Tag Archives: negative thinking

Don Draper and the Dark Corridor

If you’re in business and you’re not a fan of the show Mad Men you really should be. I suggest a good ol’ Netflix binge watch. Anyway, for the purpose of the following it doesn’t matter if you watched the show or not.

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Having worked with a whole lot of people going through a whole lot of crises (both business and personal), there were some key elements of the last Mad Men episode that hit a perfect note of the struggles that bold men face. Don finally came to his “moment” sitting on a rickety wooden stool at a payphone, trapped at a personal development retreat. By the way, and as an aside, having been a facilitator in the personal development world for many years, they did a great job of subtly lampooning the entire movement with full-of-themselves facilitators asking the do-nothing question “how does that make you feel” over and over again. Classic.

Don’s “moment” gave him the exact thing he needed and yet the exact thing he had been avoiding, seemingly, all of his life. Don needed to get lost and he had been needing to get lost for the entire run of the show however, like with all great men, the act of getting lost is far too terrifying a thing to do willingly. In my work, I refer to it as stepping into the “Dark Corridor.” The Dark Corridor exists in the place between where people are in their lives and where they want to be. The truth is that we all want a little more than what we have. That’s not a bad thing, it’s the human condition to grow and develop. We want to be happier, more fulfilled, feel more loved, and achieve greater success. How do we get there? Well, that’s the bad news. Between us and all that is the Dark Corridor; a place of monumental fear and uncertainty. When we have a desire to pursue greatness in our lives, we do things like go into business for ourselves, we get married, we move to a new city or country, etc. The idea of it all seems terrific. We are filled with the burst of excitement and adrenaline that makes us feel like we’re in a 1980’s dance movie. You know it, it’s the part where the kids have just one day to practice for the big show and they all yell, “We can do it!” This leads to a montage of them gleefully practicing their cool dance moves, which takes place over a period of several hours but is compressed into just a minute or two with a snappy pop song behind it. (Don’t worry, I’ll be getting back to Don in just a second and this will all fit together when I do.) Unfortunately for us, there are no montages in life. We can’t skip the drudgery or the fear part of the experience with quick cuts, low camera angles and snappy music. Instead, we have to experience all the crap and drudgery that shows up right after our orgasmic “We can do it!” moment. Instead of the montage, we are left with the very empty feeling of, “Wait a second now. CAN I do it?”

It is in that moment that we take a step into the Dark Corridor. Here, we reach out into the darkness, fumbling, trying to find a wall to guide us through. Seemingly there are none. It’s terrifying. Nothing we have done before in our lives before has prepared us for what we are experiencing right now. There are no points of reference. We feel ill equipped to deal with the new feelings all this brings up. We stand completely alone. Everything in our being tells us to go back the way we came. We want to back out of it because this lost and empty feeling seems too hard to bear. We had no idea that doing this big thing would be so unbelievably soul crushing. So we create a mountain of reasons why we can’t continue, all very good reasons by the way, and summarily step back out the way we came. Back to the same job, the same unsatisfying (or no) relationship, the same address, the same everything. But at least we feel safe and safety becomes more important than doing that great thing we were going to do. Many people stay here, choosing to live a rather small life.

Unless we don’t do that. Unless we continue walking deeper into our Dark Corridor. Unless we make friends with unparalleled fear and uncertainty and suffer all the pain that Don Draper felt when (see, I told you we’d be back to Don) he confessed his sins to Peggy. Because in the middle of the Dark Corridor is the thing we want to see the very least. It’s a mirror. It shows us every doubt and every insecurity that we have ever had about ourselves. More than that, it shows us the one doubt that we have been hiding the most from us and everyone else. It’s the one thing from which we have been running away all of our lives. For Don, he had been using booze, women, sex, work and a total immersion into the world of advertising to avoid that one thing that he feared the most. This is what made the last episode such a perfect conclusion to the Don Draper character study. What Don saw in his mirror is the very thing that all men of greatness fear the most. “I am a fraud.”

