Guilt, Marketing, and Redemption

In 1990,  I was a 25 year old intern at a hospital, just shy of getting my doctoral degree.  At the time, like most interns, I was overwhelmed with new responsibilities.  (I was also simultaneously finishing my dissertation, publishing 3 professional papers, and helping Sharon run her company)

One of my primary responsibilities was intake interviews… the first point of contact for a new patient at the hospital.   Sometimes the patients needed to be hospitalized for a few weeks.

One such patient (let’s call him Bob, and let’s change a few other detailed for confidentiality) really connected with me, and felt relieved to be admitted to the hospital.  He was in danger of hurting himself and thanked me profusely for getting him in.

As he was leaving my office Bob casually asked if I’d ever seen the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” with Peter O’Toole.   I hadn’t, and didn’t make much of the comment.

But that month I ALSO did a rotation on the inpatient unit, where I saw Bob every day.  And every day Bob asked me “Did you see Lawrence of Arabia yet?”.

At the time I felt rather annoyed, and just politely said “no” each time.

There were two reasons I didn’t watch the movie.

The first was that I was a “big important intern, about to be a doctor from a prestigious university”… and I didn’t have the time.  The second was I HATED  Peter O’Toole.

You see, I’d recently been in a NYC restaurant with Sharon, gone to the bathroom, and come back to find Peter O’Toole hitting on my wife. (Seriously, I’m not making this up, he was sitting way too close at OUR table when I got back, and Sharon seemed to kind of like it, though she’d vehemently deny this now)

The point is, for personal reasons I refused to enter the patient’s metaphor.

I didn’t want to take the time.  I was more interested in other, “more important” aspects of developing my career.  I thought it wasn’t my responsibility since I had “handed off” the patient to the inpatient unit.

Long story short… Bob tried to kill himself on the ward 🙁  (He didn’t succeed)

My supervisors told me it wasn’t my fault, that the whole purpose of being an intern was to learn with a safety net, and that the psychiatrist and/or the treatment team members on the ward should have caught the problem.

It’s all true.

But it’s also entirely intellectual.

Bob connected with ME.  He chose ME to communicate his metaphor.  For all I know, he could have clammed up entirely on the ward.  I was his connection and he was reaching out.  I had put myself out in the world as a clinical psychologist… HIS clinical psychologist when he had the courage to ask for help. (And as an aside, I’ve subsequently learned this is a moment to be treated with great respect, as many, many people will only ask once in their entirely lives!)

So, of course I’m going to tell you your market is reaching out to you with THEIR metaphor, and ask you to give some thought to what you’re ignoring because you don’t have the time or because you think other things are more important.

Of course I’m going to do that, that’s a totally Glenn Livingston thing to say.

But there’s one more piece of the puzzle, which has to do with my thoughts on forgiveness, redemption, and spirituality.

When I tell people I’m “as agnostic as they come”  most seem to think I can’t have morals, or spiritual pursuits.    But they couldn’t be further from the truth.

The fact I don’t believe I can be forgiven forces me to live with my actions every day for the rest of my life.

Can I forgive MYSELF?  Of course I admit I WAS very young, my supervisors WERE right in pointing out it was a learning experience, and I went on to use that experience to benefit hundreds of future patients.

Yes, of course that’s true, and intellectually I forgive myself.  I think 99% of juries would too.

But you know what?  The memory haunts me no matter how I frame it, and no matter what anyone says.

It took five years before I finally watched the movie.  (I kept renting it but couldn’t get myself to watch).   It’s an amazing movie which would have enriched my life AND my abilities as a doctor if I’d made the time in 1990

I used to think my experience was neurotic, that I was holding on to unnecessary guilt due to something unresolved in my past.  Now I know it was both normal and extremely helpful.

Because the result is…  I don’t want to create any more “Bobs” in my life at any cost.

If I had dismissed it casually, forgotten about it, or minimized it, I wouldn’t have so carefully examined what led to the situation, and taught myself to so keenly listen in on my client’s metaphors.

I would have gone right on creating more Bobs.

Now, when I think of my marketing experience, of course there were a few Bobs in the early days.

In the early days of excitement over my low-level fame, I did some joint ventures with people who, looking back, I never would have invited to dinner, and whom I wish I had never introduced to my list.  And in the very early days, I went along with the crowd and made things seem easier than they really are.  (Internet marketing is a REAL business which requires time, energy, character, and capital… not a stupid “lifestyle” business!)

I guess we all have our Bobs in the beginning of any endeavor.  And the more willing we are to enter their metaphor, the less damage we do and the quicker we sharpen our skills and ourselves.

Which, in part is what I’m always trying to do for you.

Ultimately you could say my job is to get you to ask yourself…

“Got any Bobs?”

What painful stories are reaching out to you in your market if you’ll only take the time to listen and enter their world?

Food for thought.

G 🙂

PS – You don’t have to read every book your market recommends, that’s impossible, and the analogy breaks down when you’re not doing individual counseling, consulting, or coaching.  But listening to your market’s metaphor does mean spending significant time talking with, surveying, and watching social media on your keyword target.  It’s not just “entering the conversation inside the prospect’s head”… it’s entering their souls, feeling their pain, and letting it all change you as a person. In that way, every marketing campaign should feel like a spiritual journey.

PPS – I used to feel obliged to sell very softly, or never push an offer too hard.  But part of getting older has made me realize that if you really have confidence in what you’re selling, people suffer when you don’t get them to buy it.    Sure, people get annoyed when you raise prices on a deadline, make limited time offers, put a sales link in front of their face, etc.   But in the long run if you’ve got good medicine, it’s better for everyone if you sell more of it, even if the shot doesn’t feel good when they get it.   (Now go sell something)