Leaving the restaurant business and trying to rebound, without addressing the foundational issues, ate away at me for a long time. My flight away from the labyrinth was not an escape, because I was running from myself. I was running from the myth of perfection, the myth of who I “should” be and running from my soul’s excruciating screams. These screams were cries for me to embrace my soul, not run. My tragedy lay in my feelings that being, Douglas Churchill Adams, was never good enough. I had to be perfect and even then I doubted my ability to reach a state of satisfaction. The syndrome was never ending.
My flight took me higher and higher. And, like Icarus, I came crashing down into the sea. I was however more fortunate than Icarus. While thrashing in the sea and feeling all alone, trying to determine if I wanted to live or die, I spied a floating piece of timber. I grabbed onto the timber and began treading the water for a couple of years, just kicking my feet through the current to survive. I was living with shame, learning to feel, understanding that I was just human, with attributes, flaws and frailties.
While paddling in the sea, I spied land. This land gave me the opportunity to find people. Many of the people were looking for me. I had to muster the courage to recognize the raw me as good enough. I had to ask for help, accept help, and plot a new course based on making myself learn and celebrate who I am, not some fictitious character.
In my mid-thirties I went to Pepperdine University Presidential/Key Executive MBA program. This is where the armor that encased my heart and soul was attacked. I use the word attacked, because my world at that time was win or lose. I was attracted to the world of organizational behavior and I was the epitome of the guarded dysfunctional man. Why would I put myself in the cauldron of this emphasis? Why not stick to finance, strategy, or other logical pursuits avoiding the confrontation with myself.
My business school adviser, Sherman Kingsbury, suggested I attend an 11-day human development lab at the National Training Labs (NTL) in Bethel, Maine. This was the first of many positive developmental experiences as I weaned myself from the negativity. I went on to jump in the deep-end of the pool getting a PhD. in Human and Organizational Systems at the Fielding Graduate University, spending four years with many of the exemplars of the world of organizational behavior. The title of my dissertation is, “The Phenomenology of Competition.” I spent two years digging deep into this experience that had ruled so much of my life. A few of my personal conclusions are the world is not a binary experience, my life is not a binary experience and I can love myself learning how to give my best effort at this point in time.
Years of deep self-exploration, and the support of so many wonderful people, helped my armor gradually shed. My soul was raw for a good while, but it healed and I’ve been strengthening my spirit ever since. The strengthening regimen reminds me of my athletic days, how my mind and body were so very tired, but my pride and resilience only made me stronger. I am much more aware of what I am feeling, and can make better decisions while spending most of my time being me, not searching for superman.
Life is different from my early years. I no longer push myself to injury, surgery, recovery, pushing again to another injury, surgery, etc., etc. Other human beings helped me learn to love myself. I am no longer isolated by the fear and shame created by a mindset of winning or losing. Giving my best effort generates much more meaningful achievement than my past ideological, fear-based win at all costs mentality. I am in control of my effort. I am not in control of the outcomes.