Persistence is Key

I checked out of the library a great resume writing and career guide Be the Captain of Your Career.

The author Jack Molisani talks in the book about persistence. He wrote that when you know how long it will take for you to achieve a goal that giving up halfway isn’t an option.

The author is a recruiter for the tech industry. It takes him 30 tries to be awarded a contract to find a candidate.

The author then knows that if he’s come up short 29 times he’s going to succeed on the 30th try.

Sitting in a chair in the waiting area of the law firm I was approached by a man in a suit who sat down next to me. He inquired as to if I was going on an interview and how the process was going.

My response was: “It’s like this–you get nine no’s and on the tenth try you get a yes. So you shouldn’t give up.”

Long ago in 1998 then I had picked up on what author Jack Molisani knows is true: giving up isn’t an option when the goal matters to you.

In coming blog entries I’ll talk more about goal-setting when it comes to finding a job.

Risking

I say: express your feelings to a therapist or trusted friend or mentor.

It can be scary risking doing something. As the pandemic starts to end–hopefully by early next year–this is when it can make sense to take a risk like finding a job or going to school or get trade or vocational training.

Establishing a support team can help you weather the uncertainty of whether you will succeed or not.

When you give a goal your best shot there can be no shame if what you wanted to do doesn’t work out.

It’s natural to fear failure and it’s also natural to fear success.

What might be happening is a bout of self-stigma or having the mindset that you don’t deserve to have fortune.

Either way your thoughts can influence what you feel which can hold you back.

For one goal I’ve decided to employ the “act as if” technique of acting boldly even when I might be scared.

I’ll end here by saying that the objective is to try, to risk, to fail, and to try again..

In the next blog entry I’ll take about risking in more detail.

The Right to Fail

It’s my contention that the average Joe or Josephine on the street doesn’t get their behavior scrutinized half as much as people living with mental illnesses do.

On the flip side, the push to advocate for recovery for everyone can be well-intentioned. Yet it can set a person up to feel crummy when a goal they set for themselves doesn’t pan out.

Pat Deegan was prophetic in advocating for The Right to Fail.

I don’t like to use the term failure precisely because it’s a loaded word. Thinking that you have failed sets you up to not want to try again.

Instead you should think in terms of the action you took not panning out. You’re not a failure–you simply tried to do something that wasn’t viable in the end.

Living through the pandemic I’ve been thinking often about giving myself permission to fail at doing things.

For one I’m temperamentally unsuited to clean my apartment. Instead of doing my own wash I have a laundry service pick up and deliver back my laundry.

As well there are two donation bags that have been on the floor since March to take to the Salvation Army.

Fail boldly, I tell you.

Take the risk to achieve a goal. The outcome might sink like a lead balloon in a pond. That’s the signal to do things differently or to do a different thing.

My failed first career in corporate insurance offices is a cautionary tale about failure. It’s also a redemptive one.

I’ll talk next about the emotions that come up surrounding taking risks. And why sometimes you just have to risk trying one thing and then trying another.

Learning from our failures is the goal.

The Dignity of Risk

Pioneer mental health advocate Pat Deegan talked about “the dignity of risk and the right to fail.”

I want to talk first in this blog entry about the Dignity of Risk. In the coming blog entry I’ll talk about the Right to Fail.

Too often peers could be afraid to take risks. Mental health staff could have a poor impression of what a person is capable of doing. This could rub off on their patients.

As well family members might abandon their loved ones. It can be harder to take risks when there’s no one in your corner cheering you on.

The boxing match between you and your illness could be ferocious enough on its own. Thus the thought of tackling a grand goal can seem out of reach.

These factors add up to learned helplessness: the thought that it’s not worth trying to risk doing something so why bother.

Dare–I tell readers–dare!

To quote Michael Jordan:

Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.

This guiding motto is inscribed on a metal paperweight on my desk.

Too I have this quote magnet guiding me:

Proceed as if success is inevitable.

Only sometimes your best-intentioned plans go awry.

I will talk about having the Right to Fail in the coming blog entry.

After this I will give a pep talk about risking finding a job.

Recovery as an Act of Bravery

In my Queens Library presentation which I gave from memory without reading notes (!) I talked about the 3 factors that enabled me to recover fully: having family support, adhering to treatment by taking medication every day, and using the creative process on and off my librarian job.

To wit I said:

Only by expressing your identity will you thrive in recovery. Your diagnosis does not define you. You define you.

I identify as an Artist. My 5 great joys in life are art, music, fashion, books and writing, and exercise. I’m happiest performing on stage at poetry readings.

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Recovery is an act of bravery.

It takes courage to be yourself in a society where there’s a lot of hate and judgment going on.

Yet the only way to live is Your Way.

My failed first career in corporate insurance offices is a testament to how I became ill by squelching my true Self.

Like Pat Deegan expressed peers should have “the dignity of risk and the right to fail” in any arena in our life–even in our careers and our relationships.

I took the risk to have a career that I thought I wanted to have. All along I ignored the subconscious warning signs that I was going down the wrong path.

It took me 7 years followed by 2 years in a law firm office library before I realized I wouldn’t ever be happy and healthy working in a business where I had to button-up my Artist self.

Expressing yourself is an act of bravery too.

I relate to LGBT individuals who were asked to submit to conversion therapy to straighten themselves out.

Early on in my recovery I tried to conform to what was deemed “normal” in society. And I failed miserably in my attempt to be someone else.

I would ask readers: “Why have you been afraid to express yourself?”

Here I am telling you as one peer to another:

You are worthy. You are beautiful.

Show yourself to others. Live out loud. Shine on.

There is no other way to live.

