Years ago I watched the movie A Beautiful Mind, the biopic of Nobel Prize winner John Nash. That movie profoundly changed how I walk in the world and how I approach consulting business development. It allowed me to overcome personal demons and thrive as a consultant. Perhaps it can do that for you too. Let me explain:
Consulting is a hands-free profession. We offer advice, we develop plans, we weigh options and recommend alternatives to our clients; we help prospects envision a better world we are uniquely qualified to make accessible, and we make up words with impunity. All activities we perform with our grey matter. No hands required.
That also means our limitations are almost entirely psychological. We are constrained by our intellectual rigidity and risk aversion. Fear of rejection and failure can prevent us from reaching out to more prospects, adapting our offering, and marketing ourselves unabashedly.
I know this from personal experience. I have wrestled with self-talk that threatened my outlook and my business. Then I saw A Beautiful Mind and had an epiphany that allowed me to adopt a mindset that supports extraordinary success.
The movie picks up when Nash, a mathematical genius who won the Nobel Prize in economics moves from Carnegie Mellon University** to Princeton to focus on mathematics.
For roughly 90 minutes of the movie we live with Nash, experiencing his rise to success, the joy of meeting and marrying his wife, and also his descent into ruin and despair at the hands of a government agent and scoundrel best friend.
Then, [spoiler alert] with the same shock Nash must have felt, we discover that many central characters in his life are not real, including the government agent and his best friend. They are products of Nash’s undiagnosed schizophrenia.
With the help of medications, Nash recognizes his hallucinations for what they are and prevents them from further directing his actions. He stops interacting with them and resumes a productive, happy life.
In the final scene we see an aged Nash, still a professor, walking the university grounds. He looks to his left, where the imaginary characters stand – completely unchanged by the decades that have passed – then turns back to his path and continues on his way.
And right there, in that final scene, is the breakthrough. You see, Nash’s delusions never fully go away. Scores of years after he has “conquered” his schizophrenia, the figures who plagued Nash are still there, off to the side. But he makes a choice. He chose not to interact with them.
We can make the same choice. Even though most of us don’t suffer from mental illness like Nash did, we all harbor delusions. Virtually everyone has their own, personal set of demons. The key is recognizing them as phantasms, understanding that they never fully go away and, most importantly, choosing not to interact with them.
Like Nash, we can label our delusions and set them aside like a box of candied fruit (yuck!). When your mind tells you that you’re not of value and no-one will ever buy consulting services from you, you can recognize it for what it is: self-deception. It sounds real and it sure feels real, but it’s not.
And when you know it’s just your personal delusions rearing their ugly heads you can choose to ignore them and, like Nash, continue on your path to greatness.
That movie moment helped me approach consulting (and life) with a healthier, more confident mindset. What’s helped you? Please share. Perhaps your story will help another consultant too.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.