In the last few weeks several people, in different career fields and positions, have made comments to me about feeling phony, like a fake, and as though they are playing a part in a bad play.
“Sometimes I feel like the biggest fake in the world.”
“I feel like an actor playing a part. It wears me out so much I can hardly wait to get home and just be me.”
“If they had known what was going on inside my head they wouldn’t have been so impressed.”
“I feel like a hypocrite when I’m coaching employees, because it sounds like I have my act together, but I know I don’t. In fact, in some ways they’re doing a better job than I am.”
Each of those people were seemingly successful, well-adjusted, happy and confident–but their conversation certainly was not. They felt unequal to tasks they were being given, undeserving of praise and unimpressive. They didn’t seem to be afraid they would be found out–they just disliked feeling phony.
Walt Whitman’s poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” has lines that fit all of us who sometimes wonder if everyone else is so full of self-doubt (sometimes self-loathing) as we are, and so full of unpleasant thoughts and impulses.
“It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also.
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality, meager?”
Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabbed, blushed, resented, lied, stole, grudged,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Played the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,
The same old role, that role that is what we make it, as great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.”
Or, as my friend, Jeff Adams, pastor of Graceway Church in Kansas City, Missouri, says: “We’re all pretty much big messes.” Walt Whitman would agree.
What about you? Do you sometimes feel like a phony or a fake, or as though the view that others have of you is much better than the view you have of yourself?
Life is Like This
I recently—finally—finished the second edition of A Preparation Guide for the Assessment Center Method, Charles C. Thomas Publishers. (Assessment Centers are processes often used in public safety promotional testing and there is far more to being prepared for them than many people realize.) Michael Thomas, Editor-In-Chief, had been gently encouraging me to finish the second edition since, oh, about 2006. By 2012 I felt quite guilty and in February, 2013, I essentially rewrote the whole thing.
A 38 MB document with 3 MB of text. In the process of rewriting the book I changed headings, styles, chapters, table of contents, bold to italics, italics to bold, lists to text, text to lists and rewrote some chapters several times. As I worked, my Word program became slower and slower and froze up repeatedly. I blamed my old computer. Finally, the document looked perfect! I felt elated as I saved the last tweaked page. Then, I noticed that my document was 38 MB! That couldn’t be right!
I cut and pasted each chapter into another document. The sum of all the chapters was 3 MB. When I looked at the Properties of the remaining blank document I saw that it was 0 pages, 0 paragraphs and 0 characters, but those 0 items totaled 35 MB.
What went wrong: At some point, “Track Changes” had been checked on that document. In addition, in the process of making changes but not closing the document correctly on a few occasions, the file had become corrupted. The result was that the page on the screen was blank and the Properties information showed no text, but underneath it all, behind the scenes in that document, there was 35 Megabytes of stuff and things. It was errors I thought I had eliminated and poorly written text that I certainly did not want to be part of my perfect document. I still have that blank bunch of junk in a file folder, as a reminder about myself and those with whom I communicate every day.
The junk and corruption behind the pages of your life. Benjamin Franklin once said he would live his life from beginning to end in the same general way. Then, he added, “All I would ask should be the privilege of an author, to correct, in a second edition, certain errors of the first.”
Many of us spend our time trying to rewrite, edit, improve and correct our lives. We swear to clean up our act and move forward in a better way—and often we do. But, we can’t un-check the “Track Changes” button in our bodies and brains. It’s all there, behind the scenes, often slowing us down and freezing us up and we don’t even know why. Even when we correct mistakes, something is left behind.
We’re all big messes. The same thing is true in the lives of those with whom we interact. We see one thing but underneath is something quite different. We can’t know what is underneath, but it is at least good to remind ourselves regularly that it is there. My friend, Jeff Adams, pastor of Graceway Church in Kansas City, Missouri, often says, “We’re all pretty much big messes and it’s a wonder God loves any of us.”
We are millions or billions of Megabytes of errors, corrections, junk and corrupted material, hidden by tidy margins, nice headings and carefully edited text.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to his daughter, after she told him how a mistake from her past was still haunting her:
Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; but get rid of them and forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, and you should never encumber its potentialities and invitations with the dread of the past. You should not waste a moment of today on the rottenness of yesterday.
I agree with that sentiment, for the most part. But, Mr. Emerson never used Word.
Type the story of your life carefully–this isn’t a draft version.
