The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft & Spending

       September 2008 e-Newsletter

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Last chance! Fall 2008 Conference on Compulsive Theft & Spending takes place Saturday September 27, 2008 in Detroit! Space is limited! Early Bird discount extended to September 1st! $100! See for information and registration. Look for a full review of the conference in next month's e-Newsletter!

Mr. Shulman's new book
Bought Out and $pent! Recovery from Compulsive $hopping and $pending is available now through Amazon or Mr. Shulman's websites.


"Failure and Success are Imposters"


Terrence Daryl Shulman


How do we measure success or failure? Are there even clear lines of demarcation?

I recently came back from a family vacation. I drove 4 and a half hours north with my younger brother and 6 year-old nephew to visit for a few days with my Mom and Stepdad at their summer condo. I remember feeling anxious about the trip; it was the first time in as long as I could remember that the five of us would be together for such an extended period of time. I badly needed some R&R and wondered if we'd stumble upon the many potential tripwires or landmines familiar to most families which could turn a vacation into discomforting angst in a heartbeat. I remember telling myself before the trip: just breathe. I remember telling myself as I drove: just relax, don't try to have too many in-depth discussions; just get along--if you do that, the trip will be a success. In one sense, I set the bar pretty low; in another, it was still a high feat to accomplish.

I'm happy to say I feel the trip was a success. I met my stated goal or intention: there were a few close calls but no knock-down arguments or disagreements. Further, there were no car accidents or speeding tickets, the weather was nice, and I found some down time for myself at points throughout the weekend. Certainly, it could have gone worse. Yes, in my fantasy, my nephew could have been a little more patient (or maybe I could have been a little more patient?) and my family could have had one of those made-for-TV heart-to-heart talks where the past was healed forever and my brother, especially, would come to some lasting clarity and commitment about what he needs to do to get his life on track.

I really do think things went well because I kept my hopes, intentions, and expectations modest.

In the middle of my trip, I did prod myself to have a heart-to-heart with my Stepdad about having some tough emotional times this past July and into the first week of August. I shared how my business had been off, how I was starting to feel burned out, how I felt disappointed by the relatively low interest in the Fall Conference I'm putting on and, how, after 6 years of marriage to a wonderful partner, it still seemed to take so much work to keep the garden green.

My Stepdad listened, paused, and said: "It sounds like you're feeling like a failure." His words struck me. I knew I'd been feeling disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness and fear but he took my feelings to a whole different level.

I realized the essence of my "misery" could be traced to a core belief that I was somehow a failure or, at least, failing: failing to  be the perfect husband, failing as a therapist and businessperson, failing as a conference promoter/organizer. I'd been feeling I haven't been living up to or achieving my goals or reaching my expectations. In my own mind, my goals and expectations never seem too high or lofty--what's wrong with high standards--but maybe they are. I have struggled with perfectionism and been called an "overachiever." By the way, if you ever ask an overachiever if he or she thinks he's an overachiever, you're likely going to hear the answer "no." It's the same as the denial of an addict.

My Stepdad and I continued or conversation. He asked: "Do you remember what I once told you about failure and success?" "No," I confessed. "Failure and success are imposters," he said.
What? What does that mean? I looked up the word "imposter" in the dictionary. One definition reads: "One who assumes a false identity or title for the purpose of deception." Hmmm... I can certainly see a pattern in my life of pretending and deceiving: pretending to be perfect, never angry, never petty, always honest, always giving, always selfless. That hasn't worked out so well. And I've been increasingly aware over the last few years that every goal I set and every achievement I reach is loaded with an undercurrent of proving I am good enough. In short, proving I'm a success and not a failure.

Perhaps, what we call success or call failure isn't necessarily the truth about who we are or what is. One person's success is another's failure and one person's failure is another success. It reminds me of Shakespeare's famous quote: "Nothing's good or bad, only thinking makes it so."

In one sense, my recent family vacation up north was neither failure nor success. It was what it was. I chose to think of it as a success and, I suppose, if it hadn't worked out the way I wanted, I would have thought of the weekend, or of myself, as a failure. In one sense, whatever is happening in our lives at any moment is neither failure nor success. It is what it is. Yes, it's very Buddhist, I know. It's like the story of the man who neither gets excited nor disappointed by life's events because events--and feelings--are so fleeting.

All I can say is this: though I still get upset when things don't go my way and I still have fantasies about things going just as I want them to, I feel like I'm making progress in my awareness of my patterns and in catching myself more quickly and coming back to acceptance of what is.

This success/failure/winning/losing theme echoes widely.

