Sunday, February 28, 2010

There it goes, rearing its ugly head again

Copyright 2010 - Bruce Gaughran
Rev. 08/24/2013

Our family is very competitive. One-upmanship ranks high in our priorities. 

Being the ninth child to attend the same schools in a small Midwestern town, I felt my siblings had already accomplished or excelled at everything. Two siblings were straight 'A' students and two brothers excelled in sports. I even had a brother who dropped-out of school. So, after reviewing the opportunities, I did what every red-blooded, self-doubting teenager would do. I slid through six years of my life without excelling at anything.

When I was a senior, my oldest brother asked me where I planned to attend college. When I commented that I wasn’t certain I wanted to go to college, he told me that I would never amount to anything without a college education.  I know he was being supportive, but at the time, it was the wrong message. He had no idea how powerful his comment was and how it would rule my life.  

I did attend junior college and found myself just sliding by again.  It seemed like every time something negative happened, self-doubt would rear its ugly head and I would say, “Here we go again.”  

I married my high school sweetheart who also lived with self-doubts in her life.  We probably felt that we could help each other through this world of blame, doubt, and emotional fear.  It just did not happen.  Two self-doubting people do not make a happy couple or a positive relationship.  The marriage eventually failed.

After one year of college and since I had no interest in improving my academics, I joined the Navy.  It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Driven by my brother’s words and wanting to prove him wrong, I excelled in the service. His words became my motivational mantra. 

After my discharge, I went back to college in hopes of “amounting to something.”  Yet, when things were not going well, the negative voices in my head increased and the anchor of doubt started pulling me under. In the end, I dropped out of school again. 

Sometime in my late twenties, I discovered that I had the ability to develop winning organizations that could improve the bottom line of a company. Other people recognized this attribute and were willing to pay me well for my abilities. Success breeds opportunities and I found myself on the rise in the corporate world.  No matter what I tackled, I did it well. Presidents of corporations called wanting me to join their teams. Promotions and new opportunities came regularly. Whatever the challenge, I embraced it and thrived. 

But those voices still would not go away. Whenever I filled out an application, where it asked for my education, I paused because the claws of self-doubt ripped away at my confidence. No matter how successful I was or how much money I made, the voices always tried to tear me down and take away any joy in my life.

During all of this, I just happened to meet the most thoughtful and supportive person in the world. Fortunately, she married me. Every time self-doubt reared its ugly head, she would be there for me.

Fast forward fifteen years … I am an executive with a Fortune 100 company. My career with them started as a general manager of a trucking subsidiary and after several promotions I am a vice president in a billion dollar division. I have a proven track record. I make an excellent salary with bonuses and stock options. I hire MBAs to work for me. Other companies are courting me. Life is good and the voices are only an occasional whisper in the back of my head.

When a member of our company’s senior management team calls asking if I am interested in the top position in Logistics for the company, I cannot believe it. The person would be responsible for merging all transportation operations as well as all warehouses around the world. The department’s operating budget alone would be close to a billion dollars. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.

What is the first thought that crosses my mind? You guessed it; I do not have a college education. Self-doubt rears its ugly head once again. No matter how well I did and how successful everyone thinks I am; those voices will not stay buried for long. I knew that the person calling had reviewed my personnel file and already was aware that I did not have a college degree. This lack of education must not have been a showstopper to him. Yet, the “800 pound gorilla” crawled up my back and tried to drag me down again. Talk about letting the air out of my balloon.

Today, I view my brother’s advice as a wake-up call when I needed one. At the time, I glided along without any real motivation in life. Even though his words were initially a crutch, when coupled with my competitive spirit, the two became the driving force that propelled me forward to prove that I could succeed in this world. 

I now understand success is measured over a person’s lifetime and there is much more to life than a career. My focus is on the love of my family and friends, as well as my financial, emotional and spiritual stability. And, I am finally content.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article. You are aware that Bill Gates did not finish college. I wonder whether he has the same thought patterns about the lack of college.
    I think you may have these thoughts because its something that you didn't finish. There is absolutely no question in my mind that if you attended college now you would be at the top of your class and you would be the feature speaker at the gradulation ceremony.
    Its interesting that your writing decribes your one non achievement as still providing negative thoughts. It may have been that your brother gave you this thought in your formutive years or as you state "Your conpetive nature that wants to win or finish at the top in everything." Not a bad trait.
    Wish you the very best. Remember that you have done incredible things in many aspects of your life and along with your great personal values makes you a total winner.

    Brother Wayne


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