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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Serendipity power -- the trust jump


In searching for graphics to go with this blog entry, I (perhaps with serendipity), discovered the blog: Slow Leadership -- Articles on returning humanity to working life.

I love serendipity -- that amazing confluence of forces that causes good things to happen at exactly the right time. You might call it good luck, and in some ways, it is "luck" but the special thing about serendipity in marketing and business is that you usually need to create the luck for it to happen; and that sometimes involves, for want of a better phrase, "trust risk".

To explain the concept, we'll have to travel far back in my own life experience, to youthful summer agony at age 21.

I had, (through serendipity) obtained a job as a cub police reporter on the Vancouver Province newspaper while in university -- clearly one of the best student jobs you could imagine.

But I had one rather big problem to overcome; my utter lack of social skills and capacity. No close friends -- certainly not a girlfriend -- really awkward personal behaviours; loneliness, personal identity confusion, yuk.

So I sought help, and ended up in the university's student service psychiatric research program as a subject. They had something called "Day House" (see page 2 of this link) an intensive group therapy program where grad students and researchers tested the then latest techniques and therapies on a rather intelligent group of subjects; generally students and recent graduates. The catch: I would have to forgo starting my summer job, while going through this therapy program.

I failed.

Yes, unlike almost everyone else who made it through the program, they drummed me out -- asked me to leave -- after four weeks. Seems, my problems were so serious, so major, that I was disrupting the program and simply didn't fit in. They referred me to another day treatment program at the university. I lasted there about two days -- everyone seemed virtually psychotic (they may have been) on really heavy medications (drugs were not allowed at the initial program). Sensing the choice between spending my summer with drugged out psychotics and working as a police reporter on a daily newspaper, I wisely chose the latter direction.

But the 'failure' in the initial therapy program haunted me.

Somewhere, in the period of being kicked out of the first treatment program, I saw my psychiatric assessment and diagnosis. "Personality Disorder -- Schizoid." I guess you could call it a really bad case of introversion -- so bad that I could not connect or look outside myself effectively.

I can't be sure if this is the reason they kicked me out of the initial program, but perhaps symbolic of the deeper issues, I recall well having difficulties with the "trust jump".

The entire group stood around in a circle, and you were expected to jump off a perch, letting go, and allowing everyone to catch you. Somehow I resisted doing this.

Like many things in life, negatives turned into positives, and I learned some lessons through the horrible ordeal of the "trust jump" and the aborted therapy program.
  • There are times when you really need to let go; to trust, to allow yourself to fall freely from your inhibitions, and allow the forces beyond to 'catch' you.

  • You are still absolutely responsible for creating your own opportunities and circumstances; I chose to be in this therapy program, of course, and I also had a great safety net -- that wonderful summer job on a daily newspaper -- to fall into when things 'failed'.

  • We all can overcome our deficiencies, weaknesses, and challenges with a combination of will and serendipity -- I have learned how to trust jump through life's challenges and circumstances.
Today, the difficult experiences from the late 1970s are a distant memory. I hesitated before posting this blog entry, because it obviously touches on some very personal matters and I wasn't sure it right to broadcast the old psychiatric diagnosis (if that was my illness, I'm clearly 'cured' as I have a great family life now, and people who work with me would not describe me as extremely introverted.) But I decided to publish the posting, because these themes connected just a little more than a year ago, when I needed to take a leap of faith -- accepting the risk, accepting trust -- and let a formerly key contractor resign, without knowing whether we would ever find a replacement.

In marketing, sometimes you need to follow a less conventional path, let go of assumptions, and sometimes, just let go, period. Then you may find the magical power of serendipity occurs, and you'll achieve the success you deserve.

2 comments:

Sonny Lykos said...

Mark, it takes a very special person to publicize a past " old psychiatric diagnosis" as you call it. My hat's off to you.

And as for "serendipity", I'm an advocate of it. I wouldn't go into any of mine. Suffice it to say that I became a spoiled rotten kid after my Dad died while I was 10, and my 4 older siblings (9 - 14 years older) and Mom made up for me not having a Dad by spoiling me and letting me get away with things Idid when I should have been cracked - hard!

Serendipity, and the wisdom we're supposed to acquire as we age is what allowed me as an adult, to recognize just was an SOB I was back then. I think my turning point came at about 25, and about 3-4 years after marriage and two of our four kids. Maybe it was the full weight of also acknowledging the tremendous responsibility that goes with being a husband, father and a mortgage payment. Nah. I really think it was a spiritual revelation of my past, something I had to contend with before going forward in life as I have since.

I say "spiritual" because I had another about 10 years ago. One day while looking in the mirror over my vanity one morning, the words came out of my mouth without even thinking about the issue at the time: "Hey jerk! Do you really think such a good catch?" Who caused me to speak those words out of the blue? From that second on, I could not help but think of the many minor (to me) things I did routinely that aggravated my wife. And stopped doing them from that day on.

And I'm glad your last sentence included the word "deserve" as opposed to "earn", because some people just do not deserve to be successful, regardless of how much they have tried to "earn" it.

You said: "I love serendipity -- that amazing confluence of forces that causes good things to happen at exactly the right time. " And might I add: "Why?"

Excellent column. I hope your readers take it's importance to heart, and remember their past - and present. As for "trust jump" and "trust risk": One cannot grow until they know from where they came, and who they are now. Compare and contrast.

Mark Buckshon said...

Thanks, Sonny, for sharing your thoughts here. We're fortunate to have experienced moments of insight and understanding -- and growth. I agree that not everyone gets it.