Norma Desmond can’t read a room. If you’re not familiar with “Sunset Boulevard” then put it on your watch list. Before it was a hit Broadway musical (thank you, Glenn Close), it was a 1950 film gem. Gloria Swanson played the role of Norma in a beautifully neurotic and disconnected way. Pure gold.
Norma swore that the public was waiting for her to return to the screen; they were not. Denial is the bitterest pill for some to stop taking. The hatred of its reality doesn’t stop people from taking it. It’s a bit of the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. And when you mix it with a “hope springs eternal” mindset, you can swim in denial for years, decades.
As Cher put it: Snap out of it
Start with self. The depth of your denial does not have to be deep, but merely present. You tell others to advance in how we do things while you grip tightly those corrective action forms you love. You hold meetings telling others we must embrace technology to be relevant in the business world today while you still struggle to get Zoom to work and put no time into getting better with it. You ask those around you to uphold the corporate values through online social interaction while you haven’t engaged online with anyone so as to not upturn the apple cart. These are only a few of the effects of denial. Physician, heal thyself (apparently this blog is going to be full of anecdotal one-liners).
As business-minded people, we must change. Not only the how but the why. Our relevance impacts not only the business bottom-line but our own marketability. I know that the higher percentage of surveyed people say they like or embrace change, but it’s a lie. We remain more comfortable with what we know more than we’d like to admit. And that’s where denial takes a silent hold.
Further, those around us adapt to our denial quicker than we may notice. The effects of denial can leave one feeling boxed in static expectations. And we rise to that reality through our comfort.
Reinvention and recalibration are change management tools. You control the narrative more than you might be comfortable with or aware of. My friend, Dolvett Quince, is a former “Biggest Loser” celebrity trainer. When his time on the show was over, his career was not, despite the professional constraints others may have placed on him. He is not “just” a trainer. He is a nutritionist, a motivational coach, an author, and an entrepreneur. He is not a one-trick pony. It is hard to fight against those who want you to stay in the one lane they know, but it is vital to your professional success. Dolvett chose to move forward in all the ways he excels. Similarly, you must rise.
Face the circumstances in front of you with determination and acceptance. When an organization decides it’s done with you, that does not define you. It happened, it’s over and it’s a door of opportunity that awaits you next. That reality is there for you; choose it. If a relationship that you’ve invested years in ends, face it. While it’s not who you are, it is part of your story. Dwelling keeps you from changing. Rise above it by focusing on all of who you are and what you can do and you'll find yourself overcoming the effects of denial.
We all have stories. Denying their impact would be foolish but remaining in their grip is devastating. Get up, get help to get up, and get moving. You are more than your circumstances and your failures. They’ve shaped you, but it’s not the end. Bring your other skills to bear and start the next chapter. Tell Mr. DeMille, you’re ready for your close up.