I actually just wrote about this in my book: How to Reinvent Your Career . . . here is an excerpt:
It happened when I went back to school. I had a wonderful experience getting my doctorate degree, with the exception of one horrible teacher. This guy was a nightmare. He was incredibly slow, which was tough for me to deal with as I am very hyper. He also had an undecipherable syllabus, and nothing he asked for made any sense. I’d never had any problem in any of my other courses in my entire life, so this was very frustrating for me.
I would call him to try and figure out what he wanted, but he would be horrible on the phone. He would say things to me like, “Welcome to the cave. I’m going to eat you up like Jello pudding.” Seriously, I’m not making that up. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He didn’t like that I worked quickly, and wanted to slow me down. I guess because he did things slowly, he thought I should be that way, or I wasn’t putting in the effort he thought I should be. Little did he know that slowing me down would have been the worst thing for me, because when I lose momentum, I’m not nearly as effective. He obviously needed some help with his interpersonal skills. This is interesting to me, because interpersonal skills are a big part of having emotional intelligence (which I will touch on later). We did not get along well on the phone, in fact he frustrated me to no end, however I tried to put up with him.
I remember one conversation I had with him about my intentions for my dissertation. I mentioned that I wanted to do something about looking for what lead to superior sales performance. I’m not sure how I said it, but he immediately responded with something like, “That’s a great idea, to see how emotional intelligence affects sales performance.” I hadn’t said that, in fact I didn’t even know what emotional intelligence was at that point. However, once I looked it up, I decided that was a great way for me to go. For those of you who haven’t heard about emotional intelligence, it’s about having the ability to understand your own emotions, as well as those in others. Interpersonal skills are a big part of that. Ironically, this guy obviously hadn’t beefed up his own emotional intelligence skills, but he did manage to give me a push in a good direction.
I tried to work with him for as long as possible, but eventually we both got totally frustrated with one another and decided it would be best if I changed professors. The next guy was wonderful, and the course was very enjoyable. What is interesting though is that the original professor, whom I couldn’t stand to even talk to and was so glad to get away from, actually changed my course in life to some extent by misinterpreting or reading something into what I’d said on the phone. I barely got to know the guy during the few weeks I was enrolled in his course, and yet our brief contact had a strong impact on where I went with my studies. Not only did I write my dissertation on emotional intelligence, but I’ve also written about it in my books, so I guess he wasn’t so bad after all. I escaped from “the cave” with some helpful information, and I guess I have to thank him for that.