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Episode 52 – Career Impotence (aka I don’t know what to do next)

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Episode 52 - Career Impotence (aka I don't know what to do next)

Dive into a thought-provoking concept I’ve coined as “Career Impotence.” It might raise eyebrows, but sometimes a little jolt is essential to recognize what’s right before us.

Join me in dissecting the drama that unfolds when one experiences career impotence, a condition more widespread than acknowledged. Impotence, synonymous with the inability to take effective action, becomes “Career Impotence” when it stifles progress in your professional journey. We’re exploring the perils of this phenomenon, understanding its origins, and unveiling strategies to reignite your professional spark. I

f you find yourself ensnared in the tangles of uncertainty and career confusion, this episode is your beacon of clarity. Tune in, and let’s breathe life back into your career mojo.

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Disclaimer: Some of the content and information mentioned in this episode might no longer be applicable. This includes references to specific links, courses, or programs. As a result, all the links mentioned will now redirect you to our current website. There, you’ll find up-to-date information, resources, and exciting new content to support your journey. We appreciate your understanding and unwavering support.

Hey there, my friends. Mel Savage here from The Career Reset. As always, I’m here to help you achieve your career goals faster, and easier, with a lot less drama. We can all use a lot less drama in our lives these days. Hallelujah to that. 

Last week, I mentioned that I wanted to talk about another little terminology that I came up with on a topic that I deal with a lot with clients. And this terminology is called Career impotence. I know it sounds super dramatic – career impotence. Yes, it does sound very provocative and dramatic. And I just finished saying, we need a little less drama. But I did that on purpose because I really want to highlight with this dramatic terminology. I really want to highlight the drama that people have when they experience what I’m calling career impotence. Now you’re thinking, all right, what is it? Well, I’m going to get into that in this podcast. 

But the first thing I want to tell you is a ton of people have it. And when they have it, they don’t think of it as such a big deal. Like they think it’s a big deal, but not enough to do something about it. But it does keep them stuck. The thing is, even though when you haven’t, and you don’t want to do something about it, if I turned around and said to you, look, you have career impotence, it would sound really serious. You’d be like, What? I do not. 

You have career impotence. You might be offended by it. So that’s why I chose kind of provocative terminology for this “affliction” because I want to shock people into realizing it is an affliction. It is something that you have. Now, some people might not think it’s a problem, and that’s fine. But usually, the people I talk to think it’s a problem, they just don’t know what to do about it. So if you don’t like the results that you’re getting from career impotence, today, I’m going to talk to you about how to fix that and how to deal with that. 

I’m going to get into detail about what I really mean by career impotence. I’m going to talk about what the symptoms are if you have it. And of course, as always, I’m going to tell you what you can do about it. What’s the medicine? What’s the cure for this affliction? We could all use a cure right now. 

All right, let’s get back to the career epidemic. I love this title so much. It’s probably just me, but I love it. So I want to start by just defining the word “impotence” because there’s a lot of stigma around that word. So I want to make sure that we define it because a lot of it is associated with men’s erectile dysfunction. Some people think a lot of shame around the word “impotence” because it does mean something’s wrong with you. 

In fact, I was worried about actually using that word because I thought Facebook might shut me down like they have to shut people down for using provocative words sometimes. We’ll see. We don’t just seem to stop people down for fake propaganda or hate speech, but they like to pick on little old random people who use, provocative words, but we will see what happens. 

So here’s the definition of impotence, just the word impotence. It means unable to take effective action, helpless, or powerless. So what does that mean when it comes to your career? It means you are scared to take action. It means you are giving your power away. It means you’re stuck in a situation that doesn’t serve you but you’re paralyzed to do anything about it. You’re powerless, you’re helpless, you’re not taking effective action. You’re stuck in I don’t know. Career impotence is being stuck in I don’t know

When you are saying I don’t know, there are probably two major buckets of I don’t know that you’re dealing with. I don’t know what to do and I don’t know what’s going to make me happy. There are all different forms of that and specificities around that that are specific, obviously, to your situation. I don’t know what to do and I don’t know what’s going to make me happy. So not only do I not take effective action because I don’t know, I don’t take any action. And it shows up like, I don’t know what to do next, or I don’t know what to do about the situation. Or I should look for another job or deal with this problem? I don’t like where I am right now but I don’t know what would make me happy. I don’t like my boss, but I don’t know the kind of boss that would make me happy.

