A therapist from a working-class background finds himself on a surprising mid-career journey into the belly of 21st-century capitalism as an executive coach.
My body knew it before my mind caught on. For a long time, I'd been growing antsy and having trouble sitting in my chair for the full hour of therapy. Too often, I watched the hands of the clock tick by in slow motion and thought about how many more clients I still had to see that day. I knew it was time to move on with a midlife career change, but what would I do?
For most of my life, the world of business seemed off-limits to me. I'd grown up in Detroit, the home of the automobile industry and a place where conflict between labor and management was the norm. From my father, I'd absorbed the unquestioned assumption that businesses were run by blustering bullies out to exploit their workers. When I entered the therapy world itself, I encountered much the same belief: that unenlightened materialism and cutthroat competition were the prime forces driving the business world.
But in the late '80s and early '90s, as I began to look at the impact of cultural definitions of masculinity on the men in my practice, I began to see how even business leaders were influenced by broader social forces. Despite being treated as superheroes in the office, they were "lost in space" at home--estranged from their wives and children, struggling with partnerships and friendships strained to the breaking point,…