With the Olympics just ended, if ever there were a forum or venue to highlight so-called stories of success and failure, this was it. From Michael Phelps' 8 gold medals to the drops of the batons in the relay races, I was most struck by the weightlifter who left his silver medal on the award-presentation mat because anything less than a gold was, in his words, "a failure." Wow, how sad, I thought. I remember watching the end of the men's marathon as even those who finished without winning a medal smiled and raised their arms triumphantly--just for finishing the race!

Also, here in the U.S. (and likely elsewhere) we're in the midst of another intense election cycle. Politics has become increasingly about success or failure. Either you win or lose and, often, politicians try to win at all costs. Can we "win the battle but lose the war"? Who defines success or failure? The politician? The voters? The media?

Competition can bring out the best in us--propelling us to stretch ourselves and to extend our beliefs about what is possible. Competition can, however, have a darker side: when we constantly compare ourselves to others and feel we are either falling short (inferior/failure) or feeling we are superior (superior/success).

Perhaps, we can keep an eye on our own progress as the best indicator of whether we are moving forward or not. But even then, this whole notion of growth is tricky.

Abraham Maslow, the noted psychologist, formulated the hierarchy of human needs pyramid to suggest that there are potential (and necessary?) stages of human development contingent upon our meeting of basic needs in an order: biological/survival, safety/protection, belonging/love, esteem/achievement, and self-actualization/fulfillment.

Spiritual, religious, and recovery-minded people often aspire to grow, heal, and to at least taste a bit of their potential. We just need to be careful about how we define ourselves and how we chase success or dread failure. We are all doing our best on some level. Again, it seems to be a dance between setting our sights too low and too high. Of course, one can set one's goals as high as one wants and it would be great if a sense of failure never entered the equation.

That so many people are just struggling to survive while others are living with such abundance of wealth and opportunities feels heart-breaking.

Yet, life goes on... We've all heard the famous quote: "90% of success is just showing up." It's that 10% that's the tricky part!


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Last chance to register! Fall 2008 Conference on Compulsive Theft & Spending takes place Saturday September 27, 2008 in Detroit! Space is limited! See our website for more information/registration. Also, Mr. Shulman's new book Bought Out and $pent! Recovery from Compulsive $hopping and $pending is available now through Amazon or Mr. Shulman's websites.


August 6--Mr. Shulman was interviewed on Kansas City, Kansas radio on compulsive shopping and shoplifting.

August 7--Mr. Shulman was interviewed by National Public Radio on the "News and Notes" program for a segment on addictions, highlighting shopping and shoplifting.

August 27--Mr. Shulman was interviewed for an article on employee theft in the Vancouver, British Columbia based "TED" Magazine.

Mr. Shulman was interviewed for an article on compulsive shopping in the Decatur, Illinois Herald and Review newspaper.

Mr. Shulman assisted with CNN on a story about how the faltering economy has led to more people shoplifting out of basic need and necessity.

Mr. Shulman assisted with a German-based television segment on addictions--including compulsive theft and spending.

Mr. Shulman assisted with an Australia-based television segment on addictions--including compulsive theft and spending.


Mr. Shulman is working with Women's Entertainment TV's "Secret Lives of Women" series on a compulsive shopping and spending segment.

Mr. Shulman is assisting with a documentary on excess called "American Dream: The Movie"

Mr. Shulman will be featured in a 2009 book on recovery in the USA called "America Anonymous" by Benoit-Denizen Lewis.

Mr. Shulman is working with MSNBC on a series on addiction--including shoplifting addiction to be aired in September 2008.

Mr. Shulman is working with A & E TV's "Intervention" show on a shoplifting addiction segment.

Mr. Shulman is scheduled to be interviewed on Metro-Detroit's TV News program 'Street Beat" to be aired on September 21, 2008. He will be discussing his work with compulsive theft and spending.


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Contact The Shulman Center

Terrence Shulman
P.O. Box 250008
Franklin, Michigan 48025


Call (248) 358-8508 for free consulation!

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Products for Purchase--SALE!

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Livonia, Michigan Financial Manager's Conference 10/19/06. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Louisville, Kentucky Business in Industry Conference 9/19/07. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's two books "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction & Recovery" and "Biting The Hand That Feeds: The Employee Theft Epidemic... New Perspectives, New Solutions" are availabe for $25.00 each (includes shipping/handling) or both for $45.00 (includes shipping/handling).

Mr. Shulman's 90 minute DVD Power Point presentation for young people: "Theft and Dishonesty Awareness Program." $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 33 minute psycho-educational DVD: "The Disease of Something for Nothing: Shoplifting and Employee Theft." $50.00

First International Conference on Theft Addictions & Disorders 4 DVD set (13 Hours). Recorded 10/05. $125.00


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© 2007 The Shulman Center