You’re stuck in this uncertainty and confusion. And you’re terrified to make a mistake, and potentially make things worse because you’re not really sure what’s going to make things better. And I want to talk about three main thoughts in I don’t know that are keeping you impotent. The first thought is, I don’t know if the decision will work out. That’s just a thought that maybe you don’t know that you’re having in your head that’s keeping you stuck. It’s this fear of not being able to predict the future.

You might be saying, like, I don’t know if it’s going to work. I don’t know what makes me happy. But really what you’re thinking is, I don’t know if the decision will work out. And that’s just the fear of not being able to create the future. You’re fearing something. You’re fighting reality. Almost no one that I know of can predict the future. And because you can’t, you’re staying stuck. 

The other thought you’re having is, I don’t know if I can handle it. So one is just a fear of not knowing it’s going to happen. Another one is a lack of self-belief that you can figure things out as you go, and you just don’t believe that you can handle whatever is going to be thrown at you. 

Then the third thought is, I don’t know what the problem is, or what the solution is. So this is you just avoiding the emotion. I don’t know where the problem is, I don’t know what the solution is, I can’t find out. You’re just avoiding digging in and facing what’s going on with you. This is almost the worst one because at least if you know that what you’re fearing is the future or you’re fearing your ability to handle things, that’s something that you can understand as an obstacle in order to deal with it. 

If you’re just avoiding even looking at it at all, that is a really tough place to be, and certainly, you’re going to need a coach who’s going to fight you and make you really peel the onion and really get underneath it. What I really want you to know is this – the I don’t know thing is a powerless move. It is a powerless move. Every time you say it is a powerless move. You are giving your power away. It is a phrase that ruins lives, and it ruins careers. 

I think that I don’t know are the three most dangerous words you can ever use. All right. I know that’s a very strong statement. But when it comes to your life, saying I don’t know, is just giving away all your power. It’s going to keep you stuck. It’s a phrase that is a sign that you are indulging in confusion. Indulging in confusion, that’s the terminology I want you to think about. That you are indulging in confusion. What do I mean by that? It’s an indulgence. Confusion is an indulgence. Confusion is actually a con. It’s a con. 

I don’t mean like a pro and a con. I mean, it’s a trick. Confusion is a con. It’s a con that your brain is playing on you. If you’ve listened to my podcasts, talking about this for the last couple of weeks, it comes back to how your survival brain works. I call it your survival brain. It’s your cerebellum. It’s the part of your brain that is primitive. It’s the first evolution of our brain. It’s what the people call, your lizard brain. It’s the brain that all animals have. I call it survival because the purpose of your cerebellum is to keep you alive. It’s to help you survive. What’s the motivation? 

There’s a motivational triad. There are three parts that your brain thinks about if you will, that are focused on survival. Your brain helps you avoid pain, seek pleasure, and conserve energy. That’s how you’d like to stay alive all these years. And that’s what all animals do. They try to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and conserve energy. Now, here’s the thing. If you are experiencing career impotence, if you are stuck in uncertainty and confusion, that’s a painful place to be. 

So you might ask, Wait a second. If my brain’s job is to avoid pain, why is it keeping me stuck in this pain? Why are you telling me that my brain is trying to con me to stay confused? Because that’s painful and I thought that my brain was trying to avoid pain. That’s an excellent question. I’m so glad you asked it. Because there are levels to your pain. Your brain is trading off levels of pain. The more your brain knows what to expect in terms of how it feels in certain situations, what’s going to happen, and the pain it expects to feel when it knows what to expect, it’s less scared. 

It feels comfortable in a certain level of pain because it’s used to it. But when your brain doesn’t know what’s going to happen, it wants to protect you from any potential outcome. Whenever your brain doesn’t know what’s going to happen, it thinks of danger, and it wants to protect you from that outcome. It doesn’t matter if the outcome is good or bad. It’s the same. 

A couple of podcasts ago, I talked about success intolerance, which is another way of talking about self-sabotage. Success intolerance is kind of the same thing. Your brain doesn’t know what’s going to happen. And even though what you’re trying to achieve is actually going to be a great thing for you, or you think it’s a great thing because your brain doesn’t know how it’s going to feel when you get there, it doesn’t want you to go there. So your brain likes to stay with what it’s comfortable with. It’s trading off the pain. It knows the pain that might show up if you make a “wrong decision.” 

