Superstitions and Piseogs

I bet most of you are wondering what the word piseog is and it is pretty tricky to look up. I first encountered it in one of my favorite books, “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White. If you’ve ever watched “The Sword in the Stone” animated movie, you’ve seen the book’s first quarter. It’s a wonderful and tragic telling of the story of King Arthur. I highly recommend it.

Later in the story, a character conducts a ritual to try to influence fate. The specific ritual is gross, and I won’t write it out here, but that ritual is referred to as a piseog, which is defined as a superstition, but I’d go further and say it’s a superstition supported by ritual. A more contemporary example might be tossing salt over your shoulder for luck.

I will share two such piseogs today, one from my personal life and one far more professionally oriented.

Fever Breaking

I used to travel weekly to clients, and every time I’d go to a new client, I would get some sort of flu or ick. Now, if that happens every client, and I see six clients a year, I suddenly run the risk of running out of PTO or vacation. I also didn’t have access to a normal doctor on the road, so I needed to find a way to get through that ick quickly.

My ritual begins when I develop a cough or itchy throat. These two symptoms are a sign that things will only get worse. A mild cold may never develop these symptoms, but it’ll almost always get worse when I get to the cough or throat.

Next, I gather my supplies. I purchase Alka-Seltzer Cold & Flu Nighttime tablets and the large half-gallon of blue or green juice that Naked or Boathouse Farms makes.

My goal for the day is to drink that entire thing of juice. I do this to put a ton of vitamins, nutrients, and sugar into my body to use, and the liquid will help me stay hydrated.

Then, at night, I take my Alka-Seltzer and sleep fully clothed. I wear Socks, pants, a shirt, and sometimes even a sweatshirt, all while also sleeping under the covers.

Now, the Alka-Seltzer is doing two things: first, it is calming my symptoms, and second, it’s making me so tired I can sleep even with how awful and hot I feel sleeping with so many layers. The layers help accelerate whatever fever I might be working on to cook the ick out of me.

At some point in the night, I will wake up. This isn’t a groggy, slow wake-up, but rather an eyes open, fully alert that makes you wonder if you got enough rest or if something is wrong. I take a minute and check how I feel. I will have sweat through my clothes and soaked the bed with sweat, and I will feel 100% normal. No more feeling sick at all. Sometimes, I take a quick walk around the room to see if I feel different moving.

I then strip off the gross layers, move to the other side of the bed and sleep until morning.

I have been using this little ritual for eight years now, and it works consistently.

Evoking the Leader

Now I’ll share the professional piseog.

We all struggle with the version of who we are compared to who we aspire to be. One exercise I went through years ago is now part of a ritual I’ll share. To be clear, I will only share my ritual, not the full exercise.

The ingredient is simply a journal. The first page of that journal has a few words written on it. The writing is large, clear, and centered. These words are words I chose years ago that describe that better version of myself professionally.

The journal serves other purposes, but since I always have it near me when working with clients, this acts as a supremely convenient physical way to conduct my ritual.

I open my journal to the first page, look at the words, and step into that different version of myself.

Since I’ve framed this article as mystical and superstitious, I’ll lean on that a little longer.

This ritual used to take me a lot longer than it does now. My ability to conjure up this better version of myself took slightly longer with variations on this exercise. In the beginning, it would take me 15-20 minutes to pull it off, and at my peak, it would take seconds.

The next issue is how long does this ritual last. It varies based on the intensity at which I exercise this better version. It can last hours or even a full workday if everything is going well. It may only last twenty or thirty minutes if I go through challenging or very intense moments.

I do this ritual because the better version of me is not only who I want to be to my clients, but I sincerely believe I am the right person to be for my chosen work. Many leaders have a similar ritual, often reading something inspiring or meditating.

I’ve also often recommended to leaders who do not have anything to use door handles and door frames as their physical reminder of who they need to be since it is usually when they walk into a meeting that this version of themselves matters the most.

I’m not a doctor, so I don’t recommend my fever-breaking ritual for anyone, but I can recommend that you find a ritual to evoke a better version of yourself. It works, it is powerful, and satisfying.