“When my Nemesis becomes my Ally”

by Didier Marlier on Friday May 25th, 2012

Wikipedia describes the Nemesis as “the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the Gods). The Greeks personified vengeful fate as a remorseless goddess: the goddess of revenge.” When we work with the concept of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (as per taught by David Pearl), we encourage people to engage with their Nemesis at a constructive level.

The Nemesis is an obstacle on our way. It is something relating to our deepest fear. It may be linked to rejection, competence, affection. It may be ingrained far back into our childhood or youth. It may be some sort of a trauma from a recent past. The way we have dealt with it was to send it in exile and forget about it. But it is never completely forgotten and continues, in the hidden, to dictate some of our actions.

Let me share a personal story to illustrate the point. In my adolescence, the financial demise of my father was lived as a trauma. It deeply impacted my family, profoundly affected my courageous mother and my two sisters. My father paid with his life his fight to keep us afloat and as immune as possible from the dramatic loss of everything he had built during his lifetime. A symbol stayed stuck in my emotional memory: Months before it all went wrong, he had bought a magnificent chalet in the Swiss Alps where we lived. And although I knew this wasn’t the cause of my father’s dramatic ending, I always refused to buy a house as an adult.

That was until the day my wife rightly challenged me not to punish our family (our children and her) with “unresolved issues of my past”. So with a wonderful sense of timing, I reluctantly agreed to buy a house in… 2007. And a year later, History seemed to repeat itself: I was the same age as my father when his financial troubles started, caused by a far less dramatic crisis than the one of 2008. My Nemesis (to end up like my father and having my own wife and children enduring what we had gone through ourselves) was slowly but surely emerging from the deep Abyss where I thought I had confined it forever.

So I decided that it was time to look at my Nemesis right in the eyes and deal with it. It wasn’t going to be the shadow preventing me from sleeping and living well. It was going to become the fuel to my engine during the crisis and get my family, my team and myself out of it. We sold everything we had, I worked like mad to finish my book, start this blog, renew the Enablers Network and be ready for the pick up which took place for us in 2010. My Nemesis has since disappeared. We have bought a new house and the Enablers Network is in a far stronger position than in 2007.

Last night (I am writing this on Sunday 20th), I was watching the final of the Champion’s League, Bayern vs Chelsea. And, I obviously was not the only one in this ordeal…

Since long, it is not so much the game itself which fascinates me but some of the actors involved. I always liked Ivory Coast player, Didier Drogba. So I kept an eye on him. He had an appointment, last night, with his Nemesis!

All seemed to go wrong for Chelsea when, 7 minutes before the end, the Bayern scored 1-0. At that very moment, Drogba’s Nemesis kicked in: “I was in shamble!” did he admit after the game. Drogba seemed pursued by bad fate: he had never managed to win a final in his long career. However an ally helped him confront his Nemesis: One of the team youngsters challenged him “You must believe, you must believe!” shouted Juan Mata! Two minutes before the final whistle blow, Drogba honored his reputation of savior and equalized, forcing Bayern to extra time. End of the story?

The Romans have a saying, which serves as a warning to all heroes: The Tarpean Rock (from which traitors were thrown to their death) lays nearby the Capitol (where victorious heroes were acclaimed by the population)! Five minutes into the extra time, Drogba committed a foul play and the referee showed the penalty shot… All was lost by the man who had just saved his team… From Hero to Villain in seven minutes… At that time, Drogba’s Nemesis was back and reminding him that he’d always failed just before the finish line…

Miraculously, his fellow goal tender managed to avoid the worse and the game went for penalty shoot-out… I was observing Didier Drogba. The shoot-out started… When his turn finally came, he was the last player to present himself. The situation was clear: if he scored, his team would win its first European title ever. If he failed… A painful memory certainly reinforced his Nemesis: In February this year, when he was the captain of Ivory Coast national team, he lost the penalty shoot which would have made them champions and his team subsequently lost the final. But obviously, in spite of all the drama and pressure, Didier Drogba chose to engage with his Nemesis and use it as a motivation, as a way to transcend destiny. Aged 34, this probably was his last opportunity to win the Cup. He went to the ball, with quiet and focus, took a short two steps back and scored…

How does this relate to us business people? Many of us carry wounds, disappointments, broken dreams, sometimes traumas from the past. Those probably shape-up some of our important decisions, if not our personality. Being proud of those wounds, facing our Nemesis and seizing it as an opportunity to grow will liberate us from self limiting orthodoxies and beliefs. It will help us achieve a new, gigantic step towards the best we can be. We owe it to ourselves and our people. It worked wonders for Mr. Drogba…

On my way to Belo Horizonte  (Brazil)… Life is extremely busy till mid July…

Didier

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