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The career advantages of being a paranoid person


I've always considered myself a paranoid person. I fear that things are going to go wrong, that people will let me down, that sort of thing. I have trust issues with everything and that makes me, I guess, pretty paranoid. I often say that I don't really believe that the light goes out in my refrigerator when I close the door. How could I know? How could anyone know?

I just looked up this definition for paranoia, and it seems kinda harsh: a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system. It may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality.

OK, so maybe I'm not that bad, and neither are you. But if the last way that anyone would describe you is "happy go lucky" or if you're always worried that everything is going to go wrong, most people would casually call you paranoid. And if you think that you may have a bit of the paranoid in you, don't panic, because you can use it to your career advantage.

I spent all of my adult life as a Graphic Designer. I worried so much that I never double-checked my work, I triple-checked it. Then I checked it again. And again, right up until it went to print. And when errors crept in, I tried to calm my nerves with the thought that nothing could be perfect, especially done against deadlines. I once read that if a Graphic Designer worked at 99% efficiency, then one out of every 100 words would be misspelled. So the level of precision needed to be a Graphic Designer is way high, higher than any normal person would want to do. And I loved it. I was very good at it, and I still am.

I like hanging out with both paranoid people and non-paranoid people. The paranoid ones reassure me that, yes, it's important to back up my files every hour on the hour, and to never eat anything past the expiration date. Non-paranoid people amaze me that they always think that everything is gonna work out fine, they just kick back and figure that other people will do what needs to be done.

No, I won't use the word paranoid anymore (I'm still thinking about that definition!) but let's face it, there are people who just can't seem to relax, and I'm one of them. They may not be spinning around and looking behind them with every step they take, but they're thinking about it. I had a friend in High School who knew that he was paranoid, and would say "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean nobody's following you". I guess he had a point!

I prefer to call myself conscientious. When you ask me to do something, my word is my bond. My mouth don't write no checks my body can't cash! I will avoid setting deadlines because I will immediately start worrying about them. And what will people think of me if I'm late for that lunch date? So while I'm a tiger about getting, and hitting, deadlines professionally, in my personal life, I try to wiggle out of commitments. I'm also extremely organized - I can put my fingers on a file that I created years ago. I have a system, and I don't want anyone to mess with it. I know where my stuff is, and that not only makes me feel good, it has given me a lucrative career as a Graphic Designer all of my life.

One of my favorite quotes come from the motivational speaker Joel Weldon, who says "Find out what everyone else is doing, and then don't do it!" You may be different from other people, but that difference can be your strength.