Last week I (Matt) shared a story from Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality. I shared Cloud’s story of a man that became a surgeon simply because his father and grandfather were surgeons and wanted him to be one too. Not having any real passion for it, he soon found himself making errors and being sued. When he finally “woke up” he got out of medicine and pursued his true passion and giftedness – the arts – and found a wonderful new life waiting for him. Acknowledging who he really was is an example of humility, courageous humility.
Another story Cloud shares involves one of his own mentors, a supervisor in his clinical training (Cloud is a psychologist). This mentor was brilliant and had vast clinical knowledge that was extremely valuable to Henry – he said he learned more in 90 minutes with this man than he did in an entire semester with other instructors. But there was one hitch – this man took joy in revealing how stupid and ignorant graduate students could be. He relished finding his students’ weak areas, exposing them, and grinding on them – in front of other students.
Cloud remembers heading off to his mentor’s office one day and a fellow student stopped and asked him how he dealt with that – he had seen Henry be viciously humiliated more than once. Henry’s reply is very telling: “I just see it kind of like the price of something very valuable. What I learn from him is incredible and what I pay for it is the verbal abuse. So, before I walk in there, I remind myself that this is not the place to go looking for approval or kindness. I am there to steal his knowledge and if getting put down is how I must break into that safe, I will do it every time.”
The other student indicated he would never put up with that kind of treatment – that it simply was not worth it. And it’s here that Cloud’s insight is very keen. This particular student had some narcissistic traits and always needed to be affirmed and stroked. In avoiding the abuse of this particular instructor, this student also was avoiding developing his professional gifts as much as possible. His career in fact has never really gone anywhere – he has plateaued, the result of not being willing to accept a little pain in exchange for some very valuable lessons.
Cloud says that growers will tell you that they have subjected themselves to tough coaches and mentors, endured the discomfort and gained immensely through the process. They had to leave their need for comfort and happy talk at the door.
How about you and me – and those we love? Are all of us becoming all that we can be by perhaps accepting some painful times in exchange for personal and professional growth? Living a great life – a life of purpose, passion, and joy – takes real humility and real integrity. But the results will be so worth it. Begin living that great life today!