Are you neurotic?


I was talking recently at a Thought Leaders event where we were talking about our relationship to time, and my good friend and business partner Matt Church was sitting in the back of the room. He captured what I was saying in this beautiful model:

Having Matt capture your thoughts in a Pink Sheet (the tool we use in Thought Leaders to capture our intellectual property) is a bit like going to a photo shoot with Picasso, and then at the end having him say “while you getting your photo taken there, I just whipped up this portrait of you – here you go.”

(See what I did there – a model and a metaphor.)

I made the point that how successful we are, and how quickly we are successful, is largely dependent on our pathology, our neurosis, and our circumstances. It sounded impressive when I said it, and it looks even more impressive when I see it in a model, but I thought I better look them up quickly to see what they mean before expanding on them here in my blog. So:

- Neurosis (according to Karen Horney in Neurosis and Human Growth) is “a distorted way of looking at the world and at oneself, which is determined by compulsive needs rather than by a genuine interest in the world as it is.” And yes, you’re neurotic. We all are. It’s just a matter of degree.

- Pathology is, in this context, the part of our make-up that is unhelpful. For example someone might be a pathological liar, or have a pathological need for cleanliness. So they describe our unhelpful habits, the ones that feel like they can’t be changed.

- Circumstances are the situations you find yourself in, or the state or condition of your world. It’s one of those hard concepts to define, because it’s so common. In a card game you could say the circumstances include the cards you’ve been dealt.

Largely these three don't have all that much to do with us.

My circumstances are pretty good. I’m a bloke, so generally I can expect to get paid 23% more than half the population for the same work. I’m white, so I’ll pretty much never have to live with any sort of racial discrimination. I’m in my 40s, so unless I want to be an athlete or a female actor I won’t get discriminated against for being too old, or too young. I’m straight, I’m smart, I’m not disfigured, my parents are still together, my family is about as functional as any family can get, I’ve never been physically or sexually abused, I live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, during the most affluent time in history.

I'm also Jewish, so I do have one minority card in my deck that I can pull out at a dinner party if I need to. But this doesn’t really affect much of anything in my world.

Similarly, thanks to great parents and a pretty stable upbringing, I’m not trying to overcome any crippling neurosis or pathology.

All of this means, comparatively speaking, I’m pretty well set up to succeed. It also means I don’t deserve all – or even most – of the credit for any success I achieve. Much of it has nothing to do with me.

Likewise I think we need to be very careful judging someone else’s journey without understanding their world.