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The Career Disappointers


This book is written as a guide to breaking your appointment with disappointment on the career front. Accordingly, I am most anxious that it not add to your litany of disappointments by itself disappointing you. So I must ask you not to bring to this book a set of false expectations. Perhaps you have already gone through a veritable forest of ‘self-help’ books? If so, then how about we try and make this your last, OK?

One of the great joys of being a career coach is that you get to work with clients from all walks of life.

Amidst all the variables of age, income, status, class, nationality and temperament (not to mention hairstyle), however, I have noticed a quite amazing regularity when it comes to the errors which hold the Group of self-disappointing clients back.

I have come to believe that these errors can be boiled down to just nine core types. I call them The Disappointers:

Before we go into what each of these Disappointers is, let’s get one thing straight. Contrary to what the above variations on the phrase ‘alter ego’ might suggest, a Disappointer is not like some mind-altering drug or hippy state of consciousness. A Disappointers is actually a lot less exotic than that - but every bit as potent.

A Disappointer does exactly what it says on the tin: it leads to disappointing outcomes, again and again and again. It is an unhelpful temptation, tendency or role into which we habitually fall and which alters our expectations, behaviour and destiny. Because of the influence of one or more of these often unconscious saboteurs, we second-guess our naturally intelligent response to life’s challenges, thus blocking our instinctive problem-solving capacity.


The result? We ‘somehow’ keep getting stuck as a result of the choices we make.


It is the core theory of this book that members of the 80% Group will never break their appointment with disappointment unless they:

  1. become conscious of the ways in which one, some or all of the Nine Disappointers may be sabotaging their progress
  2. learn to disenthrall themselves from their dominant Disappointers so that they can be free to draw on their and others’ influence in more benign ways.

So what are these Nine Disappointers?, I hear you ask. By way of introduction, let’s watch each in action as it goes about a simple task – driving a car…*


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To the right is a Wheel of Disappointment. With nothing else to go on but the brief impression you have just got from reading the nine sketches above, rank the influence of each Disappointer on you as you are here and now, at this point in your life. We’re going to use a simple ranking scale of 1 (strongest influence) to 9 (least strong influence). Each Disappointer should receive one number between 1 and 9, and no number is to be used twice. Thus, for example, if you instinctively experienced strongest self-recognition as you read the Walter Ego scenario above, put a ‘1’ in the Walter Ego segment of the circle. If, on the contrary, you found yourself identifying with Walter Ego behaviour less than with any of the other behaviours, put a ‘9’ in that segment. And so on.

Be honest with yourself as you do this quick exercise. Above all, go with your gut. Don’t try to second-guess your answers too carefully. I find that most people have a pretty good spontaneous idea of how the key Disappointers rank up for them. You will probably find it easy enough to identify your top two and bottom two, but pretty difficult to get the order right around the middle. That’s fine and normal, just do the best you can without spending more than two minutes on the exercise. It’s not an exam!

Nor should you worry that you are pigeonholing yourself by ranking up your Disappointers. The Nine Disappointers, rather like Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats or his Six Frames For Thinking About Information,* are merely a useful shorthand for certain tendencies or styles. These manifest themselves to widely varying degrees in different individuals. I would never say that ‘X is a Walter Ego’, merely that s/he is prone to Walter Ego thinking or behaviour. If X is alerted to this circumstance, there is no good reason why s/he cannot choose to drop the pattern and try something else on for size.

Download this exercise: If you would like to have a printed version of this exercise to work on in your own time, download and print the exercise - click here to open in Adobe PDF (Adobe Reader is required: get it free here)


* See Edward de Bono, Six Thinking Hats. An essential guide to clearer thinking in business management from the creator of Lateral Thinking (Harmondsworth: Viking, 1986) and Six Frames For Thinking About Information (London: Vermilion, 2008).

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