Do Not Bring Children To Work Day
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. Dumb in that I was still trying find my relevance in the world.
And hey, what better way to find one’s relevance than by trying to impress random strangers with one’s knowledge and professional accomplishments, right?
I did mention that I was young and dumb didn’t I? Good grief.
Mounting My High Horse
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.
In my arrogant state, this made me as happy as a pig in poo. I had lots of places to play. In other words, 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, so don’t even act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You know who you are.
Good boogly-woogly, I considered myself to be a Mary Poppins of practice management. I’d drift down with my umbrella, going from assignment to assignment, wowing everyone with how much I could get done. And of course, I collected all those kudos and all that praise about how efficient I’d made their practices. Oh puhleeze! Kill it before it reproduces, hatches, or has babies.
Oops, I almost forgot. Before we go any further, there’s a housekeeping item I forgot to mention. If you’d be so kind, please hold all commentary until the end of the post if at all possible. We’ll be having a restroom break and we can all vomit together, myself included.
The Train(er) Gets Off Track
La-di-flippin’-da! Mary Poppins here landed 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 at the time, but apparently my inner child was running amok. My humor was somehow finding it’s way into the contents and delivery of my serious training sessions. I learned of this by accident one day as I was leaning over, pointing to something on a trainee’s monitor. This young woman looked up at me and quizzically inquired if I’d ever considered doing stand up comedy, because if I hadn’t, then she certainly thought I’d missed my calling.
Hearing this, other trainees spoke up, agreeing with her and saying that they hoped I’d be the one doing the remainder of 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 and the irritating sound of fingernails scraping on blackboard.]
Hmpfffff … Cough …. Cough
Well, upon hearing those words, I bristled and stood up ramrod straight! Deep in thought, I then turned my head up and raised my chin slightly to the right. I proudly began stroking the lapels of my all-black designer-label business suit jacket. [Eye roll.] Talk about egotism! All I was missing was the red ‘power tie’ to further send the message that I was trying prove I was the cat’s pajamas. I gritted my teeth.
Oh. No. She. Didn’t! I thought. My jaws clenched tightly.
I raised one eyebrow and pondered: “Excuuuuuuse me! as Steve Martin used to say. Had she just call me ‘moi‘ a “hoot”?!”
911 Course Correction
Yep! She certainly had! It was then that I had a major epiphany. It hit me like a ton of bricks that if I ever planned to be taken seriously and/or given the respect that I knew I was entitled to as a health care 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 DISC personality profile. And honey, I did it so fast that I got friction burns on the right side of my thighs.
Hitting The Mute Button
And so from that point forward, with one hand clamped firmly over my humor imp’s mouth, I was able to function as a stoic [ahem] ‘pro-fess-ion-al’ for extended periods of time. Able to work unencumbered without unexpected interruptions and bleed-through from my raucous funny side, I consistently made tangible improvement in practice metrics and physician revenue.
I parlayed each practice success into another one—garnering a name for myself—and enjoying a pristine reputation. A series increasingly higher paid opportunities followed.
That’s not to say that I was 100% carefree during this time. No, I still had quite a battle on my hands at times. I was forever having to slap that sassy little SNL skit writer inside me back into subjection so as not to blow my cover. She was forever trying to rise up.
Drastic Measures Required
As the [$$$] stakes got higher, I worked harder and longer each day. My work hours expanded to include most evenings, nights, and weekends. I soon found myself without the time, energy, or will to continue my 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, plaguing us throughout our lifetime. What I am about to tell you is one of those things.
I did something terrible, and I did it to someone who always had my back. Someone who, as it turned out, has been my closest friend in life.
Deep inside, I didn’t want to do what I did. But, blinded by self-centered ambition and the drive to make my mark in a career that I would later walk away from, I did what I thought was best at the time: I called ‘the men in white coats’ to come handle my pesky humor imp for me.
Worse yet, I consented to the straightjacketing and restraining of my dear, wonderful, playful inner child. I even signed the consent form giving them permission to duct-tape her mouth!
Nevertheless, She Still Got The Last Laugh
Bless her heart, as they were wrapping the long arms of the straight jacket around her torso and buckling them behind her back, she showed her never-say-die resiliency.
She was intuitive enough to know that her influence was affecting my career. She knew that her snark was inappropriate for where I was in my life at that point in time. And most endearing was the fact that she wasn’t even the least bit offended by what was going down. Rather, it was at this stressful time that she modeled for me a very important object lesson on the strategic advantage that having a sense of humor can provide us in times of stress.
She used her last minutes there to verbalize something that she knew to be true—something that she knew that I was too self-absorbed to openly admit at the time. Bless her heart, she understood that I always secretly enjoyed her ‘interruptions’. She knew that, whether I would admit it or not, I had always been entertained by her outburst.
So as they picked up the duct tape and began to tape her mouth, she blurted out: “You know you laughed. I heard you laugh! You laughed. You laughed … you laughed!”
A Very Cinematic Exit
Finally, before they got that last piece of tape firmly in place and started wheeling her down the corridor, she gave me an unforgettable knowing glance.She winked at me, and in her best Arnold Scwartznegger Terminator accent, she yelled back at me: “Don’t worry, dear. I’ll be baaaack …”