How many incredibly talented young people have we known who never seemed to get out of the starting gate or who start new things brilliantly but never “go the distance”?
These people are a majority of the clients I work with on a weekly basis. They are clever, well spoken, considerate and fun to be around. They also really know how to play any system put in front of them and yet, here they are in my office, wanting to find a new way. This is a great starting point in their self-growth. At this point, I tell them they have a condition. Their ears practically perk up in alarm. I tell them they have “Norman Jean Syndrome”.
When people reflect on one of the 20th century’s most electric movie stars, Marilyn Monroe, most focus on all of the things she had. She had fame, money, public adoration, success in the movie business, as well as people who cared for her. Yet each time she would have to leave her trailer to film another scene she would be paralyzed with fear.
She worked hard to be where she was but what she was most admired for was her looks and the way she “sparkled”. To her, these were things that had come easily. Things that come easy are often discounted by us as being without value. When people praise these easily obtained things, we end up feeling like imposters because no real work was done to achieve that praise.
But that praise is addictive. We end up lapping up the easily won praise, shunning the hard work that would have to follow. Going from one project to the next, from one mentor to the next, drinking from the cup of quick praise and then running from the bitter taste of “going the distance”. This becomes a way of being.
And so it was for Norman Jean, Marilyn Monroe’s real name and probably the person hiding in Marilyn’s trailer.
Norma Jean Syndrome is essentially the feeling many naturally talented people have when they are praised for their facility at doing new things. It feels so good that they end up staying in that “start-up state”. The fear of having to prove themselves and of being an impostor begins to rule their decisions. They end up living their lives in their own version of a trailer; their room, their home or their addictions.
At some point, these people must seek out someone who understands this phenomenon and can give them what they need to rise above the formidable walls of their trailers of safety.
It is the simplest of tasks to begin.
Start with a daily set of exercises that are generative, something that adds to the quality of your life. It could be meditation, reading inspiring stories, walking, painting, music, sculpting or anything that would enrich your life. I suggest starting with three different daily tasks and working your way to five.
By working on these exercises daily and seeing what obstacles stop you from working on them, you will find ways to carry on. Then you will begin to have control of a part of your life that is there just for you, free from outside feedback. You will have gone through a side wall in that trailer and out to a less threatening world, free of fear.
It is these exercises that will liberate you.
Warning! Be on guard. A million “reasons” why you shouldn’t do them will come to you: “What’s the point?” “I want to be doing my life’s work now!” “This isn’t the real world!” “What! Futurama’s on?” Your job is to put aside these reasons and do your daily work and slowly over a matter of weeks you will find your power. Within a matter of months, you will find your path and within a year you will begin your success.
Should you end up running away, remember, you can always start again.
No one ever said it would be easy but you will slowly get what you wanted and it will work out.