Joe Tichio has created Greatest Inspirational Quotes: 365 Days to more Happiness, Success and Motivation. It would make a wonderful and very inexpensive ($2.99) gift for yourself and others who have a Kindle or a Kindle reader on their computers. I have free Kindle readers on my laptop and desk computers, so I can read electronically without buying another electronic item.
Here is the Amazon link: http://amzn.com/B00ARPYS6K. The author’s website is http://www.greatest-inspirational-quotes.com, and that is a wonderful resource as well. He seems to have insights, knowledge and skills in a wide range of things related to self-improvement, motivation and inspiration, and this collection is an outgrowth of that.
I have had a few calendars with daily quotes, which would give me 365 of them right on my desk. Unfortunately, I always forget to flip the pages on calendars and I don’t like to sit and read through each day all at once. So, at the end of the year, they’ve gone unread. Mr. Tichio took care of that, by giving them to me in an easy-to-read e-book, which I like and have read several times already, marking some good ones to use in my own writing and presenting at some time.
One of my favorites is #250, from the late, Stephen Covey, in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
Until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise”.
Quote collectors like me tend to be very
hypercritical conscientious about correct attribution. Sadly, the use of the Internet has spread incorrectly attributed quotations like shredded cheese on top of an extra-large pizza. (That’s my Mickey Spillane impersonation.) It really is no wonder we’ve lost track of who said what, especially after someone more modern and famous has said it in an ever-so-slightly-different way or a zillion quotation sites have taken the easy way out and just attributed everything to Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison or Confucius.
You may remember, a few months ago I wrote about Mary Jean Irion’s famous lines, nearly always mistakenly attributed to Mary Jean Iron,who does not exist. If possible, I try to find the original text so I can read it in context, as I did with Ms. Irion’s book.
I’ve written to Mr. Tichio to tell him I liked the collection a lot—there are at least 300 unique ones, so this isn’t just a rehash, as many quotation books tend to be—and I told him I believe I could offer alternatives to a few attributions. (I’m open to counter-arguments!) After reading all of the quotations you will probably feel so positive, uplifted and inspired, you won’t want to be as picky as I notoriously am!
Greatest Inspirational Quotes: 365 Days to more Happiness, Success and Motivation, will be an excellent addition to any library and especially useful for pastors, teachers, leaders and all of us who have similar great thoughts but simply cannot put them into the best words. This book will give you the words.
Greatest Inspirational Quotes, by Joe Tichio: http://amzn.com/B00ARPYS6K.
Be Courteous About When You Send Emails and Text Messages.
This is a simple request on behalf of employees everywhere who have their evenings and weekends disturbed by emails and texts from bosses and sometimes from coworkers or colleagues: Please don’t do that, unless it’s an emergency. Wait until working hours and let people enjoy their time away from work. While you’re at it, put your non-emergency work away and enjoy your life, too.
I’ve had to learn that lesson myself. I do a lot of emailing in the evening, which wasn’t a problem when email only was accessed from computers at work. But several years ago I realized I was getting responses at all hours from people who heard the little email or text chime on their phone, were interrupted or awakened anyway and decided to answer right then. They weren’t obligated to respond, but the fact was that my message was an intrusion.
Worse is when an employee is home and the text or email is of the variety that starts with, “See me about this!” Or, “Why is this being done this way??” After one or two of those in a weekend, the fun is over.
The bottom line: Unless the situation is such an emergency that the employee must be awakened, stopped from having dinner, or interrupted while relaxing, write the message and save it in drafts to send the moment their working hours start.
Yes, yes, I know there are exceptions and time differences and problems with remembering drafts and all of that, but you understand the idea: Show some respect for those to whom you’re sending an email or text. If it’s after their working hours, it’s the wrong time to send it. They’ll appreciate you when they hear everyone else complaining and they realize the people they work with are much more courteous than that.
Early in my career with the Denver Police Department (in the early 1970′s), I worked for a short time in an assignment that reported to Chief of Police George Seaton. He had a meeting with all of us and told us that for a few months he wanted us to be out and about during each shift, observing officers and their work and letting him know of any glaring problems related to procedures.
Among his directions were: We should be obvious, not giving the appearance of sneaking around; we should assist with arrests and reports when we could; we should never appear to approve of something that we knew to be a violation of a rule or policy. Above all, he wanted us to write commendatory notes every time we could justify it.
He said, “I learned that when I was a sergeant”, (which would have been in about the early 1950′s) “You have to give people a reason to want you observing them. If you always correct something they’ll dread seeing you. If they know you’ll usually say ‘well done’, they’ll look forward to having you come by and before long they’ll connect the idea of you observing them with them doing good work.”
