Are people musturbating in your agency? You’ll go blind.

abcdeAlbert Ellis the world-famous psychologist coined the phrase ‘musturbation’. And I reckon many agency people are regularly doing just that at their desks today.

Musturbation causes myopia and in severe cases blindness although it can be cured.

Musturbation, according to Ellis is the cause of anxiety and stress in general as well as other nasty mental infliction humans give to themselves. Ellis is crystal clear, you cause your disturbances, so maybe you should consider un-doing them.

So what is musturbation?  In short it is an irrational belief.  A belief that things ‘must’ go your way and if they don’t it’s an utter catastrophe.  So if you are saying I must, I must… or they must, they must… then you are musturbating. Dirty! Very Dirty! (We must win this pitch, anyone ever said that?)

And if it stresses you out you’re a serial musturbator and as Ellis states that is “unethical, for when you allow yourself to become emotionally disturbed you are being unfair or unjust – to yourself.”

Musturbation leads in modern working life to stress, giving-upitis and procrastination.  The sequence according to Ellis style thinking runs a little like this.  I must not humiliate myself, I mustn’t ever be embarrassed,  I must be liked,  I must do well, I must win this or that, I must not make mistakes, I must not make a fool of myself, I must not lose.  Get it?

When this sort of pressure is piled on a few things may happen.  The person may not start on the task at hand at all or constantly avoid it or delegate it out to a scape goat.  The potential failure is way too much to handle for the musturbator. (This would never happen in an agency would it?)

When people musturbate a failing experience becomes personal rather than just an event not going your way. Life, right? You failed doesn’t mean you are a failure.  There are lots of factors and many many of them external to you.

The other thing that happens mentally to aid procrastination is that people over ‘awfulize’.

So they believe if something goes wrong it will be a catastrophe rather than just bad.  This is the distinction that Ellis was keen to talk with people about. He invented a form of therapy called RET (Rational Emotional Therapy), which is now superseded by CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy).

He believed that an activated event (A) would lead to one having beliefs, both rational and irrational about that event (B) and there would then be (C) consequence.  To overcome these belief you have to (D) dispute those beliefs that were irrational and then arrive at (E) an effective rational philosophy.  He believed it wasn’t (A) that caused (C) but (B) your beliefs about the event. (see diagram at the top of this post)

Ellis believed that if we were more rational and honest with ourselves and others we could live more fulfilling lives.  If instead of saying we ‘must’, replace with ‘we’d like to’ or even ‘really, really, really like to’.

Or ‘we’d prefer something went our way’ or ‘prefer something didn’t happen’. But consider it may.  Shit happens right. Life is like that.  Life can be a hassle. But it’s not the end of the world and it’s not a catastrophe. A sense of perspective is required.

Ellis used to get his clients to think and talk about the absolute worse thing that could happen to them. Then he’d ask them to rationally talk about how their lives could in fact go on and still be fulfilling and fun.

His clients had been over catastrophising the event(s) due to musturbation. Things must not got bad for me, as if they’re at the centre of the universe.  Ellis hated this self obsession. “Who says you are important?” …”Who says things can’t go wrong for you?”…”Why must people like you?”…”Where does it say people must accept you?”…”Who told you that life was easy, where is that written, prove it to me?”

He’d ask – “Where is your evidence for these mighty claims.’ Or he’d ask,  “Show me the rules of the universe.”  Isn’t it more rational to say you’d like people to like you or you’d prefer things not to go belly up?  It’d be nice if my dreams come true and so on. And what if they don’t? Can’t you start again?  So what if you lost some money or someone said something horrid behind your back or cheated you in some way.  How bad is it really? Bad, right. Annoying. But not a disaster.

All humans are fallible so things will go wrong, you might not like it and it is maybe upsetting, in fact it should be.  But it’s not the end of the world and you probably learned something from the experience too.  You don’t control the universe.  In fact you can’t control much at all but you can control (change) your own thoughts and therefore your beliefs.

Your thoughts and beliefs will determine how you feel.  Ellis wanted people to be more rational about how they viewed the annoying events in their lives. And realised other people can be right arseholes but hey ho, they are allowed to be. In fact we all are arseholes sometimes.  The problem is one may believe they must not be or how dare they and get over emotional i.e. rage, stressed, I can’t go on, depressed etc.

Ellis would get his clients to deliberately humiliate themselves to show them it wasn’t so bad…..go do a public speech and feel the failure, mess it up see what happens.  Not much in fact.  Go talk with people you are scared of, see what happens, you get the idea.

So what has this got to do with agencies?

Firstly, if my ears don’t deceive me agency’s clients can sometimes be a little, how can I put this carefully ….annoying, irritating, badly organised, pressuring and so on.  Agency people  get stressed about this – i.e. by thinking they must not be like this – how dare they, they must respect me more, they should or must respect my time too, they must not be on my case all the time and so on…that is musturbation.  Has anyone banged these ones out in your office? Or in the bar after work?

Another one that I cum (couldn’t resist) across is we must win this pitch.  Like failure isn’t even an option.  When really they could say, “We’d love to win, we hope we win it, we will do our best to win it, why not.”  But we must….there in is musturbation.

What about when prospects ask, “Why should we work with you?”.Well Ellis points out that ‘should’ is the cousin of ‘must’.  Well they don’t have to do they? How many agencies are there? Thousands, right? Why should they?

However,  I expect by now many new business people are banging on about creativity being equally important as strategy here in our integrated agency blah, blah, blah…..
In fact that isn’t rational is it? What is the truthful answer to that question?

When we get that question shouldn’t we answer  – “Maybe you should and maybe you shouldn’t, what is it you are looking for?” or “Good question – How are you going to know if our agency is a good fit for you or not?”  Isn’t that what we could be saying back?  Wouldn’t it be better to have rational adult to adult conversation with prospects?  A great way to differentiate yourself is the truth. Remember that thing the truth? Truth sells you know.

What about when clients or prospects ask us about ROI or potential future changes in sales.  A tricky one right? So what’s the truth?  Well the truth is what has your agency done in the past.

If you are like most (fallible) agencies you have done really well with some campaigns and you have fucked up too. Truth. Painful truth. Truth – nevertheless.

So tell them that you have smashed it out of the park for this brand and that brand although that doesn’t mean things always go our way, there have been times when thing weren’t always that smooth.  Truth. Rational.

What is a prospect more likely to believe, an agency that always says they over achieve or an agency that has done good work and sometimes shit happens (truth)?  This will also help you avoid taking on

a client that expects miracles.  Miracles that you promised.  So now you both believe that something or some result must happen. Mutual musturbation.  I am sure that never happened in your agency.

Look for your irrational beliefs in your head and that the agency you work for holds.  Look for words like must and should in your thought.  Then dispute them mentally or write them down.  Why must we, why should they? Where is the evidence?

Look for clients and prospects asking you for irrational requests. Then either understand they are being irrational and they are allowed to be because people are fallible and don’t get upset because of it. Or if you are brave enough rationally discuss with them about the situation / request. You might find yourself telling the God’s honest truth, with answers like “I don’t know” or “Nobody really knows.”

Agency life maybe much happier if we were more rational about what may or may not happen, even if we work hard.  Cracks appear when management musturbate and employees eventually join in the charade. If we don’t stop this filth we’ll get no work done at all.

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