I called up someone important in the field of ALS research. I wanted to understand what he was doing and to see how I could offer him help. Zeef, from Israel, who works for IBM, approached me; he had heard about my story and is active in the same field as this guy. I naively thought that calling the ALS researcher to connect the two guys was a good idea. However. The ALS researcher wasn’t too happy to hear me call. He told me he has enough people offering him help, that he doesn’t have time for me and that I please go through his secretary. And that hurts. It does. It touches a sore spot deep inside me that’s still just a tad vulnerable – I haven’t yet fully recovered from the news, it seems. It tells me: you are not useful to me. I hear: You are of no value. I feel worthless. Yeah, I know that that’s my problem, and that he didn’t mean it that way, but it’s interesting to just watch that.
Over the years I grew a useful reflex to situations like these. I call it the “I’ll fucking show you motherfucking moron asshole idiot” reflex. I’ve learned to hide it a wry smile and say “the people who refuse my help are usually the ones who need it the most” (we Consultants are bred to show just a little bit of arrogance between ourselves). I’ve used it to motivate myself and built a pretty nice career with that. I just don’t have the time right now to go on a crusade or prove something to someone. So I care for my hurt and postpone this battle to another day.
Another day comes, actually, the next day. I get to speak to one of the real BIG leaders of Accenture; the person responsible for our development partnerships. I share my story and he responds in the most compassionate way. Then he puts that aside and says in his adoringly thick Scottish accent: You’ve got my sympathy, what else do you want? I opt for his advice and his connections. Within minutes of brainstorming this guy has it figured out: I’ll find out what the REAL problem is why ALS is not being fixed (Is it funding? Is it collaboration? Is it technology? What button should be pushed to make a change? I’m a strategy guy, he says, I know how to build a team and do this, and he’s right) and I’ll write it up in a story and he’ll take me to the CEO of either the 2nd or 3rd biggest charity in the world (at #1 is, yes, Ikea) and that that #3 charity actually focuses on biomedical research? Isn't that appropriate? He can connect me to any other important person that I need to talk to. I’m not sure if I want to take this on (this is a SERIOUS piece of hard work we’re talking about), I don’t know if it is more use than just the project Accenture is doing with Leonard, I don’t even know if I have the energy and the time to do something serious, but… at least I don’t feel worthless. This time it just took me one day to go from being rejected by someone I haven’t even met to getting a road to walk so far over his head to reach what he cannot… my motivation may be petty, childish, mean, wrong, whatever, but if it works to keep me going, it works. Even if it is just planning and dreams for now (I’ve yet to make an actual contribution, I think) it may lead somewhere. So this a good place to start.
Attached also a speech that I gave to a different group of Accenture leaders here. Didn't want to send it out as text since this is the 2nd update this week already. If you'd like to read it it's right here at this link: Speech Strategy College 16102013