Someone in the group said, “But Chief, no matter what we do or say they’ll think we’re spying on them and trying to get them in trouble. What can we do about that?”
Chief Seaton said (probably using a lot of profanity, since that was something he was noted for), “Not a damned thing! But, some of them will understand and the others will at least know the truth, even if they don’t say it.”
All of Chief Seaton’s advice, then and at other times, has been useful many times in my professional life. I have mentioned his advice from that day in many classes for supervisors and managers. It still holds true: If you are going to do MBWA, management by walking around, to use a Tom Peters term, make those you visit look forward to seeing you.
*Make it separate from times you are required to go to an employee’s work area to ask about something. Be purposeful about what you’re doing.
*Don’t waste your time or their time with unnecessary small talk.
*See how things are going and ask a sincere question or two, if appropriate.
*Ask the reason behind something that seems to be wrong.
*Ask for correction of anything serious enough that to continue it would be harmful in some way.
*Make a mental note to consider small-scale concerns later.
*Say or do something that means, “well done”.
*Move on and let everyone get back to work.
Thanks for the advice, Chief Seaton!
Try Straight Talk
Many of the problems at work and elsewhere could be reduced dramatically if people would tell the truth in appropriate ways. Instead, problem solving is stalled by those who hint, pretend to joke, talk in round-about ways or try to avoid having conflict.
What’s worse is that often it is done in the name of not wanting to start an argument, not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, not wanting to sound like a complainer, etc. etc. But, while others are silent the situation gets worse.
If something is weighing on your mind,
If you want to say something about a problem,
If you wonder what someone meant,
If you are confused about instructions or directions,
If you have an appropriate thought or feeling you want to express,
If someone has a habit or a way of communicating with you that makes you grind your teeth in frustration…..
….Communicate directly in a courteous way. You will also save a lot of time and you will get to the core of problems, rather than dancing all around them.
If the person you need to talk to is higher than you in the organization, you may be limited in what you can say–but you still can seek to clarify an issue or express a feeling. If the person is a peer, friend or family member, you should be courteous and appropriately caring. However, if something needs to be said, say it. You’ll feel better about it and you can get a subject cleared up and out of the way much more quickly.
If you don’t really care enough to deal with a problem or it happens so infrequently that it really isn’t an issue, maybe you can leave it alone. If you complain about it repeatedly to others, either give them a break and stop complaining or do something effective to bring the frustrating situation to a halt.
You’ll dread it but once you start talking you’ll feel better. You’ll probably find that straight talk would have been the best response all along.
One of the most fun aspects of being the author of A Preparation Guide For the Assessment Center Method is that I receive emails and phone calls from all over the country–and occasionally I’m thrilled to hear from other countries–the UK, South Africa, France, Australia and once from Russia!
That book, which I wrote in 2005 or so, has been very well received by thousands of officers of all ranks. I often meet people at conferences who tell me they have thought about contacting me to ask a question or to tell me they were promoted–or to share their frustrations over not being promoted. However, they didn’t do it because they didn’t think I’d care or want to be bothered. They obviously don’t know the level of interest I have in anyone who is involved in promotional testing! Of course I care and it’s never a bother.
Free Assessment Center Preparation Material
Free Law Enforcement Promotional Testing Material.
I also have other material that I use in my assessment center preparation seminars and some that will go in the second edition of the book, coming out this year. I’ll be happy to send helpful material, without charge, to anyone who requests it.
If you’d like some free material, contact me on the contact form. I’d like to know the department, the rank involved, and anything else you want to share about your efforts. I won’t bother you again and everything I receive is confidential. I just like to be a resource–but I do like to know a bit about who I’m sending things to.
I do the same thing with church safety and security material and have sent many thousands of free documents to church leaders and police officers who have requested that information. (If you’d like that at the same time, let me know.)
If you would like FREE training material on how to be more successful in your law enforcement promotional testing, contact me and let me know how I can help.
This was a romance magazine from about 1968. I was reminded of it when I was describing to a class for new police sergeants, the way Denver looked on a weekend afternoon in the late 1960s. I said the area from City Hall to the Colorado Capitol building was “wall-to-wall Hippies.” One of the younger people in the class laughed and said, “Oooh, you mean Beatniks or Peaceniks or just Long-Hairs?” Several held up their fingers in the “peace” sign and swayed back and forth. They were just joking and I realized that since they were nearly all born after 1985, the term sounded antiquated.
