Monday, March 14, 2016

Your past experiences can ruin your present so do something about it.

There's nothing you've ever done that wasn't influenced by something you'd already experienced.  

That may seem obvious but the longer we live the more baggage we drag along with us and it can have effects we may not always be aware of.

Every experience, good or bad, has value.  We tend to cherish the positive and bury the negative in hopes that those unpleasant memories fade to oblivion.

Thing is, we can't escape our own history.  Regardless of how hard you try all that we see or do is part of how we approach everything that comes after.

So with that preface I share with you a strange ritual that I participated in with a close friend.

My friend recently started a great job.  It's just about everything you could ever want.  Great pay, great people and a solid organizational structure that encourages individual success.

He's had it for about 6 months and every time I see him it seems his enthusiasm for the position grows.  Thing is, in the midst of all that positive energy I kept picking up on hints of some negative baggage carried over from his last job.

Understandable considering he had his last job for 16 years, the bulk of his career to this point.  

I remember the tension and frustration of those days.  He learned much of what he knows from the experience of working there.  Unfortunately, the last few years of it had burned some rather unpleasant memories into his subconscious.  It was a betrayal of sorts rooted in a misguided bureaucratic process.

For him it became something he never signed up for.  There were demands put upon him that had little to do with his primary function.  Couple that with unrealistic expectations with no support from a management team without a mission statement.

It became hell.  One that finally required drastic action to escape.  In the end he left on good terms with enough of a parachute to get him to his next job.  He was fortunate to have rolled the dice and won and when his latest job came along he won again.

But as I said, we can't escape our experiences.  With all the positives of my friend's new job there were echoes of his past causing interference.  He kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and holding back much as he did in his old job.  

Something symbolic had to be done so that the subconscious hangups from his old bad experiences didn't color his new ones.

Negatives can always be turned to a positive but you have to be able to put them in their place first.  To that end I thought about how we might be able to do something that would create in his mind a clear delineation between his old job and his new one.

I had it!

A few years back he had given me a shirt with the company logo on it.  It was a token gesture of thanks for helping him out on a project we worked on together.

The shirt didn't mean much to me other than preventing nakedness.  I hadn't worn it more than twice and never felt quite right about having it since I never worked for the company.  The interesting part about it is that he never wore it and made a point of giving it to me as though he were trying to rid himself of it.

It occurred to me that since we both had some level of discomfort over this shirt that maybe it was time to bring it to a dramatic end.

So I brought it back to him but not to rejoin the rest of his wardrobe.  No, I had a far more dramatic end in store.

We were going to burn that bitch....

A week went by when my friend surprised me.  There was the shirt still rolled up in the plastic bag I had returned it in.  

We were going to do this and without a moment's hesitation on a particularly dark night we took the shirt to his back yard and set in on fire.

As we watched it burn and tried to stay out of the toxic smoke that can only come from a 50/50 polyester/cotton blend we gazed transfixed at what was meant to be a dramatic and graphic bookend to a bad memory.

It was a gesture to put the memory in its place.  My hope is that the image of that shirt ablaze supplants all those subtle little naggings that can sabotage his new job.

It's not unlike the story I was once told of the guy who bought a new pickup truck.  The story goes that a man bought a brand new pickup truck to replace one that was old and beat up.  He was getting ready to leave when a salesman came up to him and told him admiringly how beautiful it was and how he was sure the man would probably want to try to keep it that way.

On hearing this, the man turned, thought about what he said and then proceeded to pick up a huge rock and throw it in the bed of the truck causing a huge dent and of course a number of scratches in the paint.

The Salesman, horrified, couldn't believe what he just saw to which the man said, " I need this truck for work and can't afford the distraction of keeping it pretty.  Now I don't have to worry about it."

Ok, a bit extreme but the lesson is relevant to the message.  You can't let irrelevant things distract you from what you're trying to accomplish.  If it takes burning a shirt or throwing a rock at a brand new truck to get the BS out of the way then do it.