For Don it was especially perfect because, in truth, he was a fraud. He took another man’s name, he invented a back-story for himself, he denied his past and the squalor from which he came. Don was a made up person and the last person he wanted to tell that to was himself. Yet he did. By telling Peggy Olsen, Mad Men’s moral compass, he was in fact outing himself to himself. Standing naked in the middle of the Dark Corridor, facing his mirror of truth, Don looked into the abyss of his soul. It’s a terrifying place (trust me on this one) where few men are willing to go.

Yet, without realizing it, Don set the stage for himself so beautifully to go into that dark place. He was sure that he was setting off on his cross-country journey in pursuit of some waitress. In fact, Don was stepping backwards into the corridor. Along the way he just got more and more lost, again exactly what he needed. Don got beaten up, swindled and falsely accused. He barred his soul to men  too wrapped up in their own traumas to really hear him. He got more lost when he gave away his car and reduced his life to a small bag of stuff and an ever-dwindling envelope of money. By the time he ended up at the hippy retreat, Don was fully in it. He just didn’t know it yet.

Don’s fraud declaration to Peggy was perhaps his most courageous act in the entire run of the series. While it was excessively painful for him, it was also his ultimate act of self-heeling. Looking look into that mirror, seeing the dark truth of himself and experiencing the emptiness within, there began a quieting of his soul. Don, lost and afraid, went staggering into yet another “and how does that make you feel” seminar. There he confronted his mirrored self. A nothing-man, weak and small, who thought of himself as unimportant and bereft of value in the world. Don stepped forward and embraced the man, but really he was embracing the part of himself that he had been running away from, seemingly his entire life.

Yes, Don, was a fraud in many, many places in his life. However, the one respect in which he was not a fraud was in his genius of the human condition. Don understood how to reach into people’s hearts. Ironic, but true. Don, so lost and disconnected from his own loving self, was able to reach out to the loving selves of the whole world and sell them all canned corn and hairspray. Don’s heart was, in fact, so big that selling stuff to people was the only way he could reach out emotionally and yet still be safe from forming the entanglements that cause heartbreak.

All that came crashing down for him, and thankfully so. Don’s breakdown became Don’s breakthrough. Having traversed his Dark Corridor, Don stepped tepidly out into the light of a new place. Here, he was able hold himself as a fraud and a genius in equal measures; being attached to neither one. Don experienced the freedom that all great men who have made this journey have experience. Certainly Gandhi, Dr. King, Mandela, and all the other leaders and visionaries we admire, at one point on their path, must have had the Don Draper moment. They must have all looked into their mirror and declared themselves as frauds. It is what great people do in order to get past themselves, their own wounds and buried trauma, to move forward toward the business of serving the world.

Don was now able to close his eyes in meditation and look deep within, no longer afraid of what he might find there. What did he find? Apparently, he found a desire to teach the world to sing…in perfect harmony.

Failing Big and Publicly

Steve Harvey as emcee for the 2016 Miss Universe pageant inadvertently announced the wrong winner right there live on television. Miss Columbia received the crown, the flowers, the hugs and the tears that come along with being the big winner. Honestly, I don’t really get what these pageants are all about but they seem important to the people involved so, okay. It’s their thing. Anyway, after the commercial break they come back and Steve announces that he made a mistake. He says that, in fact, it is Miss Philippines (or is it Miss The Philippines?) who is the winner. Apparently, he read the wrong name off the cue card. The crown was unceremoniously taken from the Columbian lady and given to The Philippines lady. More flowers and tears and hugs did ensue.

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Regardless of what you think of the validity of the pageant itself, the gaff was by all accounts, a 10 on the Oops Scale. He failed big and publicly and the internet is having a field day with this one as you can probably guess. Lots of memes and tweets and posts followed. However, like most things we poke fun at and parody, a big part of the reaction to his mistake is the mirror into which we do not want to look.

