ADLER typewriter Model n°7 (Frankfurt / Germany). Unknown model date (probably ~1930/40). By Dake

I Reply to Questions from “Underachievers”

E. Forrest Christian Careers, Underachievers 2 Comments

Let’s get to the many questions that “underachievers” have been asking me. Now I call them “underachievers” because these people think of themselves that way; they simply don’t yet understand how the world works and how the rules are different for them.

Your job is bad for you not just because it’s not at the right level. It’s too small for you. It’s also not using the right language of achievement. You haven’t heard this yet, because we have needed to spend some time thinking about work levels.

Nor do you find Flow in your role. When did you last have that thrilling experience, losing yourself in the work — to be beyond mastery, to feel the walls of your perception fall away? Somewhat akin to the alpha states achieved by some in Pentecostal worship services and raves.

When is the last time your work energized you rather than chewed you up?

But not all of us have options about work. But here’s some secrets for you that others won’t tell you.

People develop on different trajectories. This is not just the issue of mastery, which is a part of the problem, sure. Mastery requires dedication and time. I write as well as I do because I have spent hours and hours, years and years, writing in a variety of fields, mostly in this breezy, Web-inspired tone. I write as poorly as I do because I have not dedicated enough time to the mastery process.

But that is not what I am talking about.

When I speak, I speak in certain ways that reveal what I am. It is a function of my trajectory that I think in these ways. Someone who has gotten to my level earlier in life didn’t think this way, even at the same level. The trajectory they are on is steeper, higher. The experience is different.

Jaques wasn’t the only one who was thinking like this. Piaget had something similar. And did you notice that part in Stephanie Tolan’s “The Ex-gifted Child“?

The child who deals with abstract concepts early brings those concepts to bear on all later experience. This different, more complex way of processing experience creates essentially different experience. The result is that the differences, far from shrinking as the child develops, are likely to grow larger…. The developmental trajectory diverges early and does not come back to norms….

In adulthood we might refer to “differentiated development,” rather than asynchronous development, as the direction any individual chooses for his or her continued growth is likely to be idiosyncratic.

The problem is that when you are differentiated enough from the normal experience of your peers, you become opaque. It’s not that everyone is being hard on you: they really have no way of knowing what your life is like. And you cannot understand their inner mental experience. You see the world in a different way.

Even when we catch up with you, our experience is not the same because your experience of having, for example, abstract thought at an earlier age than us (say, at puberty) means that you developed differently. Your experience of adolescence becomes different than ours.

These steep trajectories have another problem. You cross more state boundaries than others do. It’s a part of the mental state, like passing from gas to liquid. And each transition feels like this. Fairfield says that he had an emotional breakdown at each one from #4 on. It’s horrible.

Do you remember what it was like when you hit that first real barrier, from Level 3 to Level 4, back when you were in college, or in your early 20s? You became unmoored, without a way of understanding the world. It was horrible. And in a way you did not make it through entirely whole.

And now the experience keeps happening. Olivier says that it can take up to five years to negotiate a transition, especially those after the one at Level2 to Level3. I told you what the measures were: you came out in a trajectory heading to Level 8 or 9. If each transition in the set {L3/L4, L4/L5, L5/L6, L6/L7, L7/L8} will take five years, that means that from your early 20s to your late 60s you have spent 25 years in these transitions. Over half your life is spent trying to cope with something the vast majority of people in America don’t experience more than once.

Each one of these transitions feels like losing your mind. It’s as if you are on an island that is disintegrating beneath you in an empty sea. By the time it has totally disappeared, there still is nothing else to stand on. It is only just as you begin to drown that the new island appears. You just begin to recover from the horror when the new island, too, begins to fall apart, even as it is still appearing.

There is no solidity, not place to stand in your life. Everything is becoming unstable. Because at each transition, the old ways of working no longer work. At one of them, you lost your entire faith and had to rebuild it, or clung to the remnants of your religion as a dead doctrine with no meaning, no truth, no emotional reality.

And no one understands.

How can they when most people do not have this experience until their 40s, and then they have only one? Part of the mid-life crisis, which is why so many “gifted children” (the real ones, not the ones with politically powerful parents who want their kids to get advantages) have what seems like a midlife crisis in their teens.

Andrew Olivier says that the higher the trajectory, the worse the curse. And it’s true: you are under a curse. You think differently than others do. You have tried to fit in but as you have gotten older the difference between you and everyone else has just gotten worse. You missed getting tapped as the Next Great Thing when you came out of university, and now you languish in western Illinois at your brother’s tannery.

Does location matter? It would if you were someone who participated in the realities that others do. But you have a double curse, for your language of achievement is different, frankly at a higher level.

Do not wish to be a a higher mode, or to achieve in the higher languages. It is a curse, of loneliness, of being a failure in the eyes of those without eyes to see, of losing the ability to open your mouth and not watch what you say. There are people who wish this for themselves or their children. They are fools.

Remember what I told Maize: at $450, your paintings are crap. At $4,500, they’re a bit pricey. At $2,500, they’re a bargain. Price yourself appropriately. People do not understand your work at the higher languages of achievement so you must use money as the proxy. And sometimes it is simply about how much you ask for. You will fail if you ask for $40,000; you may succeed if you ask for $4 million.

Just don’t give up. There’s a reason no one understands what you are going through. There’s a reason why they hate you when you reveal yourself. And that reasons may give you enough to start what you need to do.

For I can only tell you who you are. Only you can work out (with fear and trembling) what it is that you are uniquely called to do in this life.

Image Credit: ADLER typewriter Model n°7 (Frankfurt / Germany). Unknown model date (probably ~1930/40). © Dake. (CC BY-SA 2.5)

About the Author

Forrest Christian

Twitter Google+

E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

Comments 2

  1. I thank God for you! Your writing has helped me very much. If nothing more than to begin to better understand myself and the world around me. And to give myself a little slack once in awhile. I just turned 49 and wish I had known some of this 25 years ago. Not that it would have necessarily made a much of a difference. Been reading you for couple years now. I see myself in my 24 year old son and grieve for him daily.

  2. Gregory, I’m with you on thanking God for Forrest and what he offers us through Requisite Reading.

    I just turned 50 and would have benefited greatly to know about hidden high potentials much earlier–even to have felt better about myself all those (long, dark) years would have made a difference.

    I am very excited to hear about Forrest’s upcoming book!

Tell Forrest how wrong he is:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.