Category Archives: Work

Turning The Other Cheek

On the side of all my unpredictable, unstable, and inconsistent creative work that I do, I work part-time in retail, selling luxury goods. I am the newest addition to our sales team. Out of everyone there, I probably make the most mistakes.

For a lot of my co-workers, their job is their life. For them, there are no other options. Many of them carry out their job in a very aggressive manner. I, on the other hand, am so relaxed as I work and it really is apparent. I work there because I enjoy it. If this part-time job does not work out, I know I can just move onto another one that I enjoy.

Few weeks ago, our store had our annual holiday party. Everyone was in a good mood and looking beautiful in their fancy clothes. But as the night progressed and more alcohol was being consumed, some of my co-workers loosened up a bit too much. One of them felt it was the opportune time to say to me, “Daniel, you are a real fuck up to the team!… You just don’t care enough… If you even dare to tell our manager about this conversation, I’m gonna kill you…”

Heart in Eye

Of course it hurt to hear all of this, especially when I have only had good intentions for others at my workplace. I felt misunderstood. My emotional sensitivity also intensified the hurt that I was feeling.

The old-me would have resorted to the use of my psychological strategies to escape my present difficult emotions. Having learned from my past the ineffectiveness of this response, I did something drastically different. I allowed myself to just feel the pain without judging whether the feeling was “good” or “bad,” whether my co-worker’s behaviour was “good” or “bad,” or whether my co-worker was a “good” or “bad” person. I resisted my impulse to investigate why such words were spoken and what had to be done to “fix” the problem. I lived in the present moment, even though that moment was not so pleasant. I also meditated on positive truths about who I am as a person. By doing all of this, I was able to keep myself calm and allow my difficult emotions to fully make its way in and out of my system while centering my identity. After giving myself all the time that I needed to grieve over the experience, I forgave her. In no time, I was feeling much better.

Then came the time to think about what to do next. The old-me would have immediately, without hesitation, confronted my co-worker. I have so much confidence in my communication skills and my mind’s ability to rapidly organize the thoughts and ideas in my head that there are not too many types of people, social situations, or sensitive topics that I feel threatened by when words must be used. In the past, I would tactfully expose the crimes of my wrongdoers and draw out their emotions of guilt to get them to stop doing the things that bother me. This practice worked out for me very nicely for many years.

For the first time, however, I realized that this kind of confrontation was actually my mechanism of control. Underneath it all, I simply feared getting hurt again. Rather than going back to my old ways, I took a chance and resisted this form of control. I kept my heart and mind open to be inspired with a better course of action. In prayer, I asked my God that I believe in, “I am pretty sure my way will achieve the outcome that I want, but is there something else You would rather have me do instead?”

Shortly after, I had a “vision” of my co-worker’s life growing up (religious or not, “psychic”-like experiences are not so abnormal in the lives of a lot of highly sensitive people). I saw (with my spiritual eyes, of course) her growing up, making mistakes, and people being very hard on her. I saw a whole string of hurtful words being spoken onto her and crushing her. I saw her desperately trying to build her self-worth through perfectionism. Her lack of grace on others when they made mistakes stemmed from the lack of grace she received growing up. I sensed the many areas of brokenness within her and just knew what she needed to hear for emotional healing to take place.

On my next day at work, I wrote her a Christmas card that included a Starbucks gift card. I wrote something along these lines (the original was much longer, of course – I just don’t remember all the things that I wrote, word for word):

“I didn’t know the extent of all the frustration and damage you experienced as a result of all my mistakes. I’m sorry. I did not mean to make you feel that I did not care. The truth is, I do care about you and appreciate you as a person very much. You are an amazing, delightful, beautiful woman with a good heart… [specific examples…] I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. ~ Daniel”

After reading my card, she came to me, thanked me, and gave me a big hug.

I am not sharing all of this to boast to the rest of the world “Hey, look at me, I’m such a saint!” No. I share all of this to inspire others to try it out when people behave in nasty, hurtful ways.