It has been said that most people fear public speaking more than they fear death. Jerry Seinfeld jokes that, at a funeral, people would rather be the guy in the box than the guy giving the eulogy. Funny but almost true. The thing that frightens us about public speaking isn’t really the act of speaking in front of a bunch of people, it’s our deep seated fear of feeling rejected by them and, to go a little deeper, it’s actually the deeper seated fear of the rejection we’d hurl upon ourselves. And there we have it, as Frank Zappa says, the crux of the biscuit.

We don’t like feeling rejected. It is, at the core, a separation from love. So if we don’t like it when one person rejects us we really don’t like it when a crowd of people reject us. So why should we care what other people think? Well, in point of fact, we shouldn’t but we do anyway. It’s one of our human frailties. We seek the approval of others. Yet, we do so largely because we often fail to provide ourselves with the approval we are seeking. We tend to not like those people who act like they are better than us because, deep inside our dark psyche we’re a little afraid that they might be right. Failing publicly puts us in the bullseye of our own self judgment. In other words, our thinking goes this way, “If all those people out there think that I suck then maybe I really do suck.” That’s a lot to process and, generally we would rather not do so and thereby we try to avoid the whole thing by not subjecting ourselves to public speaking.

Do we really want to imagine the self-loathing and humiliating thoughts running through the mind of Steve Harvey, lying in bed that night replaying the incident over and over again in his head? No way! We’d much rather make a joke about it, point the finger away from us and therefore not have to imagine ourselves in a similar situation. We don’t want to imagine looking over Facebook, watching CNN or the endless loop of late night comedians joking about our one tiny little mistake. It would, for a time, be just a little slice of sheer torture.

From a business perspective, the fear of failing big and publicly also happens to be the very same mental/emotional component that prevents most business owners from growing their company. They will say that they need to be cautious in their decision making so as not to create an environment that results in a great loss of profits. On the surface this is absolutely true. No one wants to make a choice that adversely affects their business. But the bigger truth is that owners are actually less fearful of the simple loss of income as they are of the feelings of self judgment and loathing they would hurl upon themselves after making such a mistake. Losing our businesses would indeed suck, yet what would suck more would be our self-flagellation following such a mistake. Most of us simply aren’t that resilient that we could pull a 10 on our own Oops Scale and walk away unscathed. We would want to bury it, avoiding the conversation with our friends and family and putting off looking over the financial statements. We wouldn’t want to suffer that day when we close the door for the last time, turn the key and walk away from the shop with the big OUT OF BUSINESS banner across the front. We dread, even more, all the people who would casually ask us how business is going or, at a dinner party, those asking us what we do for a living and having to talk about what we used to do before we screwed it all up. The self torture we would  undergo wouldn’t come close to the actual real life difficulties of finding employment or handling our business debt. We don’t even want to contemplate the notion of it, visit www.flycarpethawaii.com.

Yet, we all know that the growth of our business requires us to take risks. What few of us understand however are all the demons that are at play when we go to take those risks. Making the right business choice, most times isn’t actually about the right choice at all. It’s about the fear and the dread of making the wrong choice. We tend to focus away from all the potential business growth and learning we would encounter by making one choice and instead spin stories in our head of everything that could possibly go wrong by making any number of other choices. Yes, it’s true that if we don’t choose wisely that  things could go horribly wrong for us. While all that is very real in nature, our hesitations and consternations ultimately all find their way back to our central fear of feeling rejected. In other words, failing big and publicly.

The truth is, ultimately any decision we make will result in a series of consequences that will put us on the path towards one journey or another. We will deal with those things as they happen. Some of the experiences will be joyful and some won’t. It’s a little bit of a crap shoot either way.

I’d like to say that in the bigger picture there really are no “wrong” choices but even while taking the deepest optimistic breath, I can’t really muster that belief without at least something of a caveat. Certainly, if I chose to hire they guy who brought the hockey mask and chainsaw to the interview, I think that would have to count as the “wrong choice.” However, when faced with more equitable choices in business that may either work out or not work out, I’d like to say in that scenario there isn’t much of a wrong choice.

