed, voicing the realization of his worst fears.
He has mild attention deficit, which we brought under control with small dose of Adderall. But lately, he has been dealing with a great deal of anxiety. Kyle is a young businessman. His job requires to be very careful with numbers and details. Landing this job was a subject of much pride for him. He had the oportunity to do important an interesting work, right after graduating from his MBA. But that has been a blessing and a course.
Kyle is a very ambitious, diligent person, willing to put in any amount of work needed to get the job done. But because his job was asking of him skills and experience that only in time one could accumulate, he was never able to catch up. His work looked sloppy, although he was extremely careful and put a lot of time into it. His boss was not happy with him, although he could recognize Kyle's drive and desire to do good work and succeed. Feeling under constant pressure, he started making easy mistakes. He even was so anxious, he nearly had a panic attack in the middle of an important meeting, being very aware of the high level of that meeting and beginning to feel extremely inadequate. His confidence was waning. His self-esteem was going down rapidly for weeks. We tried to trouble shoot for that during our meetings, creating strategies to best deal with these problems. I gave him a small dose of Propranolol, a medication used extensively for public speaking and performance anxiety because it takes the edge off of anxiety but doesn't make you sleepy while doing an important presentation. In other words, he worked really hard to keep his job.
With all this effort, he continued for months to keep having problem. I was beginning to feel that letting him go, would be a merciful thing for his boss to do. He was exhausting himself, without being able to make any progress. Why? Because there are things that determination alone will not be enough to cover, and that is the day to day experience performing the same job. Just pure volition will not teach you how to solve all the problems. It takes time and enough exposure to that task to figure out how to approach it from more than one angle, to bang your head several times before you fond the right solutions--in other words, to "give it time to learn it well." And this was a big problem for my patient. He was young, capable, brilliantly intelligent and very, very impatient. He wanted things done yesterday. All the time.
Another problem was that he was too good of a salesman. When I asked him, months ago, how did he landed this prestigious job, he answered with "I wanted it badly and I presented myself well." In other words, he did an excellent sale job, convincing his future boss that he is the best man they could find for it. His hope was, of course, that he will be able to catch up.
"What do you think about loosing this job?" I asked, curious to see how he would handle situations that don't go his way, and ready to intervene if he would take it too hard.
But my patient surprised me again. He said: "To tell you the truth, I feel relieved. It was too much for me, it was eating me alive."
"A very reasonable conclusion," I said, "since we both know how true that is."
He smiled for the first time that day. "Yeah," he said, "but now, I have no idea what else to do. I thought if I want something badly enough, I should psych myself up and go for it with all I've got. And that's what I did. And you can see how badly it turned out. Where did I go wrong? How can I do things differently?"
"First of all, there is nothing wrong with intensely wanting something and going for it. I think the problem is that you are too good of a salesman."
"I am too good of what?" he asked me uncertain that he heard me right.
"Yes, a too good of a salesman. You managed to sell the idea that you could do that job even to yourself. You were like a mechanic that has all the parts to make a very good car but doesn't have the patience to take the time and put them all together to make it, or like a woman who just wants to have a child but doesn't want to wait nine months to have it, or like a..."
"OK, I get it," he interrupted me. "But what can I do differently?"
"What you could do is to give yourself a reality check. Don't be afraid, you are capable of doing big things. But you also need to understand the level that you really are at in that process. I believe you could, in a few years, be extremely good at this job you underperformed right now. But not now. It may take you a few years. Which is a short period of time compared to most people, who need ten or twenty years to get to the same level. Do not sell ideas to yourself. Never do that. You need to know exactly what is possible in real time and what isn't. What you tell others, that is your salesmanship. You can have free rain to get what you want. But take care that you never, ever, behave as a salesman to yourself."
He left my office feeling better. He was disappointed but he had a game plan: a piece of paper folded in a half, on one side was written "Expectations" and on the other "Reality Check." Following this simple plan, I know he will not fail again. The courage to accept reality was the missing link in his case. Once he does that, he will indeed be capable of making good use of his impressive qualities, in a more measured, more realistic and more successful way.