I think I called them Rat-Finks and Young Whippersnappers. But for just a moment I wished there was someone in the class who had shared that memory of Denver with me.
When my Dad was in his final days he talked about family members who had passed away, many of them decades before. He said, wistfully, “All the people I could talk to about times when I was younger have been gone for years.” I knew how he felt, but have come to understand it more every year since then.
That is probably one of the biggest values of reunions (both high school and family), retiree associations, and casual get-togethers with those we used to work with. Sure, some of the memories are a bit (or a lot) exaggerated, but at least it brings back shared times and reminds us of the way we were, individually and together. Even if you’re not so very old, there are times past that won’t come again and that are fun or interesting to recall with someone who was there.
This week, send an email, make a phone call or go visit someone who might enjoy remembering some the of the things you remember. Pick a time or situation and start the old-fashioned way: “Do you remember when…..?”
When my “extra” refrigerator in the laundry room needed to be replaced, I knew I didn’t want to spend much on a new one so I did a lot of research and comparison shopping. I found the company where I would get my refrigerator, but I disliked the salesperson at the store a few blocks from me, so I put off the purchase for months. I even checked back a few times, but nope, he hadn’t improved!
When I finally decided to make the purchase, I drove a considerable distance farther and was willing to pay more if the less expensive item wasn’t in stock, just to avoid the salesperson I didn’t like. Fortunately, I found a product I liked at a very low price and the salesperson was perfect. I’ve already sent a thank you note to the store manager.
That experience made me think about how each of us are salespeople for something–or we should be. Would someone drive farther to do business with you or would they drive farther to avoid doing business with you?
*Do you make them feel like an interruption or like a valued person you want to assist?
*Are you nicely groomed, pleasant, smiling and helpful?
*Are you dependable, so if you say you’ll have something done at a particular time, you do?
*Do you answer their questions in a way that is respectful and helpful, even if perhaps they don’t quite understand the subject as well as you?
*Do you greet them, talk to them and say goodbye to them in a way that gives them a good feeling about you and about themselves?
*Are you a top salesperson for yourself, your work, your section or unit and your organization?
You don’t have to be so glib and smooth talking that you can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo, as the old saying goes. But, you should be the kind of person with whom people enjoy working and communicating. A good goal is to make them feel better just because they’ve been around you.
Your customers and clients may not be able to drive farther to get away from you if you’re the only resource for them. But, you’ll never be as effective or successful as you want to be and you’ll never get the cooperation and assistance you want, if most people would do almost anything to avoid you.
Promise yourself to make a few sales tomorrow!
1931 Magazine Cover
We tend to treat the beginning of a new year as though on January 1st, something magical happens that allows us a brand new start on life,work, health, finances and relationships. This year I’ve heard a lot of people express thoughts along the line of “Good riddance to 2011!” As though the twelve months of 2011 had it in for them. If years could talk, maybe 2011 would say to us, “Good riddance to you, you whining, ungrateful, weak-willed human, with your helpless, hopeless attitude!”
Sometimes life and circumstances bring stress, anger, disappointment, heartache and grief. As a result, a day, a week, a month or a year will always have unpleasant memories. We don’t have to be such Pollyannas that we look for reasons to be glad for the truly bad and sad things that have happened. We also don’t need to beat ourselves up unmercifully and take the blame for all of it. But, we will feel better and more able to deal with the future if we purposefully look for the aspects of even sad situations that can give us reasons to be happy or at least, less unhappy.
We can also benefit by seeing how some of our own behaviors and responses created the problems, added to the problems or kept us from responding to the problems effectively–and how we can do differently in the future.
One thing is for sure–if you’re going into the new year with the same old you to deal with all of it you probably won’t get a trouble-free year, no matter how much magical thinking you do.
*If you had habits that caused you problems last year and you haven’t replaced them with new ones, it won’t be the fault of 2012 if your life is no different when 2013 starts.
*If you won’t allow yourself to see even small increments of improvement in whatever it is that has bothered you in 2011, you will see the flaws rather than the good things in 2012.
*If you put the blame on someone else for every upset in your life or work in 2011, you probably will still be griping in 2012. The griping part is bad enough, but what’s worse is that most of us gripe instead of doing even little things to make life better for ourselves.
This is the first week of the new year. If it helps you to think of it as a cosmic event that erases the past and gives you a new chance, think that way. However, you will be better off if you don’t put so much pressure on 2012 and put more pressure on yourself to be the catalyst for good things all year long. Happy New You!