Too Cold in July
The morning was already too hot. I was on my way into work. It was July in the mid 1990’s. I despised my heavy winter coat laying on the seat next to me. I realized I had slid to the lowest rung that a computer programmer could fear.
I had been assigned for the past several months to work on IBM mainframe assembly
code on a project that had shipped a decade earlier. I had to use the terminal in the 58 degree temperature controlled windowless mainframe room to do my programming. The company valued the project so little that they didn’t even provide terminal emulation software that would allow me to debug the code from a cubicle. I had to take breaks to warm my hands and get the feeling back in them.
I was finding ever more difficult to show up in the morning. I had destroyed my career and future.
No one would want to hire me after working on such an assignment… and so went my thoughts. On one of my ever increasing breaks from the refrigerated room, Tim Draper pulled me aside.
Tim was one of my co-workers. I didn’t know him well, but as it turned out, he was one of the best friends I have ever had. Tim, on that fateful day, pulled me into his room. He told me that he was seeing in me some of the things that he was learning to see in himself, with the help of a counselor. He told me that he suffered from clinical depression, and he thought I might be too. Boy… was he right! Tim told me about some books that his counselor was having him read. I felt like a drowning man being tossed a life preserver… and Tim’s actions did save my life. My thoughts had begun the slippery slide into self destruction.
I almost ran out the door to go to a book store to buy the books he suggested. And so began my journey into CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), neural-plasticity, and positive psychology. I learned that there were deeper levels of depression that I could still sink into… but that knowledge gave me hope. I immersed myself in CBT and used those tools to pull myself to a higher plane… and the timing could not have been better.
Three weeks after Tim talked with me, my supervisor asked me to join him in his office. I was being laid-off (and would never see Tim Draper again). The company had outsourced my work to India. Instead of being despondent, I was filled with anticipation for the future.
I was excited to see what would come. I had no idea how I would make it… but I knew that with my new CBT tool-set I could face the world and be productive.
Do You Know Someone Like the Old Joe Spencer?
The reason I share my experience is that you likely know someone that is struggling with depression. One in ten men suffer, and nearly one in four women are suffering. You can help them by stepping out of your comfort zone and offer the two books listed below.
If you are the one suffering, think of me as your Tim Draper. Read Learned Optimism as a starter. It’s not a new book anymore, so it will be cheap and easy to find on Amazon. Then read The Happiness Advantage (this one’s much newer). Both these books use some of the tools of CBT without digging into the gory details of the first book I read. Seligman had just started creating the field of Positive Psychology back then.
If you find these tools helpful to you, thank Tim Draper, and then become a Tim Draper for your friends and coworkers.