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Pekarsky & Co. December 2016 Newsletter – Stumped By Trump

October 31, 2018

Dear Friends and Colleagues,


According to Wikipedia, The Imposter Phenomenon refers to high achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. “Despite external evidence of their competence,” goes the theory “those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”


I have a slight twist on that which I call the Reverse Imposter Phenomenon, or, fittingly, R.I.P.


My Reverse Imposter Phenomenon refers to high achieving under-achieving individuals marked by an inability ability to internalize externalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being firm belief they will never be exposed as a fraud. Despite external evidence of their incompetence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are brilliant frauds and completely do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is absolutely not dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.


Which brings us to Wednesday November 9th, the morning after the US Presidential election, when a TV installer named Tom dropped by my house to install a new TV and take away the old one.  “What’s the matter with the TV?” he enquired of the defunct upstairs television.  “It has vertical black and white lines on it” I explained.  “When the blacks and the whites are lined up that way, you got yourself a bad rectifier…can’t be fixed,” he offered, humourlessly. “You may want to check the downstairs TV, too,” I wisecracked, “last night it showed Donald Trump as President.” He stared at me coldly for a moment and said, “Sounds like that’s the only the TV in your house that’s working”.  And so began my journey as an educated liberal elite in a confusing new world.


Though I’m the furthest thing from a capital “L” liberal in my personal persuasions, particularly under the current management, and have always fancied myself a knowledgeable student of politics (I am, after all, a Political Science undergraduate), my crash course in Intro to New Normal 101 continued less than an hour after Tom the TV guy’s tutorial. I sent this article, which I naively prefaced as ‘brilliant’ to a fellow educated, elite acquaintance. The article’s basic premise: Trump’s win is the end of the American Republic, as we know it. His reply? “The end of the Republic that the elite 1% desire. This is great for America and even better for democracy everywhere.” Say what? And in the days and weeks since, over many respectful but heated discussions around our dining room table; at client coffees and perhaps a few adult beverages with friends and neighbours, I’ve been forced to temper my assumptions as I learn just how many people, fellow 1%’rs no less, are tolerating, even rooting for, President Trump.


I’m not there. But I am doing a lot of soul searching. Thus far, I’ve deduced my thinking down to (a) mistakenly thinking that my view of the world, in general, and Donald Trump, in particular, was the majority view; (b) acknowledging that perhaps I do bring a liberal bias to the way I read and listen to news which (c) may be more liberally biased than I appreciated; (d) not over-estimating the intellect of the American voter but under-estimating the incredibly strong urge among that populace to toss out the status quo; (e) realizing this actually isn’t about tax returns or border walls or pussycats or anything other than finding a more-than-willing and cunningly able conduit for a nation’s anger. An anger (f) I didn’t realize was there in the first place and (g) one so ripe for the taking by the right person, at the right time. And maybe that’s why I’m an out of touch elite 1%r and maybe that’s why this is so great for democracy and maybe that’s why I was so wrong. Maybe President Trump isn’t about Donald Trump the man, but rather Donald Trump, the idea. How else can you explain a billionaire as the champion of the working class? Or the 53% of white women who voted for a man who calls women pigs? Or the 29% of Latinos who voted for a man who called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers?


Yet, I struggle, for he is a mammal, not a concept. And I have to ask: Why him?  Why did the perfect proxy for so many millions of people have to be so thoroughly imperfect?  Perhaps it is those very imperfections that make him the perfect choice for so many. He needed to be just flawed enough to be relatable, just rich enough to self-fund a campaign, just smart enough to win a nomination, just devious enough to know when and how and to whom to lie and just electable enough to be, well, elected.  Were he too much of any of these singular attributes, it wouldn’t have worked.


And then I had a thought. We recently completed a very tricky senior level search for a large company based in Calgary. What made it so difficult was our client’s requirement that the successful candidate not be too good. On the heels of large-scale layoffs of hundreds of long-time employees and heading into a prolonged period of economic decline, bringing in too heavy a candidate, too polished, too executive would have been seen as tone deaf to the remaining rank and file who were spared the latest drop of the guillotine. The challenge for us, of course, is that we are hard-wired to find the singularly best possible person for the role, not for the circumstance. Recommending someone just good enough, but not the very best, is antithetical to all that we believe. But what I learned through that process is that sometimes good enough is good enough, not for sake of expediency or borne of laziness but because the times and the situation call for it.


Maybe that’s what happened with Trump. A traditional, graceful, articulate nominee would have been too shiny to too many and never would have mobilized the vast unpolished vote. Of course, the problem with hiring the best candidate for the times and not the best candidate for the job is that times change but the job doesn’t. And when opportunism trumps qualification (pun intended) bad things happen. Or, as the President-elect might say in his silver-tongued prose, huge, very, really, bad things.


Sadly, unlike my new upstairs TV, the blacks and the whites in Donald’s America are lined up irreparably and whatever else Trump may be good at, I fear he, too, is a bad rectifier which, in the words of Tom the TV guy, can’t be fixed.


But if this election has taught me anything at all, it’s that nothing is black and white.