Written in 2019
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 and find validation than by trying to impress random strangers with one’s knowledge and professional accomplishments, right? (Can you say LinkedIn boys and girls?) LOL
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 seem to 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. Oh, puhleeeze!
In my arrogant state, this made me as happy as a pig in poo: I had lots of places to play.
In other words, I had lots of places to get my ego stroked AND rack up a bunch of billable hours for my employers to boot. (You consultant-types know what I mean, so don’t even act like you don’t. You know who you are.)
Add Umbrella, Water & Shake Gently
Good boogly-woogly, as I may have said in other posts, I considered myself to be the Mary Poppins of practice management. I’d gracefully 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. Again, I say …. Oh puhleeze! .
Oops, I almost forgot. 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 when we can all vomit together—myself included.
The Train(er) Gets Off Track
La-di-da! I landed herself an engagement to train a number of client practices on the newest version 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 very serious training sessions. I learned of this by quite 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. She summarized by saying that if I hadn’t, she certainly thought that I’d missed my calling.
Insert the sudden sound effect of a phonograph needle making that harsh scratching sound and the irritating sound of fingernails scraping on blackboard.
Overhearing this, several other trainees spoke up, agreeing with her. They offered that they hoped that I’d be the trainer doing all of their training sessions because [quote]: “You’re such a hoot! You make it so easy to learn.”
Hmpfffff … Cough …. Cough
Well, upon hearing those words, I bristled. I stood up—ramrod straight! Deep in thought, I turned my head up and raised my chin slightly to the right as I proudly began stroking the lapels of my black designer-label business suit jacket. [Talk about ego! All I was missing was the red ‘power tie’ to complete the unspoken message that I saw myself as the cat’s pajamas.]
Oh. No. She. Didn’t! I said to myself as I thought about what had just been said about me. 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.
I ever planned to be taken seriously and/or given the respect that I was just certain that I was entitled to as a health care consultant 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
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 interruptions and bleed-through from my raucous funny side, I consistently made tangible improvement in performance metrics and physician revenue for client practices.
With that, 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 week 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 to someone who, as it turns out, always had my back. Someone who has been my closest friend in life.
Deep inside, I didn’t really 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. Even worse, I consented to the restraining and straightjacketing 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 those 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 value and strategic advantage that having a healthy sense of humor can provide in times of stress.
Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
She used her very last minutes to verbalize something that she knew to be true—something she knew that I was too self-absorbed to openly admit at the time. She understood that deep down inside, I had always [secretly] enjoyed her pesky ‘interruptions’. She knew that 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
She gave me an unforgettable glance of farewell—all the while quickly wiggling her mouth back in an effort to see if she could loosen the tape edges. One side began pulling away from the skin at the right corner of her mouth. She quickly clenched her jaws and thrust her tongue through to finish the job from the inside.
By this time she was being wheeled down the hallway backward. With her mouth now free, she winked at me, and in her best Austrian/Arnold Scwartznegger Terminator accent yelled back at me: “I’ll be baaaack …”