When I started the research for Self-Sabotage: 12 Nasty Habits, I was responding to a single experience – a chance occurrence that lead me to consider why this person acted in a way that was clearly against his own interest. But, as I got into the research and began asking more and more people about self-sabotaging behaviors, I came to realize that I had wandered into a large, dark room that was filled with furniture with sharp edges.
Through conversations that often went on for more than two years, I developed my dirty dozen – 12 habits that were clearly damaging the prospects and lives of the people engaging in them. The result was the publication of Self-Sabotage: 12 Nasty Habits.
The reception that the book received was far beyond my wildest expectations. People read it and took the time to let me know how important it was to them. They saw themselves in some of the chapters and many gathered the energy and commitment to make changes – to stop sabotaging their own interests – to stop damaging their own life.
About a month after the publication of the book, I received an email from a reader. This one was different from the others. Key sentences from it will show you why. “I read your book and found myself adopting some of the behaviors that you describe. I didn’t do it consciously. I just began. Then I realized that my compulsion is to self-sabotage. Your book gave me new ways to do that. Ones I had never thought of.”
Well you might imagine my response. I read and reread the email. It was hard to get my mind around the fact that, even though I had written a book to help people stop self-sabotaging, it would be the instrument of enabling someone to be more proficient in doing just that.
A memory came creeping back. When I was at the Sloan School of Management in MIT I had the great fortune to study with Jay Forrester, the creator of the first computer memory core as well as a new way of looking at complex systems. Jay was fond of saying, “with complex systems, it’s the second order effects that will surprise you.” Second order effects are the unintended consequences of any action.
Suddenly the email made sense. The book not only helped most people identify and avoid self-sabotaging behaviors. It also helped identify those who choose to live a life of compulsive self-sabotaging.
I have contacted the person who wrote the email. He is the CEO of a middle-market company. We have begun working together. Progress is being made. And, it seems that my dirty dozen has a cousin.
© Earl R. Smith II, PhD
PJ, Mentoring Client,
Mentoring Client, CEO and Serial Entrepreneur,
Mentoring Client, Deloitte,
CEO of Croix Connect and Host of ABC Radio’s ‘Taking Care of Business’,
Partner, IT & Telecom, Defense Solutions,