Why You Should Strive To Be ‘Perfectly Fine’

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John M. O’Connor Forbes Councils Member

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John M. O’Connor (Career Pro Inc.) is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina.

A man talking to a colleague during a break

How do people handle sickness, setbacks and the inevitable losses that we all face? It intrigues me in my role in the world of talent, from coaching to career setups and setbacks.

A source of inspiration, questions and concerns for me is my son Colin, who is now in his mid-twenties. He is the closest study to me and informs my many interactions with the adults I deal with professionally. Allow me to tell you about his condition, which does not define him but may inform you.

“Chromosome 15q11.2-13.1 duplication syndrome (dup15q syndrome) is a clinically identifiable syndrome which results from duplications of the portion of 15q11.2-13.1 chromosome (also referred to as the Prader-Willi/Angelman critical region (PWACR). These duplications most commonly occur in one of two forms. These include an extra isodicentric 15 chromosome, abbreviated idic(15), or an interstitial duplication 15, abbreviated int dup(15).

Dup15q syndrome is characterized by hypotonia and gross and fine motor delays, variable intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, and epilepsy including infantile spasms.” You can read more here.

John, why do you put all this in the Forbes article? Here is one reason. I want you to get to know him and get to know me through him for the brief moment we have together in this short article. Another? It’s why, in some important ways, I have been fortunate enough for some to call me a success. When I do it right, I see you the way he does.

With his “intellectual disability” and his “autism spectrum disorder” here is how he sees you, how I should see you when I am not jaded by my intellect, by your title, by the front we put up:

  • You are a person.
  • You are a human being.
  • You are not your title, your income, your position, your status, your things.
  • You are judged only by how you treat others in every situation.
  • You are whoever you want to be, however you want to be addressed.

Do you know how difficult it is to remove the biases from our eyes and view people in as pure a form as my son does? He’s not a savant, of course, not a distinguished, learned scholar; however, his so-called disability can, for some, disguise his many gifts. To others, who can get beyond the potentially negative labels like the “r-word,” as we say, or hearing things like “autistic son,” we begin to see the beauty and potential he sees in you—that stripped-down, authentic person behind many positive, but also many negative, facades.

The bottom line here? The secret to just about anything I might call an accomplishment in my professional life? Here it is. If I can see, coach, lead and influence people in a positive way, it’s because I have learned to see through his eyes. If—and this is a big if, even for me—I can remove the biases, the judgment, all those things, I can then see you as the person you are and how you want to be, especially if that is the better and best version of you.

I can see you and how you could be your better and best self. As a coach and influencer of others, my simple message is that I want you to try to strive to be that better boss, that better employee, that better person.

Here are some ways you can be more like Colin in the approach to any new contact or relationship:

• Remove biases to see the person. That means you listen to, watch people and try to understand their point of view first, whether you agree with it or not. It means if they talk about something that you didn’t think they would, you still listen. Some call it active listening, but this is something you need to work on. You are listening to their pains, needs and wants.

• Remember every person has value. This doesn’t mean you need to spend time with everybody but it does mean that no matter who you meet, no matter if it’s apparent or buried, they have special gifts, a special value. View them this way no matter the rough exterior, the way they dress or what they have (status, money, title).

• Bring an uplifting spirit. Finally, you don’t have to blurt out things within a minute of meeting someone like “I love you,” like Colin, but if you can have an agape type of “I love you” mantra, a sacrificial loving view of someone to open communication, it goes a long way. We may start that way in life, but then life tends to make us more jaded. Be less jaded and more like Colin. I will try. You can, too.

Why then should you strive to be “perfectly fine”? It’s another of many Colin mysteries. His diagnosis of dup15q presents sometimes in seizures. For instance, seizures send you into an even deeper subconscious level. As he comes out of them, I ensure he doesn’t fall, trip or get hurt. It can take minutes, and it’s hard to watch his eyes roll in back of his head, but thankfully he comes out of them. I ask him minutes later as he returns to consciousness, “Colin, how are you doing?”

He says often: “I am perfectly fine.” It’s brought me to tears sometimes. I say in my mind “No, you are not.” I think he’s almost died from times like these. Then, because of him, I snap out of it. There I go again. I am jaded. I live in my too much knowledge, my awareness of “his condition.” He doesn’t. He’s not his diagnosis. You are not your negative situation right now, the bad things that have happened to you, the things people believe about you that are not true. He’s in the moment. He’s fine. So are you.

You are perfectly fine, or you will be. Be like Colin.

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John M. O'Connor

John M. O’Connor

John M. O’Connor (Career Pro Inc.) is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina. Read John M. O’Connor’s full executive profile here.