So your brain is causing you to feel confused because it’s trying to avoid the feeling of fear of failure, loneliness sadness, or whatever might come up if you make the wrong decision. It’s just avoiding what-ifs, basically. So the confusion keeps you stuck. And that confusion is a con. And I’m calling it an indulgence. This emotion of confusion, I’m calling it an indulgence because it’s easier to feel confused than to risk any other emotion as far as your brain is concerned. It’s indulging in confusion because that’s easier for your brain than the what-if. 

Now that you know you’re being conned by your primitive animalistic brain, the question you want to ask yourself is, do you want to let your primitive brain drive the bus? Do you want to let your primitive brain run the show run your career or run how you make decisions? Because you have this really amazing other part of your brain that humans are blessed with, which is your prefrontal cortex. But there are lots of amazing parts of your brain. 

Believe me, I know neuroscientists, and if you are one, you’re going to be extremely underwhelmed by how we talk about the brain. But in its simplest, simplest form, your prefrontal cortex is what I call your strategic brain. So you have your survival brain, and you have your strategic brain. And your prefrontal cortex or your strategic brain is the brain that plans and solves problems. It’s the brain that’s working when you decide to take risks, or put yourself out there and be logical and weigh the pros and cons of a situation. It’s your brain that reasons. 

This is the brain you’re using when you’re working, like when you’re at work, or you’re making decisions at work, when you’re writing plans, when you’re up there presenting, or when you’re doing your good job. Your strategic brain is driving the bus in those situations. This is the brain that you actually want to activate. This is the brain you want driving your life, driving the bus, and making the decisions. So how do you activate this brain in the moments where your survival brain has taken over? 

Because I can go down a rabbit hole on this, but your survival brain works much faster than your strategic brain. It’s like Monica from Friends. Like when some teacher asks a question, and Monica’s hand goes flying up. I know this is a really weird analogy. But like, Monica is a survival brain. And so it takes a minute for your strategic brain to kick in. But when you notice that your survival brain is feeding you, fear-based emotions are conning you with confusion, you can manually trigger, if you will, your survival brain.

How do you do that? So like I said, first thing, you got to recognize the con. Confusion, I don’t know is the biggest con that makes you powerless. So the minute you’re saying, I don’t know what to do. That’s a sign. The minute you say, What if I make a mistake? That’s a sign that your brain is feeding you emotions to keep you stuck. And that’s when you want to activate your strategic brain. And the best way to do that is to ask it an empowering question. If you want to activate your strategic brain, you have to ask it a question. And the question I always ask my clients is, what if you did know? 

Let’s play around for a bit. Let’s just pretend. What if you did know what to do, what would it look like? If you could do anything, what would it look like? Let’s play around, let’s just pretend, let’s try it. It sort of takes the pressure off that this is real. And then you get a chance to be creative. And when we start to get creative, we start to trigger your strategic brain. That’s when you realize that you actually do know what to do. The problem isn’t that you don’t know what to do. the problem is that you’re just freakin scared to do it. 

And that’s excellent news. Because now you at least know what to do. Now you can go to the next step, and figure out how to do it and how to not be scared to do it. But the first step is knowing what you want to do. So you can get even more specific. You don’t have to just say, what if you did know, you could say, what if I did know how to start liking my boss better? What if I did want to appreciate my boss, what would I do? What if I did know what I wanted to do or what would make me happy? What if I did know how to handle this difficult situation at work, what would I do? What if I did know that I wanted to leave this job? What if I had made that decision, how would I go about it? 

Just asking your brain, kind of reframing I don’t know into what if I did know, what would you do? That’s you activating a brain to answer the question. Allow your brain to answer the question. That is you coming up with the first steps of the plan. Now, a lot of people think decisions are scary. Even if you did know, you answered the question what if I did know and you came up with a plan, is that you making a decision? For a lot of people, decisions are scary, but I want you to know that they don’t have to be. They don’t have to be scary, because there’s a secret about decisions that I want you to know. 

Here’s how you can make the “right decision” every single time. Are you ready? You’re going to love this one. What determines if a decision is good or bad is actually not what happens after the fact. It’s how you think about what happens after the fact. Any decision can be a good decision if you want it to be a good decision. You get to decide how you think about everything. This is the most amazing news. This goes back to all the cognitive behavioral work that I’ve been talking about during this podcast, how it applies to your career, this is the work I do with my clients. 

