My humor imp first showed itself very early in my career. It embarrasses me to admit this but ‘back in the day’ not only was I young, but I was quite dumb as well. I was still trying find my relevance in the world.
And what better way to find one’s relevance than by trying to impress random strangers with one’s knowledge and professional accomplishments, right?
Did I mention that I was young and dumb?
Yes, I was in that ‘I think I’m a bag of chips and all that‘ phase of my career that some people go through. I’d just landed myself a cush job with a health care CPA firm that had 650 physician clients.
I viewed myself as an up-and-coming practice management consultant with a captive client base. This made me as happy as a pig in poo. I had lots of places to play [read: lots of places to get my ego stroked AND rack up a bunch of billable hours to boot]. You consultant-types know what I mean, even if you won’t admit it. LOL
I considered myself to be a Mary Poppins of practice management, drifting down with my umbrella, going from assignment to assignment, wowing everyone with how much I could get done, and [of course], collecting kudos and praise on how efficient I’d made their practices.
Oops, I almost forgot … before we go any further … there’s one housekeeping item I forgot to mention. Please hold all commentary until the end of the post if at all possible. We’ll be having a restroom break for all who may need to vomit. Myself included.
La-di-da! Mary Poppins entered an engagement to train a number client practices on the newest version of the most popular medical billing software at the time. A choice assignment for sure. I was stoked.
I was unaware of it, but apparently my inner child was running amok. My humor was finding it’s way into the contents and delivery of my training session.
I learned of this when I was leaning over and was pointing to something on a trainee’s monitor. She looked up at me and quizzically asked if I’d ever considered stand up comedy, adding that it appeared to her that I’d missed my calling.
Hearing this, other staff members spoke up—saying that they hoped I’d be doing all their training sessions because [quote]: “You’re such a hoot! You make it so easy to learn. ”
Insert the sudden sound effect of a phonograph needle making that harsh scratching sound or the irritating sound of fingernails scraping on blackboard.
Well, upon hearing those words, I bristled. I stood up—ramrod straight! I turned my head up and to the right as I proudly began stroking the lapels of my all-black designer-label business suit jacket. [Eye roll. Good grief, all I was missing was a red ‘power tie’, eh?] LOL
I gritted my teeth. My jaws clenched tightly as I thought: “Excuuuuuuse me! Had she just call me ‘moi‘ a “hoot”?!”
She certainly had! I realized right then and there that if I ever wanted be taken seriously and be given the respect that I just knew that I deserved as a consultant—[I’m rolling my eyes and doing that finger-down-the-throat-gagging-gesture], I was going to have to disown my humor. Or at least find a way to silence it during work hours.
So, that’s exactly what I did.
Light a bolt of lightning, I slid over and commandingly took possession of the chair marked “D” in the Dominant sector of my personality profile. I did it so fast that I got friction burns on the right side of my thighs.
And with one hand clamped firmly over my humor imp’s mouth, I functioned unencumbered as a stoic [ahem] ‘pro-fess-ion-al’ for extended periods of time.
Now able to do this without the unexpected interruptions and bleed-through from my raucous funny side, I consistently made tangible improvement in practice metrics and physician revenue.
I was able to easily parlay each practice success into another—garnering a name for myself and enjoying a pristine reputation. A series increasingly higher paying opportunities followed.
That’s not to say that I was 100% carefree during that time. No, I still had a battle on my hands. I was forever having to slap that sassy little SNL skit writer inside me back into subjection so as not to blow my cover. But, even then, she was forever trying to rise up.
As the [$$$] stakes got higher, I worked harder and longer each day—including most evening, nights, and weekends. I soon found myself without the time and energy to continue the wrestling match with her.
Please note that I am very ashamed of what I about to tell you. We all have regrets and many of them stick with us throughout our life. This is one of those things.
I did something terrible to someone who—as it turned out—had always been my very best friend in life. Deep inside, I didn’t want to do it, but blinded by ambition and the drive to make my mark, I did what I thought was best at the time.
I called ‘the men in white coats’ to handle my humor imp for me. Worse yet, I consented to the straightjacketing and restraining my playful inner child. I even signed the form giving them permission to duct-tape her mouth.
But bless her heart, as they were wrapping the long arms of the straight jacket around her torso and buckling them behind her, she showed her resiliency and never-say-die outlook.
She knew that her influence was affecting my career and that her snark wasn’t inappropriate for where I was in my life—at least not at that point in time. She was not the least bit offended by what was occurring. It was at this time that she modeled for me a very important lesson on the strategic advantage of getting the last laugh.
She was going to use satire to verbalize something that she knew to be true, but that I was too self-absorbed to admit openly at the time. She knew that I’d secretly enjoyed her ‘interruptions’ . She knew that I was always entertained by her outburst–at least on the inside.
So as they picked up the duct tape, she said to me: “You know you laughed … I heard you laugh … you laughed … you laughed … you laughed!“
After the tape was firmly in place and they started wheeling her down the corridor, she gave me a knowing glance. Without words, I knew what she was saying.
In her best silent Terminator accent, she signed the words: “I’ll be baaaack …”