Queens Library Talk

Drs. Costakis and McKelvey of Zucker-Hillside Hospital Northwell Health talked about schizophrenia using a PowerPoint slide show listing symptoms medication and other facets of treatment.

At the end there was a Q&A. One question was directed at me re: what I wrote in Left of the Dial to the effect: I strive to be creative and express myself yet want to blend in.

The person’s question was about how to set that boundary.

I want to go into more detail here to expound on what I told the listeners on Tuesday.

The boundary lies in how you interact with others in an appropriate way and with respect. Not sharing private information about your life indiscriminately. Being able to discern what is fair game to reveal and what should be kept to yourself.

To the people listening to the talk I had said:

I think you cannot act false to yourself. You must act true to yourself. Early in my recovery I had jobs in corporate insurance offices and I had an apartment. So it appeared that I had recovered because I had a “normal” life.

Only I don’t consider myself to have recovered until I started my librarian job when I was 35 years old. The library was a different environment.

Working in the corporate offices I wasn’t able to thrive. Not only that it failed to give me economic opportunity.

I would say that you should show up as yourself in every interaction you have with other people.

That is the answer I gave to the question. At the end of the event I think I could’ve said more along the lines of:

Today I have no desire to blend in. Certain things I wrote in my memoir when it was published I see differently today.

For one–how I was impressed with women I called “living museums” with the perfect hair impeccable pocketbook and smashing clothes.

The idea of wanting to blend in no longer holds an allure either.

This is because for years after the book was published I’ve thought that you cannot repress your soul and expect to be well.

I would go further to say that that you should choose your job carefully when it comes to the type of work environment you will thrive in.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk in more detail about my own career trajectory to illustrate this point.

It comes down to what pioneer Advocate Pat Deegan called having “the dignity of risk and the right to fail.”

Sometimes you don’t know until you try on a job or career for size that it’s not the right one for you.

I was 24 when I expressed that sentiment about wanting to blend in.

I’m 55 years old today and things are different.

When you’re first starting out making a compromise might be necessary to get your foot in the door of having work experience.

Only I still think it’s a slippery slope in terms of finances and self-actualization to hide yourself and your light from view at any time in your life.

My Upcoming Talk

I”m giving the talk referenced above with the Queens Library on the internet via a virtual event that you can attend.

To register use this Queens Library link to obtain the URL or telephone number and the pass code.

I’ve memorized the talk I’m going to give. As well I will be reading an excerpt from Left of the Dial.

Two doctors from the Zucker-Hillside Hospital will be joining me on the panel discussion.

It’s going to be a treat for audience members.

I will be taking and answering questions at the end.

My talk will be about 8 minutes.

I’d love to have blog readers join in.

Grazie.

Remembering Robin Hugh Cunningham

Robin was my mentor. Not that I asked him to take on this role.

He simply gave of himself freely that way without having to be asked.

In 2005 when I started writing the Recovering Together column for SZ magazine I called up NAMI-New Jersey where he was on the board. I told the woman who answered that I was interested in having Robin be a featured panelist for the Q&A on hot topics in recovery. I gave her my telephone number.

Exactly one half-hour later Robin called and said Yes. I had been talking to him ever since 2005.

Robin Cunningham lived to be 77. He died in December 2019.

He lived to be 77 even though he took schizophrenia drugs for 64 years–ever since he was 13 years old and first diagnosed.

For the first 10 years he heard voices that the pills couldn’t quell.

His doctor tried every new medication that came on the market. Ten years later Etrafon stopped the voices.

Robin recommended me to his boss at HealthCentral. In 2007 she gave me a job as a Health Guide along with Robin at their schizophrenia website. I held that job until September 2015.

The exclamation point – ! – is that Robin didn’t die 25 years earlier like news accounts claim that people diagnosed with schizophrenia do.

Robin had a full and robust life. He had a daughter and a wife. He was full of kindness and compassion.

Robin obtained an MBA and rose up to be the CEO of a corporation.

He told me stories about his life which I soaked up. I was eager to learn how a person diagnosed with schizophrenia could do these things.

We talked on the telephone from time to time.

I installed his memoir on my iPad. You can buy Descent into Chaos on Amazon or special order it from a bookstore.

Robin’s life journey was a testament to having a never-broken spirt in the face of adversity.

In 2000 after retiring from his business career he was a pioneer in becoming an Advocate for his fellow peers.

Robin Hugh Cunningham is gone. He should not be forgotten.

Keeping a Goals Journal

While working through the Changeology 90-day action plan for my goals I track my weekly progress in a journal.

I buy the hardbound journals in Rite Aid. You might be able to pick them up in Staples too.

Tracking Behavior starts in Step 2 Prep and continues after that. I write in the journal as often as needed and re-read the entries every few days.

There–you can see in black-and-white–or in blue or black ink how you’re coming along.

So far I’ve achieved one 3-month goal. I’m in Step 5 or Persist which lasts the rest of your life.

This requires that you get honest with yourself about what’s going on that is derailing you from achieving a goal.

Measuring a behavior could tend to improve a behavior. When you’re accounting for what you’ve done the tendency is engage in the goal activity.

Keeping track of what you spend money on for example could be the natural segue for spending less.

The goals journal should be a separate one from a regular day-to-day journal.

Using hardbound books motivates me to go back and flip through the pages to see how I’ve improved.

In the coming blog entry I’m going to talk about finding a mentor to help you out in your life and career.

In Step 2 you mobilize your support team. In Step 3 and beyond you rely on these helping relationships.

My stance is that peers should empower each other not be jealous of each other. Jealousy is a form of self-stigma.

Instead of being envious of others I’ve always wanted to “pick their brains” to see what enabled them to succeed.

One mentor was instrumental in my life and I’ll talk about him next.