In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes an often-misquoted idea that “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” Meaning that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice can result in you becoming an outlier, or an expert in your field.
This week I had the privilege of sitting at the feet of several outliers in the field of traumatic stress studies. Along with 1,500 others, I attended the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies conference in Boston, MA (https://istss.org/home). This conference offers opportunity to rub elbows with premier researchers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and others across disciplines in the traumatic-stress field.
While I look forward to integrating what I’ve learned this week, perhaps ironically, the most profound point I will take away from this conference was taken from a conversation I overheard while sitting in a coffee shop.
“Being busy doesn’t mean you are being productive or creative. Creativity and “busyness” don’t play well together.”
Admittedly, I am a busy person. I over commit… A LOT. As I heal from my own traumatic past, and probably as a natural byproduct of aging, I find it less rewarding to be busy. I find myself constantly looking for ways to shed responsibility that I gladly took on months, weeks, days, or even hours ago.
Why did you tell him you’d do that? What were you thinking saying yes to her? Why didn’t you just keep your mouth shut when they asked for volunteers? What make you think you’ll be any good at that anyway?
As soon as the Why Monster gets its foot in the door, a host of ghoulish companions squeeze into my head. Soon I’m doubting my ability, feeling like an impostor who’s a failure at everything, overwhelmed by the ruckus inside my mind—Imagine having five voices prattling on inside your head while sitting in front of a person whose research you’ve cited 100s of time throughout your education and training—devastating.
So, I step away. That’s right, in the middle of a lecture from an expert whose work I’ve all but worshiped in my practice, teaching, and personal journey, I get up and walk out of the lecture hall.
Later that night, I’m sitting with a dear friend and colleague who is expressing something similar. “I never feel like I am doing enough. I feel as if I should be farther along in the work that I am passionate about. When I hear from all these experts I get overwhelmed.”
I not only hear the shame and defeat in my colleague’s voice, I feel it in my bones. And as her words reverberate in the caverns of self-doubt within me, they serve to resurrect the wisdom of another colleague who has passed away several years ago. It is then when I clearly hear this beloved historian’s words remind me of a central truth he encouraged his students to live by:
“You, just as you are, are enough.”
You can find Joseph Laythe’s work: Haunting the Past by clicking here.
If you’d like to share part of your journey with me, I invite you to connect with me at: WillKoehlerLCSW@aTraumaInformedLife.com or find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’m also now on Research Gate.