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Welcome to Conversation With Katherine: Podcast Success
Today my topic is success. My being a social worker is my second major business life. My first major business life was the pursuit of money. I have a secret that I would like to share. Making money is fun. Anyone that tells you that it is not fun never made any money. But let me regress and tell you how I started on that path.
I was newly divorced with a young child to raise. My first plan which was to marry live well, have a couple of children didn't work. Like many women I was looking for my prince charming who would take care of me and we would live happily ever after.
After all isn't that what all of the Disney movies say will happen? Well it didn't. I found myself working in not the most fun job for a major corporation. I was having a social moment and I was talking to someone that I worked for and I don't remember how it happened but she told me I know someone let me make a call.
So here I was at one of life's many crossroads and an angel appeared. Now I am not a social person by nature. I have periodic social moments but I am very introspective and not extroverted by nature. All of that being said this person thought I would make a good sales person and made a telephone call to her friend in sales.
That call changed my life. (That person was one of my many professional bridge builders that I have had in my life. I find that when I am at a cross roads I will have someone who will come into my life and help me on my journey to move from one path to another path.)
Her friend set up an appointment for me to follow a salesperson. I went to the appointment and put in my transfer. This particular job required that you have a sales assessment. Well I did the sales assessment and I mimiced what I had seen the other person do. I had never sold anything in my life but at that point what did I have to lose. Well I was successful and I became a sales person.
The person that made the initial phone call changed my life because I was floundering and did not know that I was floundering. The person recognized that I had a skill that I did not recognize and she pointed me in a positive direction. I did not have to find another husband to take care of my child and have the American dream. What I did not know, when I started that journey, was the insight that I would gain and the success that I would have would allow me to give my child a different life..
I don't want to miss this opportunity from talking about the second angel that was at this same office. Once I passed the assessment I was offered a job in a geographical area where I did'nt want to work. So I was musing this over and I casually mentioned this to another person I worked for and his advice was never let geography be your deciding factor when taking a job. Let the job be your deciding factor.
Well I said yes to the job. After I started the job they closed out that job for two years. If I had not said yes I would have missed my opportunity and that path would have been closed to me. I did not say yes because I was so smart. I said yes because someone else was wise.
Neither of those two individuals remained in may life. When the first person retired from the company I sent her a thank you card. I thanked her for putting me on a different path, for taking the time to make that two minute phone call. In life one never knows who or what will make a difference in your journey.
Well let me get back to making money. Making money is fun. My first reaction was OMG is this really going to happen. I remember when I first started I wondered how could I ever do this job. How could I ever make any money. I discovered new parts of my personality that I did not know existed. I experienced the high of achieving goals and taking care of my child.
After one gets over the giddiness of making money I moved into the sense of having a very high opinion of myself. (Don't worry nothing lasts forever) This society equates money with value. If you make money you become more valuable. Somehow you become more important, desirable. I don't think that those things are in fact true but money changes the game. It changes how you are perceived by others. There are people that will envy you and people that will attempt to use you. You have access to people in power that you might not have had access if you did'nt make money. You go places when you want. One weekend I flew to Paris for the weekend. Yes I know that is a long flight. But I decided that Paris was my dream and I was all about fulfilling my dreams.
I remember being at a conference and I walked up to a vice-president and I was standing there. There was another person that was there who was basically ignoring me until the vice-president told them my job title. The person visibly changed and became gracious to me. I would go places within the company and people would know my name and generally how much money I made.
There is a confidence that comes with achievement. There is also a dark side. At some point in the money journey you realize that no matter how much money you make it becomes normal. That you have to feed the beast of money by creating higher and higher goals of just making more money. The things you buy initially are fun and then they just become a way of keeping score. At some point things become a way to hide from the stress and pain because of the emptiness that you are feeling.
