Ruthless Predator

Part 2 of Stalking the Wolf

As mentioned in my last post, Winston Churchill stands as a towering monument to the asset and liability that typifies bipolar disorder. But the former Prime Minister of England is far from an anomaly of leadership greatness.

In fact, today more than ever, legions of high-functioning artists, educators, musicians, and entrepreneurs testify to the notion that bipolar disorder may often prove more a heavenly gift than demonic curse.

Some of society’s most celebrated personalities claim elite star status as members of the bipolar fraternity – Dan Rather, Mel Gibson, Selena Gomez, Mike Tyson, Terry Bradshaw, Billy Joel, Ken Griffey Jr., Picabo Street, Conor McGregor, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chris Brown, Mariah Carey, Francis Ford-Cappola, Richard Dreyfuss, Mel Gibson, Demi Lovato, Rene Ruso, and Brian Wilson. And those are just the few courageous enough to come out about it.

For me, one man stands head and shoulders above everyone else in the fraternity. For one, because he has been so refreshingly outspoken about his own bipolar status than any of his peers, by far. Secondly, because I so admire his extraordinary career as one of the greatest media industry entrepreneurs in history. His name?

Ted Turner.

It’s no secret that his personal and business lives have at times collided like a spectacular train wreck. Three failed marriages and a disastrous corporate merger that cost him his job, his company, his identity, and billions of dollars, to mention just a few.

Curiously, however, he’s also been one of the most generous philanthropists in modern history, pledging a one-billion-dollar gift to the UN along with millions he donates annually through his Captain Planet Foundation and Turner Endangered Species Fund.

For his part, professionally, Turner has enjoyed more media industry success than anyone on the planet. Turner Broadcasting, Turner Communications, Turner Classic Movies, CNN, Cartoon Network – brilliant broadcast and cable entities which were conceived and launched by the man best known as a household catch phrase for two decades: “The mouth of the south” for his brash and bullying style as owner of the Atlanta Braves. And “Captain Courageous” for his stunning come-from-behind victory of the fabled America’s Cup yacht race in 1977.

Earning those titles did not come without a predator’s instincts — for the kill in business and a take-no-prisoners hubris. Plus a curious concoction of personality quirks – “flamboyant, volatile, charming, witty, handsome, outrageous, disrespectful, uncouth, irreverent, jaunty, courteous and rude,” as The New York Times once described him.

Newsweek Magazine once described Ted as part Mark Twain, Horatio Alger and Errol Flynn. Those iconic stereotypes may be a bit generous in describing this enigmatic man, but Ted would be the very first person to unabashedly declare that his inner bipolar man was at the heart of his most noteworthy achievements.

Harvard Business Review supports the assertion that bipolar has its advantages, but also a ghoulish side.

As history shows, manic-depressive leaders are great in a crisis, refusing to bow to adversity. They rush in where others feared to tread and can inspire others to follow. The downside is that due to their extreme sense of empowerment, energy and optimism, their thinking and judgment can be flawed. Caught up in their grandiosity, they overestimate their capabilities and try to do more than they can handle. The problems are often aggravated by an inability to recognize that their behavior is dysfunctional. While “high,” they rarely have insight into their condition. They like the sense of invulnerability that comes with the “high,” and are reluctant to give that up.

When the inevitable setbacks and disasters happen, they fall into a tailspin of depression.”

In my first two posts I described the seeming omnipotence of mania in stark contrast to the dark underbelly of depression, both of which I’ve personally encountered as brooding bedfellows at times in my life.

What I will endeavor to do in my next and final post of this blog series is offer simple, practical tips and tactics that nearly anyone can use to keep the wolf – my term for manic depression – at bay.

I firmly believe most of us can learn quickly to not only manage our mood swings with a modicum of skill, but take them captive, transition from prey to predator, hunted to hunter, by taking the offensive — stalking and cornering the wolf to keep him at bay.

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