Originally published on LinkedIN 8/4/18 see it here
By John R. Nocero and Jennifer S. Rawley
John: I first heard the metaphor “The wolf is always scratching at the door,” from my favorite actor and role model Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Amid all his success, he let the world know that his struggle has been real and he didn’t get to the top alone. He and his family were evicted from his home by age 14, and flat broke shortly thereafter. But that didn’t deter him from transforming his dreams into becoming his reality. “Every day I wake up as if that eviction notice is right around the corner waiting for me.. which is why I always say, ‘the wolf is always scratchin’ at the door,’” he said. “He’s scratchin’ cause he’s hungry and never satisfied. We embrace and respect our past, but we never let it define our future. Let’s stay hungry and chase that greatness.”
My wolf returned this week. To me, that metaphor means I am sad, my demon of depression has returned. I have battled depression probably since my mid-teens, and no one knows self-loathing like I do. However, within the past year or so, I’ve flipped the script on it, and embraced the wolf coming with with open arms. I had a bout of sadness this week. Jen e-mailed me at one point and said, “I noticed something was up, but didn’t know what.” I really didn’t want to tell her or anyone about it, just wanted to chill with my wolf. I realize now that you can’t look away from it, or bury it in destructive habits, you have to own it and welcome those feelings or sadness, anguish or pain. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. You really have to feel it to heal it, address what is wrong, or at least acknowledge it, and then it makes it easier when he returns. Because he will.
The metaphor works for your career too. The path to the top is wrought with struggle, tears, hardships. If it were that easy all of us will be millionaires. How do you focus on living the life you are proud of when it seems the walls are crashing down?
Jen: Even those among us who don’t suffer from clinical depression have likely experienced intermittent depressed moods or situational stress. It causes the sadness, anguish and/or pain that John is mentioning.
For me, situational stress or anxiety has the greatest impact. Too many times I let my mind race trying to rationalize or understand what I am dealing with. This can lead to an onslaught of negativity, fatigue and hopelessness. It can consume me and bleed over into my work and relationships – if I let it.
Fortunately, I’ve learned what triggers this cascade of anguish and self-doubt. I allow myself a reasonable time to think or wallow in self pity. This could range from five minutes to a day or more, depending on the situation. Then once the time passes I force myself to snap out of it. Sometimes the snap is best done with a physical change. For instance, I might jump up out of my seat, take a shower, or go for a walk. I push back any tendency to allow the thoughts to come back and remind myself I’ve already lost x amount of time on it and refuse to spend any more.
Another thing I’ve learned is that the busier I am, the less prone I am to fall into letting much bother me for more than a brief moment. I’m not advocating for a life of non-stop busyness. Rather, I realized that things might not be so bad if they would have gone unnoticed on a busier day or week for instance.
Perseverance is the ultimate quality to strive for. Without it, not much will get accomplished in the long run. Likewise, lasting joy, fulfillment, and happiness cannot come without persistence. Victor Hugo said of it, “perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”
John & Jen: We have accepted dealing with heartbreak and now we are never lonely. Even if no one will sit with us in the light, the wolf is there to sit with us in the dark. We are grateful for his accountability. Next time, he shows up, I will be sure to kiss him on the mouth, hug his neck, and say “hello, my old friend. I’m glad you’ve come to see me again.” Maybe he won’t bite me then. Maybe he will look at me with empathy, and protect me, as alpha wolvess protect their pack. Greatness is never achieved alone. Surround yourself with hungry, brilliant wolves who not only buy into your philosophy, but who are all willing to work just as hard as you. Power of teamwork. And don’t ever forget where you came from.