For those that are in the process of getting their money lesson in life let me share that you need to know how deep is your hole. You see there is a number in your hole that you believe that if you make that number something grand will happen. So you keep on your path of pursuing money, wealth or power. Money will not fill your hole because it is all consuming not giving. Money won't make you happy. Money can anesthetize your life by making you believe that you are okay. You can buy people who will tell you that your world is alright. Money attracts parasites and they will feed on you.
It doesn't take a lot money for these things happen to you. If just takes the perception that you have more than they do and you too could be used. Most important money does not make you successful. Learning the lesson about money makes you understand an attain a sense of success.
I know if you are on the money path you will not believe a word that I am writing. You know better than I because you know what it has done for you and your life. Give it time once you get your gift, you will understand what I am talking about. Until that time comes enjoy the fruits of your labor, enjoy the fun.
Making money can become an addiction. It can take over your life and leave you with very little on the inside. You find yourself in a well decorated life that is shallow. Throughout this I have talked about making money not success. One can have success in life without making money.
There are aspects of money that are the key ingredients in having a sense of success. Setting and achieving goals, having influence, becoming aware of skills and talents that you have, enjoying the achievements. All of those aforementioned factors give you a sense of self-confidence and knowing that you will have all of your life. Individuals that have a sense of success look at the world differently from those that have a sense of failure. You can make a tremendous amount of money and never feel successful. Your hole can never be filled and you have a sense of emptiness in your life and your spirit.
You can make very little money and have a sense of achievement, influence and ability to appreciate your skills and talents. You may have an ability to help others with your skills and talents you can have a sense of success and the confidence that it brings to your life without money. This is an internal sense. Money is an external sense. The internal sense becomes self-perpetuating. The external sense always has to be fed and nourished by the external.
So how does this impact the social work that I do. My clients generally have a sense of failure about themselves, about life. They are generally poor because those that have money can usually buy their way out of the CPS system. They may have had angels that have tried to show them a different path but they ignored those angels.
So they find themselves, by whatever path, sitting in front of me. Trust me they do not think that I am an angel in their life. More likely they think that I am the devil. They are sitting in front of me and generally their life is in the toilet.
This is the path that the client must navigate. They must be able to attain success within a system that does not give them the skill set to navigate the system. They must achieve success or they will lose custody of their child.
It is important for every client to understand that they can get this sense of success but not without much effort and frustration on their part. They will have to learn how to take baby steps in their process and to celebrate those baby steps. They will have to learn how to "play a game" that they may not even understand the rules of the game. They will have to look the devil in the eye and pray that underneath is really their angel. They will have to take long and hard looks at their lives and realize that some change will be needed whether they agree with that change or not.
I tell my clients that they are at a crossroad and that this could be the best thing that every happened to them. That they will be given an opportunity to gain new skills and to become better parents. I will tell them how the system works and how they can learn to work the system. I can state that I have rarely seen a parent that does not love their child. The demonizing of parents is something that often happens in the process. What I have seen are parents who may not love with kindness, or compassion because they never learned. They may be parents that are in the midst of their own self created hell, because of drug abuse, and they are taking their children through hell with them, they may not have the parenting skills because there are no manuals or assessment tests for your ability to parent. For all of the aforementioned reasons and for many unmentioned reasons they have to step up in a system that does not give too many free passes.
The poor are often the primary recipients of CPS. The poor generally do not have the skill set to avoid the power dynamics that are in CPS. They don't have the system skills to know what to say and how to navigate a system that is a multi-tiered system.
You can have similar facts and circumstances but the perceptions of the poor already put them at a disadvantage. This disadvantage is not just because their poor but because of the perception of the rich. Those that have money are considered to be inherently better than those that do not have money. That if you have money that you have been blessed by God and you are deserving of all of the blessings that go with money. This is an historical fact but I won't bore you with the history lesson. (If you want to investigate the history start your search with the Divine Rights of Kings circa 1600's and follow the rabbit down the hole, move to Social Darwinism to complete your investigation)
So you bring those same facts to a social worker. Now I hate to burst your bubble if you think that social workers are unbiased and not influenced by others. Social workers have the same cultural perceptions of people as others may have. Hopefully, if they are wise social workers they have done some internal work and they are aware of their biases or not.