One of the questions I get asked very frequently from my blog readers is, “Hey, I’m pretty sure my husband/wife has OCPD and it’s driving me insane. How should I break the news to him/her?” This entire blogpost is my answer: I do not think that it is so necessary to “break the news” to anyone. Rather than pointing out people’s faults, weaknesses, and crimes, I think it is much better to love one another and see people’s attacks as clues to their inner brokenness.

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Guilt from Being Unproductive

It has been a while since I last wrote an update about my life. In fact, it has been a while since I last wrote anything on this blog. I have been mostly busy with going out and enjoying my city’s beautiful summer weather (Vancouver’s weather is pretty depressing all other times of the year). I have been spending so much time outside with others that I have found no time to read, research, study, write, work on music, or hit the gym. I don’t feel it as intensely as I did before when I used to be very OCPD, but I still do feel some guilt over not being super productive and not making the very best use of my time.

Gifted individuals and people with OCPD tend to feel extra guilty about not being productive.

Work on Vacation

So where does this guilt come from?

Well, first of all, emotionally sensitive people experience the emotion of guilt much more intensely than normal, average, boring people do (haha just kidding about the “boring” part). A stronger sense of responsibility comes with the territory of being highly emotionally sensitive. Because of their natural ability to see, imagine, envision, strategize, and produce excellence, gifted individuals and people with OCPD feel a very strong sense of responsibility to contribute excellence to the world. But excellence takes a lot of time and effort, no matter who you are, no matter how much talent you have. When this time and effort is not being invested, gifted individuals and people with OCPD feel guilty.

Read more about the obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with the efficient use of time here.

This guilt is a big-time joy killer. It removes you from your present moment that might be filled with so many amazing things that you can enjoy and wonderful people that you can laugh with. Many people attempt to eliminate this guilt by keeping themselves very busy. Being busy, however, does not always lead to excellence. Busy-ness that is driven by guilt can actually do a lot of damage to the joy that you derive from participating in your area of excellence. During my workaholic years living in Korea, I lost a lot of my joy in producing music because I had spent so much time dutifully working on musical projects that I had very little interest in. Although being productive controls this pervasive feeling of guilt, it never gets rid of it.

The way I now respond to this kind of guilt is much healthier. I now let myself feel the guilt and let the emotion take its course in and out of my system. I remind myself in my head that it is NOT my responsibility to bring excellence into this world – being born with all the right tools does not automatically sign me up for a life of duty. My faith also helps me deal with this difficult emotion. I trust that this world is in the good hands of an omnipotent God who loves to share His unrivaled excellence with the rest of the world. I think of all the imperfect people in the Bible that God partnered up with to do this. God didn’t need them to be constantly busy. It was the condition of their heart that mattered much more to Him. I then tell myself that everything will be just fine and turn my focus back onto the present moment.

Another step that really helps to lessen the intensity of this kind of guilt is putting an end to judging others negatively. Many people with OCPD fall into judging others for their “laziness.” After judging others in this way, people with OCPD grow to be very unforgiving toward themselves.

So yeah… I am going to continue to enjoy my summer! I hope all of you are enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world :)

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OCPD in Popular Media: “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”

I recently watched “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” a documentary about the world’s greatest sushi chef. Jiro operates a restaurant in Tokyo where customers must book at least a month in advance and pay ¥30,000 (around USD$370) in order to enjoy a 15-minute meal consisting of about twenty pieces of sushi.

Jiro is a man of excellence showing many OCPD traits.

According to Jiro, talent plays a very important role in the success of a chef. When a chef talks about talent, he or she is referring to the sensitivity of taste and smell, something that people are just born with. To give you a better idea of how this “talent” works, if a person with absolutely no “talent” has only two categories (“rotten” or “edible”) and the average person has five categories (“disgusting,” “tastes bad,” “tasteless,” “tastes good,” “delicious”) with which they sort their food, Jiro has hundreds of categories. Like Jiro, people with OCPD have hundreds of categories in many different areas because of their hypersensitivity.

Sensitivity gives people the power to catch subtle details that most people miss. In order to not miss any detail, Jiro tastes everything in his restaurant before serving his customers.