In making my choices and taking my risks in business (and in life) I have found that the greatest tool for effective choosing comes when after all the technical evaluation has been done. With the options in front of me I choose with the understanding that I will treat myself kindly and with deep respect regardless of the outcome. If you need a legal advice about settlement for a linen washer accident contact workers compensation attorney from CA for help. Child psychologists have concluded that spanking children ultimately does not produce the long term positive behavior parents are seeking. It actually just makes kids less confident. The same is true in how we punish ourselves for our adult “bad” behavior. Instead, when we stay kind to ourselves, regardless of our big and public mistakes, we are more encouraged to learn valuable lessons and make better choices the next time around.

Last night, following the pageant, when Steve Harvey went to bed, I’d like to think that he closed his eyes and slept soundly. Today I’d like to think that he was able to look in the mirror and see a good, whole-hearted man standing there looking back it him. I’d like to think that in the days to follow he’ll shrug it all off. I’d like to think all those things happened and will happen in that way because the next time I fail big and publicly I’d like to think I’m going to do all those things too.

Kodak’s Multi-billion $ mistake.

In 1973, Kodak asked one of its engineers, 24 year old Steven Sasson to find a practical use for this new thing called a C.C.D. that could convert light to electrical signals. To Steve, this sounded like an electronic version of film. He wondered if he could use it to take an electronic photograph.

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The problem was that once you take an electronic photograph where do you put it? Fortunately there was a new process called digitalization that turned electronic signals into something that can be recorded on to a magnetic tape. It was the same way music was recorded onto cassettes spilleautomater elements and that is exactly what Steven used, a music cassette.

After months of soldered circuit boards and piecing together the electronics, Steven had created the world’s first digital camera. No film, no paper, just still images displayed on a TV screen. In a world that was still two years away from Star Wars, this was revolutionary.

He pulled together all the suits at Kodak and demonstrated his new invention. There, he took a digital photograph of the group, waited about 30 seconds for the picture to record to the tape and then waited another 30 seconds for the playback system to put it up on the screen. There it was, the future of photography in a tiny little black and white 100 x 100 pixel image (For comparison your phone shoots a 2000 x 3000 pixel image).

What he got back from the executives was not cheers and adulation but a collective, “Meh.” Their response was, “Who would want to look at pictures on a television set?” They didn’t see what it COULD be only what it was. Photos as film and paper had been around for over 100 years. No one was asking for anything new so why should they give it to them?

Also, seo one click income was based on the current process. From cameras to film to photographic paper, Kodak made money all the way through. Putting out an electronic camera seemed like they would be building their own gallows and sticking their head in the noose. So the executives did what executives do and they made an executive decision to bury the idea. In the years that followed, film and paper photography dwindled while the digital camera revolution took over. Kodak fought it all the way.

Eventually they did create their own digital cameras but it was too late. The Kodak brand had come to represent the past while Canon, Panasonic and Samsung took over. Kodak’s earnings plummeted.

In 2012, the company whose name had been synonymous with photography for over 120 years filed for bankruptcy. Kodak, like so many others didn’t know what business they were in. They were in the photography business when actually they were in the memories business. Photos don’t capture images of stuff, they capture moments in time. These are the special human experiences we want to remember like a child’s first steps or a daughter’s wedding day. Steven Sassoon had given them another way to capture memories but they couldn’t see it.

Instead they became afraid of what was new. They couldn’t visualize a world where film and paper photography didn’t exist. They thought that digital photography would bankrupt the company. Ironically it did but only because they failed to embrace it.

They tried to suppress evolution. Just like the cab companies trying to suppress Uber, the hotels trying to keep AirB&B down and Blockbuster turning their nose up at Netflix. It never works. We are a species with a life force that makes us determined to evolve. We always want to know what’s next. Sailing ships to the New World wasn’t enough so we landed men on the moon and we have not stopped there.

