In his book, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, the late Edwin Freidman wrote about the emotional connections that are interwoven throughout our lives. He cited how we can be our own worst enemies by failing to recognize how the dysfunctional patterns in our childhoods are often replicated in our work lives as well as in our homes, our families, and in our churches, synagogues and schools. To paraphrase another famous adage, we spend the second half of our lives, trying to get over what happened to us in the first half. *
It takes hard work to recognize that we might be unwittingly setting ourselves up for our own failure instead of making our mark. We have to practice constant vigilance that we are not our own worst enemies.
There are real struggles that we did not choose. All of us encounter roadblocks. Some encounter more obstacles than others. There is a whole array of commonplace scenarios. We find ourselves going into a job interview. The company knew whom they were going to hire, only we did not know. The job was already wired from inside the company. We never stood a chance. Our books just can’t get published. A similar book in terms of content and genre but of lesser literary merit does get published. We never knew the right editor.
The list of potential roadblocks is endless. The movie role is never offered—to us. The recording contract is never drafted. The promotion never happens. The application to college or graduate school is rejected. Entrance to our favorite nightclub is denied. We are denied financing, a mortgage, a high limit credit card. If we think life is unfair, doling out its rewards and punishments at random, or that everything is wired against us, then we’re right. We haven’t networked successfully. We have not made it a priority to know the right people. We did not place ourselves in a position of success by removing our own obstacles and pressing on.
We can only walk through the doors that will open to us. Sometimes we can persevere and bang our heads against a door that will not budge. Sooner or later we have to cut our losses and move onto the next door that will spring open. In this incredible journey we call life, we can only find out who we are and who we are not.
To make our mark, we have to really know who we are and trust ourselves. When we trust ourselves, we develop self-reliance, and there is no greater gift that we can give to the world. --Inspired in part from “American Spin”
*attributed to anonymous
**The late Edwin Friedman was an ordained rabbi and practicing family therapist. His ground-breaking work, Generation to Generation, exposed the emotional connections between home and work in religious, educational, therapeutic, and business systems, and has become a modern classic. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, is an acclaimed work on leadership.