I was trying to think of the best way to kick off the New Year for you, gentle reader. And so whether you’re a coaching client, colleague, gamer, therapist, or some other entrepreneur I figured I’d offer you a guiding metaphor for your resolution this coming year.
This picture approximates the Dragonplate Armor I currently have on Skyrim. I have spent a good deal of time and effort on my armor in the game, and obviously I am proud of it. Good armor in most video games raises your stats and allows you to progress further into increasingly difficult game content.
(As an aside, therapists, can you see how managed care can be viewed as increasingly difficult game content?)
Good armor can make or break your success in a game. Here are some tips on how to get and keep quality armor.
1. Good armor comes from investment.
I started out in Skyrim with minimal armor, and as I leveled my Smithying skill, I was able to craft better armor. Initially this was iron armor for me. Which meant I needed to mine or buy lots of iron ore, or loot it from creatures. There was no way around it, I needed to invest time and money in order to get it. And once I had my iron armor, I could level up my skills to steel, and so on, until I finally leveled Smithying enough to craft the Dragonplate armor. This also meant I needed to kill a few dragons, quite a few, to get the materials.
If you really want to progress in your private practice or coaching business this year, what are you investing to do so? Are you hiring a coach? Buying supervision? Subscribing to a journal or taking a continuing education class? In short, what are you spending money on? If the answer is nothing, then you’d better rethink this. As King Lear says, “nothing will come of nothing.” You need to spend money to make money, and you need to continually invest and reinvest in your business, or it will fail, epically. If you don’t agree on that premise then you should stop reading this blog immediately, because you are only going to find it increasingly annoying and useless to you.
If you are investing your time outside of the billable hour you are doing the right thing, because in essence you are investing money in your practice. When you give a free talk to your community you are actually giving your community a valuable product, and losing billable income in the short run. But with time, this brings referrals and credibility in your field, and by donating services you have been investing in your business to a degree. But stop there and you’ll never get the Dragonplate armor. You need to spend money on your business. Every year, no matter how long you’ve been in business or how good you are at your work.
2. Armor and Social Media
I’m going to predict to all of you social media gurus and pundits right now what I think will be one of the hot topics in the social media field this year: The Filter.
We have proliferated our social media and sped up our technology to the point that even digital natives are reaching critical mass. Every website has the technology now to send you emails, texts, digests, and newsblasts. Your inbox is probably full of them. Therapists often make the mistake of presuming that the responsibility to filter through and out this info is the sender, not them. They kvetch and moan whenever they begin receiving another subscription from somewhere.
Sorry folks, but the onus is on us to obtain and maintain our own filters. If you don’t know how to do it, invest in a consultant who can help you (see #1). You can send all the emails you want to LinkedIn and Facebook railing at them, but guess what? These companies have their own filters and they’ll screen out your noise. On the other hand, these companies, your email software, and other tools all have settings that you can and should adjust to filter out things.
So make 2012 the year you familiarize yourself with your privacy and email settings, or fork out the cash to have someone help you. In Skyrim you don’t run up to the dragon and ask it to start hitting you less hard, you take responsibility for yourself and buff up your armor.
3. Good armor can and should be flexible.
Having said the above I’m going to risk contradicting myself and suggest that we need to be careful about our filters. This video of a TED talk by Eli Pariser explains another aspect of why I think that 2012 is going to be the Year of the Filter:
We need to be aware of the filters in our environment. More importantly, we need to understand that filters can become an extension of whatever privileged positions we occupy in the world. Take Google for example. Their increasingly sophisticated algorithms filter in what they think you as an individual are interested in. The more I search for Skyrim, for example, the more quickly will Google suggest Skyrim for me in my search text. Left to its own devices we can quickly find ourselves immersed in a cocoon-like world that reinforces our perspective as reality, and filters out news and issues we may not want to know about, but should whether we like it or not. We need to have access to unfiltered experiences and information to grow. It’s called learning.
Nobody lives in a suit of armor all the time. Find ways to take yours off regularly, so that you can be impacted and informed by a world larger than your imagination. Follow some people on Twitter that seem to have nothing in common with you. Sign up to a RSS feed from the opposing political party. CBT therapists, join a psychoanalytic newsfeed. Psychoanalytic therapists, subscribe to a CBT blog. If you play WoW and normally roll Alliance, roll Horde. Gender bend the other way than you normally do with your Avatars. As you work on your filtering please try to leave some opportunities to not filter things.
4. Puddles are not good for armor, stay out of them.
For a few years I have been subscribed to a certain listserv of mental health providers. In all the time I have followed this list, 99% of the content discussed has been on the infrastructure and governance of the organization. A group of folks would post ad nauseum on the process. Someone would make a motion, and then be informed of the correct time and place to make a motion. Others would lament the bylways and how they hadn’t been voted on by the majority due to some email snafu or other. The straw that broke this camel’s back was when the current president emailed the listserv at the end of his term to acknowledge that s/he had been an ineffective leader. That’s nice.
But where’s the content, what’s the point? It reminds me of a moment in Race For Your Life Charlie Brown:
There are some people who thrive on committees, subcommittees, and “taskforces.” I am not one of them. Those are usually people who want to be big fish in a small pond. They seem more like flopping fish in a puddle to me. This year, figure out where the puddle organizations in your life and work are. And get out of them, ASAP. They’ll dampen your spirits and rust your armor stiff. They’ll make it harder for you to move freely. I have made the mistake too often of staying in these “puddles” and felt alternately frustrated and suffocated by the folks who love reciting Robert’s rules of order. Don’t let yourself get sucked into or stay stuck in these puddles.
So for 2012, focus on improving your armor. Ego psychology tells us that the defenses are there for a reason, and that the more sophisticated the defense the more effective it usually is in the long run. Take responsibility for filtering the flow of content and information into (and out of!) your life and work. Allow yourself times and places to take off your armor/filter and let random unchosen information in. And avoid getting stuck in bureaucratic and officious groups that encourage rigidity and protocols over flexibility and innovation.
Happy New Year!
And if you want to learn more about gaming and psychotherapy, you can always buy my book…