Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement

Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement

by Ken Christian

Paperback(First Edition)

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If you or someone you love isn't living up to his or her potential –– and suffers from even one or two of these feelings –– here is a program that can help. In Your Own Worst Enemy, Dr. Kenneth Christian details the telltale signs of what he calls self–limiting behavior –– everyday habits that can seem harmless but that over time can send high potential people into a tailspin of dead ends and frustration. And he offers a practical fifteen–step guide to help underachievers shake off their old habits and start taking an active hand in their own futures.

Your Own Worst Enemy will help underachievers everywhere visualize their goals, break through their barriers, and start realizing their unlimited potential.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060988722
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/06/2004
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 636,212
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Kenneth W. Christian, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist with more than a quarter century of clinical experience. In 1990 he founded the Maximum Potential Project, through which he has helped more than a thousand people — from executives and entrepreneurs to students and others — conquer the problem of underachievement and maximize their potential. A frequent guest on television and radio, he divides his time between Paris, France, and New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Your Own Worst EnemyChapter OneAiming Low

That is men all over. They will aim too low. And achieve what they expect.
— Patrick White, Voss (1957)

... yielding to the small solicitations of circumstance ... is a commoner history of perdition than any single momentous bargain. We are on a perilous margin when we begin to look passively at our future selves, and see our own figures led with dull consent into insipid misdoing and shabby achievement.
— George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871)

It is two days before Christmas, three-thirty in the afternoon. I am being driven across Paris by a personable new acquaintance, Auguste, who has kindly offered his assistance. Having only recently arrived, I am unfamiliar with the city. The apartment I rented must be painted before I can move in, and the painter — who has specified paint from a particular store on the north side of Paris — wants to start painting the day after Christmas. Our mission is to pick up the paint.

Traffic is dense, and it takes more than an hour to leave the heart of Paris. Auguste's lighthearted conversation makes the time pass quickly until we cross a particular intersection. Then I notice that his mood changes abruptly. He says we have missed a turn, and he is not sure how to get back. I ask if I can help by checking a map. He says he took it out of the car and left it somewhere in his house.

Five tense minutes pass. We barely move. Auguste breaks the silence by questioning whether we will make it to the store before it closes. Failing to understand the significance of his remark, I say I am sure we will make it easily. It is justpast four-thirty, and even if the store closes at six, early for Paris, we have nearly an hour and a half.

We continue to creep. Abruptly Auguste sets the hand brake and without a word bounds from the car, threading his way through traffic to a taxi several cars ahead. He returns looking brighter and remarking on how helpful cabbies can be. At the next turn we leave the main flow of traffic in search of a particular street. Before long, however, it is clear that something has gone wrong. Auguste stops at a Metro station to study a display map and regain his bearings; we set out in a new direction. Minutes later, no closer to our destination, perhaps farther away, Auguste acknowledges that we are lost.

He hails a woman walking her dog, asks for help, listens, and nods. We now embark on a random, forty-five-minute course through the back streets of semi-industrial north Paris, following a path that, if diagrammed, would rival Moses wandering in the wilderness. Along the way Auguste consults a man working on his car, pedestrians, two policemen, other motorists, and yet another cab driver. On each occasion he writes nothing down but seems to listen carefully and nods knowingly as all point vigorously in various directions and assure us we are not far from our destination. When Auguste attempts to follow what he remembers of their directions, however, we get no closer. At 5:20 p.m. Auguste stops at a neighborhood bar. After loud debate among the patrons we are handed a complete set of written instructions — not on tablets of stone, but we are hopeful.

We complete the prescribed steps and at 5:35 p.m. find Canaan in the form of the long-sought street. Based on the street numbers, we turn left. In one block the street ends. Fatally, we decide to press on in search of where we hope the street will resume. We never find it. At five minutes before six, Auguste phones the store, explains the situation, and asks whether someone can wait for us. No takers, no directions, no mercy; sorry, holidays, already closing.

Auguste is extravagantly apologetic for the waste of time and for his failure to achieve the objective we set out to accomplish. By the time we get back to my apartment the pre-Christmas afternoon has become a four-and-a-half-hour object lesson in the seductiveness of shortcuts, their potential consequences, and how they can go awry.

The style was familiar. A former patient of mine, Charlie, once told me he would rather call ten times en route to ask for directions than bother carrying a map. Witty, engaging, enthusiastic, and perhaps the most charming man I ever met, Charlie pursued shortcuts with fervor. In the early days of computing Charlie became a self-styled computer expert and fix-it doctor — not by consulting instruction books or tutorials, but by plunging in and banging away when others retreated in bewilderment. With his bold approach, he often found seemingly miraculous cures for computer problems, but he could not say later exactly what he had done or why. His wife and dazzled friends began occasionally to report that, while his efforts had solved some immediate breakdown, their computers never functioned as well again. He experienced frequent software crashes and hard-drive meltdowns and spent massive amounts of downtime repairing or replacing equipment on his own computer, but undaunted, he continued to pursue this strategy.

Auguste's navigational strategy — heading in the right direction, then filling in the details as he went along — had functioned well enough to become his standard approach, despite its inherent flaws and occasional obvious failures. On a previous occasion, for example, Auguste had spontaneously set out to find a particular restaurant that served a regional specialty of which he was fond. Having neither the name nor the address of the restaurant, he drove me and our mutual friends on a zigzagging course in the direction of Champs-de-Mars, looking for a street he was sure he would recognize.

Finding the restaurant, albeit five minutes after the kitchen had closed, only validated Auguste's sense of talent for "seat-of-the-pants" navigation. That the kitchen was not reopened for pilgrims such as us he chalked up to sourpuss rigidity on the part of the restaurateur. Sitting down to a meal elsewhere at midnight, Auguste professed that if it had been his restaurant ...

Your Own Worst Enemy. Copyright (c) by Ken Christian . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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