When a story like the Tiger Woods infidelity saga breaks, the water cooler conversation often goes like this: Why on earth do these guys do this kind of thing?
I spoke with Doug Hirschorn, author of the forthcoming Eight Ways to Great and a performance coach who uses sports psychology to consult with high-powered Wall Street titans, about why high-performing men make crazy decisions (or at least decisions that look crazy).
“Always looking for that next great thing.”
Dr. Doug’s theory boils down to adrenaline: “The thing to understand about high performers like Tiger Woods or A-Rod or Kobe Bryant is that their normal way of operating is at a very high level of success. So for them to experience a truly remarkable performance happens more infrequently for the rest of us, so for Tiger Woods it might happen one tournament in five.”
According to Dr. Doug, for these elite performers, taking risks with one’s marriage and personal life can provide a challenge they find increasingly difficult to get on the job (or on the green): “Because he’s so public and because cameras are following him around… it’s that much more exciting to sleep with a cocktail waitress who he knows can ruin his reputation with one phone call. It gives him that adrenaline shot, and it lasts longer than that one shot because he knows that woman is out there. The excitement is knowing that you take it to the edge; that at any one moment it could end.”
So of course, I had to ask: If you’re married to one of these high performers, what can you do about it?
Not many people are married to those high performers, points out Dr. Doug. But if you are, he thinks “you have to accept both sides of that individual, and understand that the same thing you love that person for is the probably going to be the same thing you’re going to hate that person for…. What’s naïve is to be shocked and surprised.”
“People want black-and-white on this, but it’s complicated…[Tiger] has an adrenaline problem. But it’s not about sex or power. It’s about a great golfer figuring out what to do to get that rush when he gets off the golf course.”
It’s the analysis, stupid
Okay, so here’s one guy who clearly didn’t figure it out in time. But how can high achievers keep their lives in balance? “The lesson about high-profile men is: it’s not about medicating them or putting them in a cage; it’s about getting them to look at their life the same way they would their career and make the same smart choices…. The problem is they don’t do the proper self-analysis in the moment. Engage in a discussion on a level that he understands and relates to. Have him assess the relationship in that respect.”
I’m not so sure I entirely buy into the adrenaline theory: Are high performers really unable to pay attention to their own wedding vows? But hey, it’s one theory. What do you think?
For more on affairs:
After the affair
Affairs: Not just for men