Recruiting Your Demons – Secret of Success by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג - Illustrated by Darwin's Bug Collection - Are You Phobic? -
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Recruiting Your Demons – Secret of Success


Artwork: Darwin's Bug Collection - Are You Phobic?

I'm also a scientist, musician, inventor and lecturer. During the daytime I am co-founder of Ourboox. In the evening I Read More
  • Joined Oct 2013
  • Published Books 1526

We all have demons. Demons from within. Demons from without. The Demons from within can be our fears, our phobias, our genetics, our bodies, our minds. The Demons from without can be parents, relatives, teachers, friends (and foes), rivals, critics, practically anyone. Sometimes they are obvious to just ourselves. Sometimes everyone can see them.  Sometimes we do not acknowledge them. Sometimes we have no choice but to confront them.




In our lives we have several choices. We can succumb to them. We can fend them off. We can stare them down and recruit them. Successful people are often demon recruiters.




Eight years ago, when Dr. Alon Amit, Hagai Cohen and I planned our new academic course, “The DNA of Success” at HIT (more on the course another time), we decided to analyze the lives and careers of some forty outstanding people from around the world. What were their secrets? When can our students glean from their remarkable success stories?



  1. Andy Warhol
  2. Leo Rothstein
  3. Vincent Van Gogh
  4. Winston Churchill
  5. Charles Darwin
  6. Marie Curie
  7. Emilia Earhart
  8. Roni Ross
  9. Oprah Winfrey
  10. Steve Jobs
  11. John Lennon
  12. Yechiel Eckstein
  13. David Rosenberg
  14. Lior Manor
  15. Randy Pausch
  16. Walt Disney
  17. Frank Lloyd Wright
  18. Wernher von Braun
  19. Marissa Mayer
  20. Barack H. Obama
  21. Franz Kafka
  22. Rodriguez (Sugarman)
  23. Angela Merkel
  24. Henry Ford
  25. Isaac Newton
  26. Indira Gandhi
  27. Coco Chanel
  28. Mao Zedong
  29. Golda Meir
  30. Genrich Altshuller
  31. Leonardo Da Vinci
  32. Galileo Galilei
  33. Francis Crick
  34. Hayyim Nahman Bialik
  35. Hussein Bin Talal
  36. Jeff Pulver
  37. Albert Einstein
  38. Shimon Peres
  39. Elon Musk
  40. Paris Hilton
  41. Richard Branson
  42. Bill Gates

A short time later, my wife Shuli and I were in London on vacation. One slightly rainy afternoon, our friends Howard and June met us in Greenwich and took us on a day trip to visit the homes (now museums) of two of my heroes: Charles Darwin (who discovered or co-discovered evolution and natural selection) and Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of the UK who stared down Hitler and presided over the Allied armies victory in the Second World War). I was so moved that I even wrote a book about it:



Looking around the homes I noticed a striking similarity between the two figures. Both of them had fathers who dismissed them, ridiculed them, questioned them. Their fathers were their ‘tormentors’. Their demons. But in trying to win their favour, these two famous Brits changed the world.

Winston Churchill had another demon, though. He had a lisp (and perhaps a stutter, although this is disputed). His attempts to overcome this demon (he practiced creating and uttering sentences without the letter ‘s’, he coined new words such as ‘Narzies’) led him to develop his unique and brilliant oral skills.



Wherever we looked, we found demons. Marie Curie? Being accepted as a woman in science? Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday? Excruciatingly difficult childhoods.

During the course we would conduct live interviews with leading individuals from Israel and overseas. Time and again we would co-discover the childhood demons, the angst, the impediments, the tormenting parents and family that challenged their very being. They met the challenges, but more importantly rose from them and turned them to their advantage.


One of our interviewees, Alon Cohen (who co-invented VOIP!) said during the video that he had never been challenged or tormented. Later, over coffee, he suddenly looked up at us. Get the video running again! He told us of an employer who told him that he would never amount to anything, that his ideas were worthless. Alon sure showed her! A true nanananana moment! And a demon story that he had had to pull out of his subconscious.




Demons can be physical. Django Reinhardt lost the use of several of his fingers in a fire. He could have stopped playing the guitar altogether. But instead he fought back. He developed a unique jazz guitar style that is still loved after eighty years.

My childhood friend told me that his grandfather lost two fingers fighting in the Great War. When he returned home he developed a new style of pitching and became a successful baseball player.





What happens when nobody knows about your demons? You tend to keep them hidden. It’s called practicing avoidance. If we are missing a finger or several, our tendency will be to try and hide it. People with phobias often practice avoidance. If you are afraid of speaking in public (as 25% of us are), you will find an excuse not to speak in public. Shy people don’t run around telling everyone they are shy. And people with agoraphobia (1.7%) of the population will find excuses for not leaving home (I should know, I battled with agoraphobia for years. More on that another time).


And then there are the demons that are hard to hide. I grew bald at a young age and by the age of forty was finding it hard to pretend I wasn’t. I had two choice. Buy a wig, live with it, or flaunt it. I chose the third option and it works for me. I will often tell my students (or the public). “Some of you might have had a bad hair day. But I am having a ‘no hair day’.” Turning your shame to gain? That’s the trick!



Another demon I wrestled was singing. I sang in the choir at synagogue, but after my voice changed I lost my singing mojo. At the age of someone in the laboratory told me that I sang off key. I was devastated and didn’t sing for the next two decades. But when I managed to subdue the demon, I found my singing voice, recorded two jazz albums, appeared a dozen times with the HED Big Band and performed all over the world. There you go, lady.




As my friend Allon Sasson points out, the first step is to find your own demons, your past and current tormentors and detractors. Once you find them, the next step is to acknowledge their existence. Then you tame them. Then you use them to your advantage. Not easy peasy. Otherwise everyone would be doing it. But just so you know – Successful people seem to be much better at recruiting their demons and turning them into willing accomplices.

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