Mitt Romney’s curious decision to ring in the new year and celebrate his pending swearing in as junior Senator from Utah by essentially pulling a media version of the old “flaming bag o’ poo” caper on the White House doorstep got me to thinking about an exchange I recently had with an old friend, Dr. Keith Ablow, while visiting with him at his base in the coastal town of Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Dr. Ablow, better known as ‘America’s Psychiatrist,’ due to the high profile he’s kept in publishing, punditry and on the speaking circuit over the years, has been an unabashed supporter of President Trump from the get-go, most certainly to the horror of his colleagues (a thing that makes me smile as I envision a Subaru hitting a tree somewhere every time this guy talks about how much he likes the president).
Anyway, Romney’s meltdown called to mind a mention Dr. Ablow had made during our visit about a book idea he was developing with a working title of “Trump Your Life” — essentially life lessons from President Donald Trump that typical Americans everywhere can apply to and hopefully improve their own lives.
I remember being intrigued by the concept of a serious person writing a serious (and positive) take on Trump, particularly in this moment where, let’s be frank, it takes some stones to set out to do.
So thanks to Mittens, I was moved to ring up my friend Dr. Ablow and quiz him a bit more on this concept of his.
KA: Yes, I saw that! Thank you Roger! (laughs). Did you see the documentary about Stone on Netflix? It was pretty great.
CJ: Oh of course I did. Classic! So you and I were together recently and you explained “Trump Your Life” to me. Interesting concept indeed. What do you mean when you say Americans should use the next two years of the Trump administration as a sort of self-help seminar?
KA: So many of us are looking at ways to empower ourselves. Lots of people have learned from attending Tony Robbins seminars. And lots of people have learned from reading The Road Less Traveled or, I hope, my book, Living the Truth. But Americans would do well to watch and listen to Donald J. Trump and take lessons for their own lives from the way he responds to conflict and the way he conducts himself on the world stage. There are at least 30 such lessons that are applicable to the average American, in my view. And if people notice them and then emulate them, they will end up stronger, more self-assured, more successful and — maybe, surprisingly, to some — more loving toward others. A lot of people got a lot out of Trump’s own The Art of the Deal, originally published in 1987, remember…
CJ: I remember it well. Read it when it came out. I was in high school. Donald Trump is far from an Average Joe. Is it really possible to “Trump Your Life” if you really have nothing in common with the guy?
KA: It absolutely is. Trump may be a multibillionaire and the American President, but his psychological approach to the world is easily deciphered. In every relationship in your life, there are lessons to be gleaned. From the way Trump sets goals and deals with risk, adversity, disappointment and, yes, success, the lessons abound.
CJ: What sorts of life lessons are you suggesting Americans should be alert to seeing played out from the president over the remainder of his term?
KA: Here are just a few:
Clearly, Trump believes, as we all should, that we should never believe anyone who tells us we aren’t good enough to work toward any goal we cherish (but we have to really be willing to put in the work). Lots of people told Donald Trump that his pursuit of the Presidency was folly. He announced his candidacy and pursued it doggedly following his own set of rules anyhow. But, then, he didn’t pursue his goal half-heartedly. He spared no effort. He worked tirelessly toward it.
I don’t care if you’re a high school athlete or someone who sells on the road or a shop owner or a stockbroker. Seeing any goal as achievable is a great way to view the world and one’s place in it. But, it isn’t just acknowledging, one time, that that fact guides Trump. People will be able to see him putting that view into play dozens of times over the next two years.
Another life lesson from Trump: After hard-fought battles, whether you win or lose, don’t assume your competitors can’t become your partners. Remember when President Trump reached out to candidates he fiercely debated during the Republican primaries? More than one of them became his allies. Dr. Ben Carson of course became his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Reince Priebus, for crying out loud, was named White House Chief of Staff. Whether we’re talking about politics, or a business, or a family, burning bridges or settling scores may feel satisfying when you do it, but you can easily find yourself alone, on an island. The truth is that most people are pretty forgiving and can set aside some hurt feelings or even very bruised egos to pursue worthy goals (personal or professional or political) with former adversaries. Of course the most famous example of this in American political history is Abe Lincoln and his team of rivals. Hey, I wouldn’t be very good at family and marriage therapy, if I didn’t ascribe to this stuff, right?
