“Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!”
I am not sure whether that was a nursery rhyme or a random bit of doggerel, but it rings true.
If you are like most people I know, you certainly believe that you are smart and it is very difficult to deceive you.
And, if a person does succeed in hoodwinking you, then that is the last time he – or she – will be able to do so.
You will not trust that person again and will double and triple verify everything he – or she – tells you.
Now let’s consider Paul:
Paul was depressed. He was one of two Executive Vice Presidents at his company and had just launched a major marketing initiative that had already increased revenues by 20% and would probably double them in less than six months.
He should have been a shoo-in for CEO. Ralph, the current CEO, was planning on retiring by the end of the year but a heart attack had hastened the timetable.
The board was meeting right now to formalize it and he had not been invited. He had expected to be called to explain the initiative he had launched but he wasn’t even notified of the meeting let alone asked to speak.
Paul knew that Ralph favored Steve, the other Exec VP. The two lunched together regularly and were often seen laughing and confabulating.
Steve had asked for an investigation into whether Paul’s initiative was a good ‘fit’ with the brand profile of the product and wondered aloud if the increased sales were actually a sign of ‘stockpiling’ and would lead to decreased sales in the future.
“****ing SOB,” he muttered viciously, “Sucking up because he just can’t get ahead any other way.” He conveniently forgot that he, also, had tried to set up regular lunch meetings with Ralph but was rebuffed.
The phone buzzed.
It was Ralph asking him if he could come to the boardroom right away. He said it was important.
As he passed Steve’s office he took a quick peek in. Steve had a stand-up desk and his laptop was connected to a wall monitor. It was displaying the agenda for today’s meeting – the one he had not been invited to and not even informed about – and the first item was “CEO succession.”
“That’s it,” he thought bitterly. “The weasel has bad-mouthed me and he won. Darn if I will remain with the company.”
He decided he would resign right away. No point in putting on a brave front. He would find a CEO position elsewhere or, failing that, would simply retire.
He did not want his career to end this way but that was the way the cookie crumbled.
Everybody burst into cheers when he entered and there was a lot of clapping.
‘What,,,What,,,?” he stammered.
“I was going to announce it next month,” said Ralph jovially, “But I have to go to the hospital again and they want me to stay for an indefinite period. So I thought I’d do it right away.”
“Do what?” asked Paul puzzled.
“Announce you as the new CEO,” said Ralph. “It was always between you and Steve. Steve just presented the findings of the study he commissioned about your new marketing drive and it was roses all the way. He would be delighted to work with you as you settle into your role but will be leaving in a few months.”
It turned out that Steve was about to become Ralph’s son-in-law and was starting his own company with his fiancé and with Ralph’s blessing.
A smile broke out on Paul’s face.
It was a good day after all.
We are all Paul.
Have you ever fretted because you did not receive a phone call intimating safe arrival from your children driving back home late at night?
Have you watched the talking heads on news channel talking about soaring crime and become concerned about what is happening to society and the world in general?
All of this has a its root in a simple phenomenon.
Mental chatter is that internal monologue you have going on in your head ALL the time.
Paul wondered if he would become CEO and engaged with this fleeting thought and his mental chatter created an elaborate scenario where Steve was busy plotting to derail him and Ralph was a willing accomplice.
The pundits spin a tale based on today’s fragmentary evidence and you promptly pile on with your own stories about where the world is headed and feel dejected and even depressed.
When I was head of consumer products at Data Resources I wrote a report on how the personal computer and artificial intelligence would change the world. My brilliant prediction was that so much of grunt work would be done by computers that we would have oodles of leisure and even speculated on the 30 hour work week becoming the norm.
We engage too much with our thoughts and spin tales that we believe.
And, no matter how many times our mental chatter has demonstrably led us astray, we believe it every time it tells us something.
So, to improve your life, remember this.
MENTAL CHATTER IS FAKE NEWS.
Do not believe it. Be aware of it and double and triple check everything it tells you.
Do not let it determine your mood or the emotional domain you occupy.
I will stop now because my mental chatter is telling me that this post is too long and no one will read it.
If I am wrong, please reply and let me know.