Like many people with OCPD, Jiro’s high standards come from the combination of his sensitivity and his gift for excellence. Jiro knows exactly what excellence tastes like. While most other sushi chefs buy all of their ingredients in bulk from one seafood supplier, Jiro takes the more inefficient practice of buying all of his ingredients separately from different suppliers who specialize in catching only one type of fish.

Jiro suggests that talent and high standards themselves cannot amount to success. Hard work is what is needed to turn those high standards from ideas into tangible things that others can enjoy. Jiro works extremely hard, even at the age of 85. When he goes on vacation, which he hardly does, he wishes to go right back to work. He has worked so hard his entire life that, until working with him as his apprentices, his children do not remember their father ever being around.

Like many people with OCPD, Jiro has a certain way of doing things to achieve perfection that many others would find tedious. To achieve the perfect amount of tenderness, Jiro spends up to fifty minutes just massaging his octopus. Because of his uncompromisable love for excellence, he requires everyone who works under him to follow his inflexible ways of doing things. His ways are so difficult to adopt that his apprentices must learn under him for a total of ten years before they can call themselves master sushi chefs. Their restaurant has seen workers quit the night of their first day of work because of how demanding the job is.

The documentary also shows how Jiro is a man of many routines.

Finally, the documentary examines Jiro’s survival mentality, an attitude of the mind that people with OCPD are no strangers to. While he was still so young, his father left his family and Jiro had to learn on his own how to take care of himself. Jiro treats his children with the same kind of cold, tough love because he believes that that is what makes a person strong.

I highly recommend this documentary to all those who are passionate about excellence!

I leave you with one thing to think about. Because of Jiro’s high standards, he is more likely to be disappointed with the taste of sushi that is prepared by other average sushi chefs. But does that mean other sushi chefs suck at what they do? No. Now think about an area in your life where you get disappointed frequently because of your high standards. In the same way, when other people fail to meet your high standards, it is not because they suck at what they do. Do not give others such a hard time when they fail to meet your high standards. Just be excellent yourself.

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Working Alone

Imagine you are living in a different world that is much simpler than ours, where humans live only off of slabs of bread. Most of the inhabitants of this imaginary world are content with their plain food because they have never tasted anything better. But among them, there is one visionary who knows that the experience of eating can be greatly enhanced with the invention of “peanut butter and strawberry jam.” He looks for a team to help him find his ingredients. “No. I’m pretty content with my plain bread and I’m sure everyone else is too,” says one of his prospective business partners. “That sounds like too much work,” another complains. When the entrepreneur finally manages to find a few people that are on board with his mission, he soon discovers that they cannot even differentiate between good and bad strawberries. He tries to teach them but they are unable to pick things up as fast as he can. Out of frustration, he reviews his options: (1) give up, (2) spend more time and money on training the wrong people, (3) do everything himself until he finds the right people to work with. Since it is neither within his nature to give up nor compromise his standards for excellence, he decides on the third option and creates the best peanut butter and strawberry jam the world has ever tasted.

People with OCPD tend to work alone when their passion for excellence is combined with their preoccupation with the efficient use of time and money.

The third option in the above story is the option taken by most employers. There really is not much disagreement against that decision. It is a widely accepted labour practice to replace those who cannot deliver the expected results with those who can. It just so happens that it takes a much longer time for people with OCPD to find the right people to work with because their standards are so high.

The OCPD need to make efficient use of time can also greatly delay the process of finding the right people to work with. There may be plenty of people who just need a little bit more training to eventually be able to deliver the results required by those with OCPD. However, people with OCPD who are preoccupied with the efficient use of time often lack the patience to wait for others to become good enough for the job.

The OCPD need to make efficient use of money can delay the process of finding the right people to work with as well. There may be plenty of professionals who can deliver the results required by those with OCPD at a cost. But people with OCPD often feel guilty about paying for services that they can easily do themselves.

Finally, people with OCPD who are very critical of the efforts of others are more likely to avoid group work with people who can outperform them. After habitually judging “My gosh! You are terrible at your job!” every time others perform poorly, people with OCPD become convinced that others are thinking the same thing about them when they do not measure up to the level of excellence of the group. These people rather work alone than to put themselves in a position where they might disappoint others.