The future of your business depends on you embracing evolutionary thinking. Not for the distant future and not for the future a decade away. The future is right now and tomorrow. In 1975 an invention took 30 years to sink Kodak. In 2007 an invention took just two years to sink Blockbuster. To compete, survive and thrive you must be constantly asking yourself, “What’s next?”

How we STOP ourselves from success.

Most everything that we struggle with in business and in life is a story that we tell ourselves. It’s a story of what we think might happen and unfortunately, it’s usually a pretty bad story.

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There are very few things that we struggle with that are actually taking place in the moment. Our struggles mostly live in the future or the past. Sure, it might seem like the struggle is happening in the moment when your boss comes in telling you that a report needs to be on his desk in an hour and you’re sure then it will take two hours to complete. Isn’t that happening in the moment? Actually, no. It isn’t.

What is actually happening in the moment is that you are running a little movie in your head. This movie is set in the future, one hour from now. In it, the main character, you, walks into your boss’s office and tells him that the report is not done. Then the boss flies off the handle, fires you and you end up living under a bridge or something like that.  But none of that is really happening at all. All that is really happening in the moment is that there is a task to complete. Nothing more. So why do we get so effected? It is because the emotional part of our brain takes all of its cues from the intellectual part of our brain. The emotional part doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality. When you run the little movie about you getting fired your emotional brain thinks that it’s actually happening.

The other movie that often gets run is one that takes place in the past. In that movie, your boss, a high school football coach, your mother or father or any other number of people jibe and harangue you for making a mistake. That movie has him imprinted a powerful emotion we call shame. It feels bad and we want to avoid repeating it at all costs. Therefore, we run the movie of the past as a cautionary tale for what we might encounter in the near future.

Regardless of which or both movies get screened, the result is the same. A series of biological triggers occur in your body like an emotional avalanche. You go into fight or flight mode. Your heart rate increases, your eyes dilate, you are flooded with adrenaline. All of this shuts down the creative pipeline that feeds ideas to your consciousness. The movies overwhelm and short circuit all of your other thoughts. Now, your ability to invent creative solutions to your problems is squeezed off like kinking a garden hose.

So, why does this have to happen at all? What is the point? Why do we do this to ourselves? This whole process is actually the body and mind attempting to predict dangerous situations so it can prepare you for the proper response. The problem is that the human software running this program was written about 3 million years ago. It was originally designed to anticipate things like avoiding saber tooth tigers. Back then those were really big problems for people. Today, we rarely encounter situations today that put our life in immediate danger but the software doesn’t know that. So when it signals a danger response, it is literally placing you in what feels like a life or death situation.The irony in all of this is that, when you think back on all of those stories you have told yourself, you will discover that no more than 10% of them come true. Things most often times work out. Not all the time, but they do most of the time. So freaking yourself out is like betting the farm on a longshot that time and again has never come through. It’s a bad bet and you really need to stop placing it.

By bringing your self back into the conscious moment, you recognize that nothing is actually happening right then. This allows you to calm yourself down and re-open the creative centers of your mind. In doing so you will suddenly find new and unrealized solutions for the problems at hand. It is entirely likely that one hour is all you need to complete that report hughesairco.com. Perhaps someone else in the office has knowledge that could reduce the time it takes or, maybe a few of your friends can pitch in and help you completed in time. Yet, none of these solutions would ever occur to you when your body is in fight or flight mode.

The hbcontrols business people choose a meditation practice or take a walk outside during lunch. This seemingly wasteful use of time actually propels they’re thinking forward allowing them 360° views of the problems they face in their business.

Remember these two truths:

  • The scary stories we tell ourselves about our past is shame.
  • The scary stories we tell ourselves about our future is stress.

Neither are real. All that is real is what is happening in your present moment. Do your best to keep yourself there. You will find that it is a much more tangible place where are only real things exist. For example, in this present moment you have just read the last word of this article.