The American Columnist Rowland Evans was having lunch with Ronald Reagan in 1987, six years into his presidency, a milestone by which the previous five presidents had been defeated – resigned in disgrace, refused to consider reelection, or been assassinated. Somehow, Reagan was shining through, making it all look easy, and was enormously popular. Evans, a tough old newsman, was in awe.
Evans looked Reagan in the eye and said, “You know, Mr. President, I’ve known you for more than twenty years. I first met you in 1966, and the amazing thing is that you don’t look any older now than you did back then, and the criticism never gets you down. How do you do it?”
In response, Reagan offered a parable. “Let me explain it this way”, he said:
“Let me tell you the story of the two psychiatrists — the old psychiatrist and the young psychiatrist — who had a practice together. They’d come into their office every day just bubbling with enthusiasm, always happy, upbeat, smiling, and chipper. Then they’d go into their separate suites and have patients come in and lie on the couch all day and talk about the woes in their lives. At 6:00 p.m. they’d come out and the young psychiatrist would be devastated, wiped out by the day, with a stomach ache, and just miserable. The old psychiatrist would be just as chipper and smiling and upbeat as he was when he went in that morning. This went on for a number of months. Finally one day they came out at 6:00 p.m., the young psychiatrist as exhausted and destroyed as usual, and the old psychiatrist just as happy and smiling as he was when he went in. The young psychiatrist stopped him and said, “I don’t understand it. We do the same thing every day, and I leave wiped out by hearing patients all day long while you come out after patients have been streaming in and out of your office just as upbeat as ever. How do you do it?
The old psychiatrist paused a minute and said, “I never listen.”