CJ: Indeed! What about Trump’s habit of sparring so intensely with so many? Isn’t that something a psychiatrist would caution against emulating?
KA: You know, I really don’t caution against that. Sure, Trump takes a no holds barred posture toward debating issues and pursuing what he thinks is right. But the stakes are pretty damn high: The future of our nation and indeed the free world. Is he really supposed to be careful to be a sweetheart? Actually, that’s one of our lessons from Trump: Let yourself be righteously angry when people take you for a weakling, a fool or a fraud, especially when very important matters hang in the balance.
Was it really so wrong of Donald Trump to debate in such a bare-knuckled way when running for the Presidency? No, it wasn’t. Why? Because it was essential to see whether other candidates had it in them to take him on, in a rough and tumble way. The world’s a dangerous place full of raw contests of many kinds. Do we really want a leader who seems to shrink away to nothing in the face of some choice words? I don’t think so. Tends not to work all that well, as we’ve seen from many elected leaders in our lifetimes. And I don’t think people should be afraid to mix it up, sometimes, with others, either. If you’re competing for a job, compete. If you want to save your marriage, then stop at nothing to save it (well, I mean… stop at stalking, OK?). Say what you think and feel — for real. Don’t candy coat.
CJ: So you are not one of so many — particularly in your profession — who think he should settle down / dial it back a little?
KA: No way. America is at a crossroads. The world is at a crossroads. There are those who would allow the U.S. to fade to nothingness and who would help it along the way by obliterating its borders and diminishing its standing around the world. This is no time for timidity. And it is no time to argue about the personality of our duly elected president. If I had a brain tumor, I would take the surgeon with the most skill over the best bedside manner. Well, America’s got pathology just as bad. And Trump is the brash, determined, expert Doc that the times call for. I’m not sure poetry is in order. But passion sure is.
CJ: You said to me earlier that “Trumping Your Life” is the antidote to the psychological plague of our time. Help me understand that a little better.
KA: The psychological plague of our time is fakery and Facebook and fake news and artificial intelligence (which is a bit of an oxymoron). Too many of us are pretenders, living our lives through social media and sterilizing our thoughts and feelings to ones that are politically correct. That kills the soul of a person and it can kill the soul of a nation. A real man, with real, righteous anger who is only himself and no one else — a true American original — is the answer to what ails us. And to the extent that we can learn from his genuineness, his unscripted-ness, his brashness and boldness, we will all be better off. There’s an epidemic of playing video games and opting out of real-life competitions that matter. Trumping Your Life is all about putting down the joy sticks and picking up real, meaningful challenges — and winning at them.
CJ: What do you make of the anger and division in our society today? I’m primarily asking against a political backdrop, but it seems like more and more, people are just clobbering each other on social media, even in the streets about any little thing. We even see talk in some states about secession, and certainly a willingness to defy the federal government on issues like illegal immigration. Do you see a path to peace and social stability, so to speak, or does it just get worse?
KA: The real issue, in my mind, is the way that technology is short-circuiting humanity and human empathy. Real life is being eclipsed by Facebook life, and SecondLife.com, Twitter life, and YouTube. Too many people are behaving as though they are starring in their own made-for-TV movies, wherein their behavior doesn’t matter, because all that matters is the inherent drama and the attention they receive. It’s going to be a very, very rough ride, in that sense. There isn’t an easy answer because people are addicted to technology and social media, and there’s no cure in sight. What’s more they don’t want to quit. Ultimately, technology will foster worse and worse conflict between human beings, until we limit it or reframe it in some way or adjust to it or tire of it.
Marshall McLuhan saw the same thing happening with television. He saw folks being absorbed into it and losing themselves and then fighting against that homogenizing effect by getting into conflicts — including war.
I fear we could see that again.
I argue that the likes of Donald J. Trump bring hope and example. As a burger-eating, imperfect, impassioned father and husband, who is comfortable with power and thinks the truth comes out when people argue their hearts out, Trump is just what the doctor ordered. Americans would be wise to use the next two years to Trump their own lives.
“America’s Psychiatrist” Dr. Keith Ablow is a Psychiatrist, inventor, serial entrepreneur, author, speaker & television host. He is based in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Christian Josi is a veteran of international center-right/libertarian politics, and a frequent columnist for a variety of publications. He is the Founder and Managing Director of C. Josi & Company, a global communications resource firm based in Virginia Beach and Washington.