Does this mean that all people with OCPD are not team players in the workplace? No. Not all jobs give people the freedom to materialize their uncompromisable love for excellence. People with OCPD can definitely be team players.

This OCPD tendency to work alone does not just occur in the workplace. I tended to work alone when I used to make music. Although I am best at the songwriting (melody and lyrics) portion of the music making process, I was unable to focus all my attention on it because I could not find a composer to work with who could compose the accompanying instrumental better than I could. There were professionals, of course, but I felt like I did not have the proven track record of profitability to spark their interest in working with me. I settled with doing everything myself. You can hear some of my original compositions on the “About Me” page.

This OCPD tendency to work alone can be hurtful in a group setting when others are in a position to share their input. In the story that I mentioned above, the strawberry pickers are not in any position to say “No. I will just continue to pick bad strawberries because I want to.” But in other group settings, like the family setting, people want to feel that their input matters. No matter how much of a good job she does, an OCPD mother who rejects the input of every other member of the family in the “management” of the children will likely cause a lot of hurt and resentment. In these group settings, people with OCPD must show that they actually value the input of others.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Know which group you are in and conduct yourself accordingly. If you have been placed into a group with members that would like to feel that their input matters, give them that benefit so that they would not develop resentment towards you. When they share their input, respond to them with “Hmmmm, that is great idea!” Even if you feel that your way is better than theirs, be diplomatic and show your openness to their way of doing things. If you want others to adopt your way of doing things, help them decide for themselves by evaluating the pros and cons of all the proposed options together as a group and asking them to decide on the best option. This will only work, however, if excellence is the goal of every member of the group. You need to recognize that, in many cases, excellence is not everyone’s goal. Some people just want to do whatever requires the least effort.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Say something like this to an OCPDer whose pursuit for excellence forces you out of the picture: “I applaud you for your way of doing things. I can really see its effectiveness in producing great outcomes. However, I feel very excluded in the way that you are going about reaching those outcomes. I feel like you do not respect what I have to say. Even if my way of doing things happens to be less effective than yours, I would still appreciate having my input considered. Is this something we can work out?” If the OCPDer cares more about people than outcomes, he or she will try to change. If the OCPDer has no plans to change because he or she is the type to care more about outcomes than people, you have three options: (1) break the partnership (not recommended for family setting), (2) follow his or her way of doing things, (3) do your own thing in your own way. If you choose to go through with either of the last two options, prepare yourself for OCPD all-or-nothing criticism. Be confident in your performance and do not take any of their judgments personally.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF PROMOTION AT WORK (OCPD):
If you are the type of OCPDer who cares more about outcomes than people, everyone you work with will sense it because your tunnel vision probably causes you to focus so much on the outcomes that you completely neglect the people altogether. This will greatly decrease your chances of getting promoted at work. You will become frustrated as you watch others who work less than you do get promoted instead. So if you want to improve your chances of promotion at work, be consistently excellent in how you deal with the people around you as well.

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Losing Track of Time

As discussed in my earlier post titled “Human Doing,” people with OCPD feel like they are always racing against the clock. Once in a while, however, they completely lose track of time.

People with OCPD tend to spend their time extremely generously when their preoccupation with the efficient use of time comes together with their hyper passion (tunnel vision).

Time is hardly an issue for people with OCPD when they are engaged in an activity that they are passionate about. For a moment, the world feels to them like it has stopped spinning and nothing else matters than the object of their fixation. While others hold back on spending too much time on one activity to be realistic and safe, people with OCPD can give up all of their time.

So many of the world’s greatest success stories come from this kind of all-in time investment. While a lot of people, including my very Korean parents, would consider dropping out of Harvard to be an unwise decision, both Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) did just that because they felt that college was hindering them from spending all of their time on their respective passions.

This tunnel vision time spending can become a problem when so much time is invested into one priority that no time is left for other important priorities. When people with OCPD are in the zone, they can sometimes even forget to eat, sleep, shower, and spend quality time with other human beings. Such an unbalanced lifestyle can be detrimental to one’s health and even lead to early death. But not even the risk of death is enough to discourage a passionate OCPDer.

For more information on tunnel vision and its strengths, read my post titled “Tunnel Vision.”

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