Part 1 is an overview of a person’s three strong suits as Landmark theorizes. Strong suits help us succeed in life and are our primary ways of being. Part 2 is a description of when and how they develop. They occur at three specific time periods as the result of a traumatic life event. Part 3 is my first strong suit of social that resulted from me feeling I couldn’t compete on smartness. Part 4 is the monster Roller Skating Rink story and my decision to be independent (strong suite #2).
This post describes being told by my boss at age 23 that I was suffering from Delusions of Grandeur. The result was my third strong suit – analytical.
In 1981 at the age of 22, I ended up moving to CA. Moving permanently was not planned, it happened as the result of circumstances.
But first there is a back story of the four-plus years that lead to me moving. In 1976 after graduating high school, I decided to NOT attend college. Instead, I went to work with my father in the metal fabrication trade. Going to college was what was expected and what many of my graduating class was doing. Being independent, I decided to take a different path.
During the first two years working with my father I was a sponge. Eagerly learning how to weld, fabricate, operate equipment, and all the details of the trade. I was an ideal understudy to my father.
In the 3rd and 4th years, I became more aggressive in challenging Dad on methods and approach to the business. My father gave me a lot of leeway. When my ideas didn’t work, he patiently explained why and offered suggestions to fix what went wrong. When my approach did work, Dad praised and encouraged me. I was in a perfect situation where I wasn’t punished if I failed and I was praised and encouraged when I succeeded. The result was a high level of confidence in my ability to figure things out. I became aggressive and fearless in trying new ways to solve problems and get things done.
Fast forward to 1981. I was sent to CA by my father’s company for a 6-month assignment. The job fell apart within the first few weeks after I arrived. I was told to return home. Since I went to California with the intention of staying for at least a half year, I had a 6-month lease on an apartment. I also was enrolled in two courses at a CA college having returned to college part-time the previous semester.
My dilemma was this: play it safe and return home to PA; or take a risk, stay in CA, continue my education, and find a new job. I decided to leap and stayed in California.
After putting together a resume, I had a welding job within a week. I quit after one day as the job was too much like the job I had with my father the previous four years. Only now, I was starting at the bottom.
The professor teaching my chemistry class suggested I apply for a job at the company he worked. They were a group of scientists doing research and needed someone to help set up equipment to conduct experiments.
I was hired. The company was mostly Ph.D.s who sat around thinking about advanced chemistry. I was impressed with their credentials while being self-aware of my own lack of formal education. (Remember, my first strong suit (social) developed from a fear/belief that I couldn’t compete on smartness.)
During the next 8-12 months, I systematically opened the hundreds of boxes that they had when they hired me and hooked up and installed their equipment. There was no blueprint. One of the scientists was very mechanically inclined and patiently explained their needs. He provided a vision for how the equipment should work. I’d then develop a plan and put it all together.
I was in my glory. I was working hard using the skills I previously learned while learning new skills every day. The work was more mentally challenging than my previous career which was labor intensive. I was helping a group of highly educated professionals achieve things that previously weren’t getting done. I felt an important part of the team. I knew my contribution was valuable.
The initial intimidation I felt from being under-schooled was replaced with the confidence that I possessed a valuable skill. I had the ability to figure things out and put things together. The swagger I had developed when working under the watchful and protective eye of my father was becoming part of who I was in my new role.
Sometime around the one-year anniversary of working for this firm, I was called into the office. I thought the meeting was called to tell me what a wonderful job I was doing. I was prepared to hear in great detail how I single-handedly accomplished things that they as a group had not been able to accomplish. I walked into the meeting full of pride and egotism.
They did tell me most of those wonderful things. They did express gratitude. They did acknowledge my talents and skills. But. But. But … there was a problem.
They said I was too full of myself. ‘You act like you’re the most important person in the company.’ They continued, ‘You’re just a guy with a great gift to put things together. That’s admirable and important. But that’s not what is most important. That’s a support role.’ And then they hit me with the death blow, ‘You’re suffering from Delusions of Grandeur.’
Ouch! … That was a major dressing down. I was put in my place. I clearly heard where my place was and that I was not to venture beyond that place. It was a major smack-down. It was a knock-out blow.
As a result of the Delusions of Grandeur incident, my third strong suit solidified. I became analytical. I NEVER wanted to make the mistake of overstepping my bounds ever again. That was simply too painful. So … I became cautious. I made sure that all my T’s were crossed and all my I’s were dotted before taking action. I NEVER wanted to make a big mistake again. I reasoned that if I ‘analyzed’ a situation prior to acting, I would NOT overstep my bounds. The daring, swashbuckling Steve that spent the first year in California being aggressive and gutsy died that day. A more cautious, analytical Steve emerged. I became a version of Mr. Spock – all thinking.
On the first Myers-Briggs test I took a few years later, I scored 26 for thinking and 1 for feeling.
Years later a girlfriend gave me the Elaine Benes push in the chest and screamed, ‘I don’t care what you think, I want to know how you feel!’
I stopped feeling. I stopped trusting my instincts. My instincts were good – but I didn’t trust them. I would use my instincts to get ideas and start in a direction … but then I’d have to ‘think-it-through’ to assure it was sound logically. I stopped using the word ‘feel’ and instead always used ‘I think’ to describe my thoughts. I stopped feeling.
After the Roller Skating Rink dragon died in February of 2014, I was out to breakfast with a friend and shared the Delusions of Grandeur story. She said, ‘You stopped trusting your instincts.!’ That was the moment that the Delusions of Grandeur story dragon received its fatal death blow. Thirty-plus years earlier, I was told I suffered from Delusions of Grandeur and decided NOT to trust my instincts – I become analytical. For much of that first year in CA, I was functioning on instinct. When told I was too aggressive I stopped trusting my instincts. I became analytical. I became a version of Mr. Spock.
The Landmark Forum leader said, ‘If you are a person who has analytical as one of your strong suits, I guarantee you’ve had trouble with relationships because you over think them instead of just letting them occur … or be.’ I was never fully present because I was too stuck in my own head all the time. I had little ability for compassion. I overthought every relationship. I overthought everything that I did.
YIKES! Ouch! Oh brother …
Here’s the good news:
- I wouldn’t have figured this out if I wasn’t a thinker. Analytical has it’s benefits
- It’s no longer a blind spot. Today I understand myself as analytical
- Analysis in moderation is great. Analysis at the appropriate time is a wonderful skill
Here’s the bad/good news:
- I’m learning how to monitor myself to avoid being Mr. Spock
- I remind myself constantly to trust my instincts
- I’m now unlearning how to NOT trust my instincts
- I’m attentive to my gut feel and re-learning to trust my instincts
It’s getting easier. I have more freedom. Trusting my instincts in combination with a finely-tuned analytical ability is a powerful combination.
Note: This series is a description of what I learned and how I benefited from attend attending the Landmark Forum. It is not meant to precisely replicate what Landmark teaches – it’s what I learned. The strong suit concept is one of several unique theories that participants learn during the 3-day seminar. I encourage all to attend and benefit in your own special way.
In the final Part 6, I will share the mind map I created in the days following this breakthrough discovery that occurred in November 2013 and some concluding thoughts.
Here are the links to the rest of this series:
- Part 1 – Strong Suits
- Part 2 – When & How They Begin
- Part 3 – Smart Was Already Taken
- Part 4 – Roller Skating Rink
- Part 5 – Delusions of Grandeur
- Part 6 – Mind Map