(post by Andrew Thorp)
Hitchcock is showing in movie theatres around the UK right now, and I was reminded recently of one of my favourites – Strangers on a Train.
Things didn’t work out too well for tennis pro Guy Haines when he struck up a conversation with the seriously unhinged Bruno in this wicked classic, and I guess it added fuel to the advice our mothers gave us when we were little – “don’t talk to strangers!”
But a friend of mine had an interesting encounter with a fellow passenger recently, one which struck me as rather significant.
My friend is a coach and told me that she’d been to London to attend a course run by experts in her field. She’s still establishing her business and was looking to sharpen her skills and knowledge within her niche. It wasn’t a small investment on her part – £500 to attend the course, plus rail fare – but she felt she needed it to give better value to her clients (like many in her situation, she agonises about “what I’m worth”).
Things didn’t quite work out. She told me the course was surprisingly basic and taught her nothing she didn’t already know. Returning home on the train, she had a ‘£500-down-the-drain’ look on her face and the woman sat opposite her noticed something was amiss. “You look a bit glum,” the woman observed, and my friend explained why. “Well look at it this way,” added the lady, “you now know how good you are at what you do!”
Two things struck me about this. Firstly, this fear of being ‘found out’ or ‘exposed as an imposter’ is commonplace amongst people selling their services. Ask Dame Judi Dench and others at the top of the acting tree – it still lurks, even for them. If you’re going to succeed in your niche it’s really important to eliminate self-doubt. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others to have confidence in you?
Second, I find it fascinating how others can have a different perspective on things. The SUMO man Paul McGee (that’s Shut Up, Move On by the way!) uses a multi-coloured beach ball to demonstrate this. An observer on one side sees a blue stripe, someone on the opposite side sees a red stripe – same ball! Often, when we have a problem we share it with people who will see things the way we see them – to validate or justify our anger at the injustice. But it’s really useful in challenging times to confide in a neutral observer – a mentor or someone outside our normal circle.
I think there are some interesting lessons for us all in this story. At the very least it gives kids everywhere a further justification for ignoring their parents’ advice!