(Note: this article was written only days before the election.)
As a psychiatrist I specialize in forensic profiling and in addition the psychology of success. I work with people from all walks of life including highly successful business people and athletes who learn that navigating the waters of success can be far trickier than they had ever imagined.
You would think that by now Donald Trump has success mastered. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is now in a whole new ballgame attempting almost the impossible—to move from unbelievable success as a builder to becoming a successful politician and president of the United States in 16 months. He’s like a highly tuned world-class golfer who suddenly decides he’s going to become a classical violinist. Nobody in modern political history has ever attempted what he has and come close to pulling it off.
Secretly he’s showing classic signs of success blindspots we can call retreats from success. He’s violating classic principles of success.
Amidst his surprising political success his self-defeating behavior puzzles many. It shouldn’t if we understood the unconscious pressure on him. In summary he show numerous sigs of limiting his success: his numerous overaggressive tweets, unnecessarily alienating Republicans who don’t support him, calling people names too often and especially defending himself when he’s attacked to the point he’s distracted. All this prevents him from playing to his significant strengths.
Trump recently in an interview with Rush Limbaugh at the end of October admitted to a cardinal sin—ignoring his advisors and political wisdom. He explained he wasn’t narcissistic but had to respond to attacks on him or his family instead of message discipline his advisors counselled. He’s demonstrating a conscious rationalization but his unconscious super-intelligence which reads him far better deep down— seeing through his unconscious denial— confessed he was retreating from his best.
(We have discovered an unconscious super-intel that reads us deep down in the blink of an eye and tries to help us past blindspots by communicating in key “thou protests too much” denials and key “log in my neighbors eye” projections along with other important ideas.)
First Trump was confessing his success blindspot to Limbaugh in essence by saying “my advisors don’t understand what I must do.” He thinks he must do what his conscious mind thinks best but unconsciously he’s confessing the log in his eye in a classic projection: he doesn’t understand. His inner secret advisor and super-intel is telling him this. He’s violating a fundamental rule of success not staying disciplined and on message (i.e. confront Hillary relentlessly and stay away from unimportant personal matters– you have limited time in this game. The clock is running out.)
He demonstrated another unconscious super-intel confession of success blindness as his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told New York Magazine on October 29, 2016. She confronted him with the magnitude of the election and the tremendous expectations of his supporters after he said, “I think we’ll win, and if not, that’s okay too.” Conway got angry telling him how much people believed in him, to look at his rallies—and he spent more on his dry cleaning bill than most supporters made. But read through Trump’s retreat, “I’m okay with losing. I’m thinking of not winning.” A partial retreat for sure but a crucial one.
Looking back Conway missed a key stress of success—Trump’s wealth. He had had “more success than the law allows.” Deep down successful people can see it like that and out of an unconscious need to share they can back off and let someone else be successful.
Trump has demonstrated another subconscious reason for a success blindspot—the relentless attacks when you’re on top especially in a presidential election get old.
Trump has recently commented that in the past he’s normally had positive press and could handle negative press also, but he had never experienced such brutal personal attacks. As Vince Lombardi famously said, “tiredness can make cowards of us all”, meaning we can let up at key moments. And personal attacks make you more tired than you know. Trump has incredible fortitude but he’s a human being with limitations.
One other unique almost overpowering stress to him is that he’s in a new game for the first time. Ballplayers talk about how much they learn from the first game in a season to the second. Sometimes losing that first game reminds you how much you hate losing, or how hard it was to win and you could have put out more effort. Invariably people new to a particular arena can do better with experience, the great teacher. Later Trump will look back at things he could have done better but if he appreciated the success pressure on him now he could take a step further. Maybe it would be the difference in the election in a very close contest.
That’s where coaches and advisors come in. They see your blindspots because they’ve seen them before in the battle with other candidates and they can spot a weakness, a subconscious retreat such as: not playing to your strengths. Good coaches can see further that players. Trump should know that as a CEO that he sees the goal better than his team. But new game, new day, and the tendency is to keep playing the familiar game of ‘I’m the coach’ instead of ‘I’m the player.’
These are just a few of the pressures of success. Surely history teaches us very successful people can have a problem handling success. Look at previous presidents: Richard Nixon did the stupid thing of covering up an insignificant Republican break-in to Democratic headquarters. Lying about it instead of apologizing he lost his presidency. George Bush the elder helped cost himself the 1992 presidency when he went back on his “read my lips I won’t raise taxes” policy.
So what can Trump do about it? Awareness, awareness, awareness. He doesn’t have time for in-depth success psychotherapy but sometimes just a new awareness of the real issue can make a difference.
The great Donald Trump has to learn that sometimes you stay great by listening because you are a limited human being. Sometime less is more: listen to the coach and play to your strengths. Don’t be a rookie and try to do too much.
And somebody please tell him about the unconscious retreat from success. Of course he’s trying hard to win but the little things can make a difference. Grasping success pressure can be one of those.
Trump politically has demonstrated he’s a good closer. Often counted out after crucial mistakes he has proved the political pundits wrong with one comeback after another.
Now he’s been presented a crucial gift as the panel of political experts (LeBoutillier, Cadell and Schoen) on Fox News “Political Insiders” show informed him on October 30th. With the new FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails being reopened, a Hillary Clinton presidency could throw the country into a constitutional crisis. Would Obama pardon her? Would she pardon herself? And all the while Hillary remains subject to an indictment regarding the Clinton Foundation and her misuse of it for monetary gain.
The astute panel of two Democrats and one Republican saw that Trump alone can make the case to the nation that such a Clinton presidency would throw the nation into turmoil no one can imagine. That Trump must present himself as a reasonable presidential alternative who can prevent this chaos giving the people a clear cut choice: peace or turmoil and how he would work with both sides of the aisle to steer America’s ship.
LeBoutillier, the Republican, recommended Trump with his wealth buy thirty minutes of time on national television and address the nation with a healing message to prevent the havoc. He insisted Trump can best make that case of the clear cut difference for the American people. Such a move would be bold and if Trump could also confine himself to message discipline this could swing the election.
Truly Trump could be a good closer if he played to his strength and in this case take his very best shot.