Our personal and professional success and the stability of our lives, businesses and communities, depends on our ability to tame our demons. When we succeed, we become good leaders and parents, build great businesses and unleash our creativity. When we fail, we descend into anger, conflict, helplessness and self-destruction.
In Ancient Greece, Socrates’ daimon was an inner voice, a part of himself, that guided his actions. While the Greek daimon was benevolent, in the centuries that followed demons turned nasty and the cure for demonic possession was exorcism, a casting out of the demonic presence rather than assimilating its wisdom.
This dual face of the demon, defined by the Marriam Webster dictionary both as “a source or agent of evil, harm, distress, or ruin” and as “one who has exceptional enthusiasm, drive, or effectiveness”, captures the thin line between success and failure, creativity and destruction.
When we exorcise our demons, they become more dangerous. By casting them out, they become our Other and they overwhelm us: the alcoholic who willingly trades his life for another drink, the traumatised child who carries the trauma into adulthood, the serial entrepreneur consumed by his business, the politician who divides the world into poles of good and evil, are all possessed by impulses they can’t control.
Being great at anything means facing down your demons, owning their divisive, destructive behaviour and turning it into positive action. It can be done. Our future depends on it.
I’ve helped many people and organisations, from high-performing individuals to global corporations, tame their demons. I’ve also contributed to more than forty programmes including the BBC’s Addicted to Pleasure with Brain Cox, Secrets of the Superbrands and many documentaries about performers and power including Amy Winehouse, Eminem, Whitney Houston, George Michael, John Lennon Freddie Mercury, Kurt Cobain, Prince and Harvey Weinstein.
My latest book, 65 Roses and a Trunki, is the ghost-written autobiography of entrepreneur Rob Law, who defied enormous odds and a life-threatening illness to achieve success. It’s a remarkable, life-affirming story that’s published by Wiley on May 21st and you can buy it here.
Above all, I’m privileged to work with business leaders, innovators, artists and digital entrepreneurs who teach me, every day, how it takes grit, self-control, courage and humility to achieve extraordinary outcomes.