Psychologists make for lousy soldiers

I often think of all the talented artists and musicians who will never earn a living at their craft. It’s sad that we simply do not live in a world where such talents are rewarded. No, our current leaders are the ones with the most marketing savvy – whether they sell products or their political ideas. But what if we lived in war time? Or in a remote African tribe? Or perhaps in the roaring 20′s? Or the depression era 30′s?

I reality, the most successful people will be those whose talents match the circumstances of their time and place. Risk takers, for example, will thrive at times of economic boom and crash and burn during a downturn when a more conservative approach is warranted.

Our ability to adapt to changes, or our ability to select circumstances which match our skills, will often be a greater determinant of success and happiness than our talent alone.

This is the idea behind today’s column. It was inspired by my pitiful record at paintball.

Shrinks make for lousy soldiers

(Source: Savoir marier aptitudes et intêrets. Journal Métro, March 8, 2011)

In some ways I am thankful my kids are now of the age when they don’t want to spend time with me. Perhaps in a few years, when their interests and mine match up again, we will enjoy each other’s company while engaging in common interests. For now, I let them kill zombies and mutants on their own while I walk the fairways with other old guys.

But this wasn’t the case when they were younger. Back then they always wanted to spend time with me. “Hey, Dad! Let’s go on the roller coaster. Later we can go paintballing!”

The last time I stood in line to ride a roller coaster, I looked around and realised I was the oldest guy there by far. It seems the idea of feeling your stomach in your throat appeals to a younger demographic. While I did feel out of place, I never felt humiliated by a roller coaster. No, humiliation was reserved for when I strapped on a helmet and goggles and grabbed a paintball rifle.

Hall of shame

I’ve gone paintballing a handful of times but I suffered the indignity of being the first guy shot on every occasion. Even the fraidy cats cowering behind the walls of the plywood fort seemed to have better survival skills. It was at that moment when I realised I was lucky not to require a soldier’s skills to make it in life. If I grew up in another time and place, I would probably be a statistic. There are no two ways about it, shrinks make for lousy soldiers. Or at least this one does.

Different contexts, different skills, different leaders

It is interesting to think of how the context of our world rewards different skills. I consider myself lucky to have been born at a time when the ability to trust, negotiate and compromise helps me function better in a world where getting along with others is rewarded. In the context of a war, those skills would mean certain death.

This reality underscores the importance of choosing a career and a context where our skills will benefit us. Too many people choose careers based almost exclusively on their interests. But interest alone does not guarantee a good fit. A good fit happens when you match your particular skills and personality with the requirements of the career. This also means that when the context changes, you may have to look for other work rather than stick with a situation that no longer gibes with who you are.

As for me, so far so good. Fortunately I live in a time when a paintball in the ass does nothing more than harm my ego.

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Posted in Happiness, Human nature, Life.

Posted on 08 Mar 2011

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