The basic thing is, that every problem you have is a thought problem. It’s a problem because you’re thinking of it like a problem. You get to control what you think about things. And so you get to control if you think a decision was good or bad, no matter what happens after. I’m not talking about lying to yourself, like, Oh, well. that’s just like lying to myself and avoiding reality. No, you get to decide what your reality is. If you decide you want to make it sound, or be bad, and focus on what’s missing, then that sets you. It’s fine. It’s your decision. But you don’t have to make that decision. You get to decide what your reality looks like. 

It’s like, if you made a decision, let’s just say something simple. Let’s say you put up your hand in a meeting and you say something, and it’s an idea that’s rejected in front of everyone in the meeting. You get to decide how you think about that, and how you react to that. If you’re someone who shuts down and feels humiliated and afterward leaves the meeting, and is like, Oh, this is terrible. My boss hates me. They might think I’m stupid, and you complain to your friends and your colleagues about it, that’s one way to handle that situation. That’s a reality that you’re creating for yourself. 

I always think about that SNL character, that young guy Pete Davidson. Nothing fazes him. And so, it could be like it doesn’t faze you. It could be like, You don’t like that idea, let me try another one. Every person gets to decide how they handle every situation. You create your reality. I’ll give you another example. When I left corporate, and I wasn’t going to do a nine-to-five thing anymore like, in terms of going through Office, it was before everybody was working from home, that was always a trendsetter. I decided that we would move to our lake house and we would sell our home in the city. 

We bought a little condo there that we went out and we moved up north to Lake Huron. It was kind of a huge risk of sorts if you want to think about it that way. We moved to a town of 12,000 people versus living in a town that had basically, 4 million people, a radius of 4 million people around us. Now where I live now, the closest town is 30 minutes away by driving, and the closest town only has 22,000 people. If I want to go to a town with a significant population and a mall or something like that when we could go to malls again, I have to drive like two hours. 

So Amazon is my best friend. There’s no sushi in my town. There’s no good Indian restaurant in my town. The only sushi in my town is at the grocery store, which by the way, is not a thing. Grocery store sushi is not a thing. I just want you to be aware of that. And so I could sit here all day and say, Oh, no, I can’t go clothes shopping. I can’t have sushi. I miss people, I miss the hustle and bustle, I miss Indian food, I miss food delivery. It was like one pizza place that delivers here. I can’t go to SoulCycle anymore, I can’t go to the theater, all these things. I could focus on that. 

Or I could say, You know what, I love my town. I made really good friends here. I walked the beach every day. My dogs love it. Every time I leave the house, I see someone I know. I don’t have to commute in the snow anymore. I hike in the woods every weekend, rain or shine. I appreciate nature more. I get Indian and sushi when I visit my friends in the city, which I will do again when COVID is over. So I look at it like I have the best of both worlds. I can go to the city in a heartbeat. And then I get to come up here and be in the country on the beach. So it’s kind of awesome. But I get to decide what I focus on. And when obstacles come up, I just deal with them. 

So any decision is a good decision based on how you think about it after the fact. That’s all. That’s it. You don’t have to be afraid because you get to control what happens after this decision is made. You get to create a reality after the decision is made. So you never need to be in I don’t know again. The only time you should find yourself saying I don’t know is maybe in response to a question someone asks you where you don’t actually have the information. 

And even in that case, I would suggest you add the word ‘yet.’ Instead of saying I don’t know, you might say, I don’t know, yet. Or you can say instead of I don’t know, yet, you can say, I’m going to find out. You don’t actually have to say I don’t know ever again. You can literally strike I don’t know from your repertoire. That is the solution to career impotence. Never say I don’t know again. Always ask yourself, How could I know? What would I do if I did know?

We are almost at the end where we don’t have to be teachers and homeschoolers and work from home and life is almost going to be back to normal soon, fingers crossed. So let’s get ready. Let’s put our plans together. Let me share with you my top career-accelerating strategies to help you get from maybe stalled out and disconnected from a career to really thriving as the unstoppable success that you deserve to be. 

That’s all for this week, my friends. So the big takeaway I want you to take from this is strike I don’t know from your vocabulary. You don’t know those words anymore. And instead, I want you to ask yourself, What if you did know what would you do? 

Have fun with that this week, I can’t wait to hear what comes up for you. And I will see you next week. Bye for now.





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I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.

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I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.
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