Back to the facts you take these facts. But facts are not just facts there is a perception that surrounds facts. There are cultural perceptions, psychological perceptions, verbal perceptions , class perceptions, all of these perceptions can influence the direction and how these facts are viewed. Let me give you an example:
A couple has hit their child and the child has bruises from being hit by their parents. The child is a teenager and was mouthing off at a parent. From a CPS view you have physical abuse. There is latitude in looking at those facts. What do the parents say.
If you have a minority family the language that they use,whether they are viewed as hostile (generally African Americans), non-documented (generally Mexican), class status they will be given a different response to those facts, than a upper-middle class individual who has access to an attorney and law suits. Is this fair, no but life is not fair and CPSs is not fair. CPS is a flawed system with significant biases that are built into the system. Some of those biases are legal biases, some are social worker biases and some are agency biases.
Despite all of the pain and frustration that parents may go through if they navigate successfully they will come out on the other end a changed person. They will not change 180 degrees but maybe 90 degrees. They will have a sense of success that money can not buy because they will have put the work into changing their lives.
December 28, 20009
What was I thinking then. What am I thinking now
What I did not know at the time that I wrote this post is that I would remain in Child Protective Services until November, 2014. I witnessed individuals change and become better people and better parents. I saw how the success of doing, not trying, changed their lives. I applied much of my understanding of the gift of success to view them as individuals on a journey where achievement was possible. I saw their strength and I recognized many times what I saw was not seen by them in their lives, family or parenting.
Those moments made my very difficult job worth while. Unlike when I was working in sales and getting people to buy a product the product that I was trying to get them to buy and believe in was themselves. The emptiness that I experienced in my external chase for money was filled with the internal satisfaction of being of genuine services to another human.
It would not be honest of me if I did not mention the other side where I witnessed the loss and failure of some who thought that "trying" was enough. When I think of the word "trying". I think that sometimes we try so we don't have to succeed. We have one foot out of door but we sincerely say "look see I tried". There are times in life that the mindset of "trying" is not enough. When a person is caught in a legal system it does not care about the person's "try" either you do or you're don't.
The one thing that I learned in observing the "law" is that the law is not fair it is just the law. The law is structured not very fluid and not very understanding. The emotional responses that I might have as a social worker did not work easily within the legal system. My professional desire to assist those individuals in achieving success was often thwarted by the structure of the legal system.
I wanted my clients to experience the thrill of success because I understood that success changes your life path. It is an intangible change where perspective becomes a natural outcome of that change.
My Current thinking is all of the above remains true. However, with a deeper understanding of the narrative model I now get that the story that a person tells themself can make visible or invisible the selection of their choices. Yes I know, I said that this was not a therapy podcast allow me to make an exception with this explanation. Think of a narrative that you have in your life, the common example that I use is a person has been told that the were stupid all of their life by their family. Now family is suppose to love you so you internalize this language and your identity is that you are stupid. Imagine you go to high school and a teacher says, you are smart you should go to college. Hmmm. Smart when did I get smart. If you decide that your family is right how will you even start the journey to do what is necessary to go to college. If you believe that you are smart how could the family that was suppose to love you tell you that your were stupid.
What are the choices that this person has? Reject the family message? Reject the teacher's message? The acceptance or rejection of either message will send this person down a different path.
What I learned is that the narrative messages of many of the parents were framed where their choices may not have been visible to them.
Success yes it is fun, lonely, scary and sometimes empty. What do you think of success is it all about the external? What if a person doesn't know or believe they can be successful? What if you don't trust success and failure is more comfortable?
Well thank you for listening to Conversation With Katherine Have a great day and a great conversation in your life about Success.