According to WebMD, Delusional disorder is a type of mental illness where people can’t differentiate what’s real from what is imagined. Essentially, they have unshakable beliefs in something that isn’t true or based on reality. I think I have it.
This past week I called an influential mentor of mine. He is the leader of what I would consider a very powerful organization that enacts positive change in over 60 countries around the world. This man has been leading this organization for several years and has well over 26 years of experience in his field. I called him with a very specific purpose in mind: I wanted to know if he wanted or would consider me to lead his organization after he retires.
As we talked on the phone, I finally conjured up the courage to bluntly ask him my question. I’ll paraphrase, but it went something like this: “We’ve been friends over the past several years and there have been some informal comments that we exchanged that have lead me to believe that you might want me to uh… lead this organization. Is that true?” In a very blunt and forward fashion, he said no, and I had never felt more embarrassed. But why?
After a few awkward moments on the phone, this very kind and gentle mentor of mine could tell how I was feeling, and he was very encouraging. Shortly after, we hung up the phone.
I’ve pondered the conversation for days since and have learned something startling. As I compared this experience with a few other instances in my past, I began to realize that this type of misunderstanding, this delusional thought process of believing that I was sought after, was one that I seemed to create on several occasions. Specifically, when it came to positions of power. I’d felt and experienced one reality in which I was the center of the story, but in all reality, it was all a falsehood.
Retrospectively, I’m happy I had the courage to talk to my mentor and layout all my cards. I thought I had a royal flush, but I got flushed. It brought me to the very important realization that I am not the most important guy I know! Seeking the admiration and affirmation of men is the wrong type of motivation and will never lead to a healthy position of leadership, hands down.
This past week I was reading Patriarchs and Prophets, a book about many historical kingdoms passed and their leaders. In the last chapter of the book, it talks about the last few reigning years of an Israelite King by the name of David. I found a lot of rebuking power in it, for reasons I think you will understand. It reads (emphasis added):
“The history of David affords one of the most impressive testimonies ever given to the dangers that threaten the soul from power and riches and worldly honor — those things that are most eagerly desired among men. Few have ever passed through an experience better adapted to prepare them for enduring such a test. David’s early life as a shepherd, with its lessons of humility, of patient toil, and of tender care for his flocks; the communion with nature in the solitude of the hills, developing his genius for music and poetry, and directing his thoughts to the Creator; the long discipline of his wilderness life, calling into exercise courage, fortitude, patience, and faith in God, had been appointed by the Lord as a preparation for the throne of Israel. David had enjoyed precious experiences of the love of God, and had been richly endowed with His Spirit; in the history of Saul, he had seen the utter worthlessness of mere human wisdom. And yet worldly success and honor so weakened the character of David that he was repeatedly overcome by the tempter.” PP 746.2
What did I find rebuking? Well, David had 1 thing that I have realized I have been lacking: Patience — knowing that his future was dependent on his ability to toil and have faith in God during the moments at hand.
As embarrassing as the experience was with my mentor, I think that my desire to be needed and wanted is normal, just not to the detriment of delusion. There’s a reason we have expressions like “man, I really put my foot in my mouth”. For me, my uncontrolled desire to be needed and wanted by the hearts and minds of men is one that has lead me, time and time again, to a place of delusion. So then, the question becomes this: how do we harness that desire and mold it into a tangible plan? By dousing it with patience, self-reflection, and candor. Nothing keeps me in check more than an honest conversation with someone whom I think “wants” or “needs” me.
Do I think it is wrong to be ambitious? No. Do I believe that it is wrong to want to be a leader? No. I believe that if my motive for wanting to lead is to impress the men and women around me as to bring some sort of praise and self-satisfaction, then it is wrong. There is a reason why some of the best leaders throughout time have often sought to step away from that platform and have not desired it. After a selfless leader stands at the helm of a ship that is responsible for the lives of many, directly and indirectly, they realize that the task ahead them is one that cannot be measured by anyone metric and it is in fact, a very hard thing.
These past two months have been trying. It’s hard to admit it, but for a short while, my wife believed in Swayy more than me. I had felt very sorry for my situation that we just couldn’t seem to find the right person to “join the fight” and my innate desire to be “needed and wanted” made it all that more complex within my mind. I thought I found the answer to all our problems, someone who could come in, add value and in some ways, lead me. I’d been talking with a man whom I put a lot of hope in. I believed that he would be the missing piece that we needed to create more products, bolster our business relationships. However, what I was really searching for someone to share the load with, someone to lock arms and brace for the impact that the future is sure to bring.
After 2 months of conversation, he said no. But I realized something: I was, once again, delusional. I had placed so much of my hope into this one figure that I lost sight of what I knew to be true. Up to this point, all that Swayy has become is due to the many relationships I have been able to be a part of. It’s never one man, it’s never one thing and it’s never one mindset. To build a company, to become a leader, is to strive forward with a vision that many people rally behind. I know that if I let myself be so affected by every passerby that it leads me to a place of unfocused vision, which means I have already failed.
I am still at risk, but my delusion has currently vanished and made room for sober reason and reflection. Do you know what an antithesis of delusion is? It’s honesty, surety, and finally, success.