I can’t stand advice that tells me what to do when life is hard, especially when it is delivered from people who look like they have the perfect life. I have been on this planet long enough to know that no one has the perfect life, but it sure seems like some people don’t get punched in the face by life or their career as often as I do. One of my clients, Matt, recently asked me why life was so hard for him and so easy for others. “It sure seems that way at times, doesn’t it” I responded. “That is the worst advice you have ever given me,” Matt countered. “Nope, it just means that it is your turn to have life give you a sucker punch.”
At the beginning of 2014 I committed to myself that it was going to be one of the best years of my life, my career and that I was not going to get punched in the face as often (or as hard!) as in years past. Well, it didn’t work. I was KO’d two or three times last year. Now don’t get me wrong, I had some FANTASTIC events last year that I am really grateful for, but I also got knocked down multiple times and in ways that I won’t soon forget. At least twice last year life knocked the wind out of me so hard that I wondered if I would ever breathe normally again. Initially, I wanted to forget these events and those moments in my life, but now I want to remember them and how I felt and what I experienced at that time. I feel like it is good for me. Along the way I learned two invaluable lessons that I hope will help you get back up and on your feet after you have been knocked out cold and find yourself laying on your back, seeing stars and wondering what happened.
Number one, when events in your life and your career hit you square in the jaw and knock you out don’t immediately get up. Remember boxers have until the count of 10 to get up—so do you. Lay back, look up and BREATHE. Yes, take a moment to breathe. Lie there, don’t move, and breathe, maybe even cry for a minute if it really hurts. And don’t pretend like everything is okay. I don’t know why we as humans do that, pretend like everything is okay when it isn’t. Last summer I did that. I had a horrible month last summer where nearly everything that I could think of went wrong. Pretty much everything crumbled in the matter of 30 days. Life punched me right between the eyes. Bloodied, bruised and dazed I fought back as hard as I could to keep things on track and going—-life responded with a right hook. I was out for the count! I had no choice but to breathe—really that was all I could do. My super-duper schedule of getting 2,000 things done in a day and chasing my dreams went down the drain. My new mantra was to get 1 thing done a day. I felt like I was an emotional invalid! My wife would ask me how I was doing during that time and I would respond, “I’m breathing.” At first I was embarrassed about it. I wasn’t going gung-ho on my book or writing the most incredible blogs or doing lots of volunteer work or being the most incredible dad or husband. Instead I was learning how to be still and breathe. As hard as that time was for me I am really glad I went through it, because it caused me to take a good hard look at where I was going and I made some drastic direction changes. Looking back I now realize I wasn’t going to change my career direction in any other way, so life had to pull out all stops to get my attention. Lying on your back and breathing can be a good thing.
Number two, be grateful. When everything is going wrong, our minds focus on everything that is bad. Find a few things that are great about your life and focus on those. I don’t care how much you have to search or how small you have to go to find something to be grateful for, just do it. One day in particular I couldn’t think of anything to be grateful for. I had overused my wife and kids and I needed something new to be grateful for. I couldn’t find anything, so I decided to create something to be grateful for. I went to a local ice cream shop and bought myself a 3-scoop ice cream sundae with extra fudge. Lots of hot fudge, in fact so much hot fudge it should have been called a fudge sundae. I was having a little ice cream with my fudge. I was grateful for every bite of that sundae and it helped me make it through the day. I even ate it in my car like a food hoarder does who is hiding his food intake. I didn’t want to have to share with my kids. I needed the whole freaking sundae. I have such happy memories thinking about that sundae. I could breathe that day because of that sundae.
This is a different and maybe somewhat depressing post, not like my others. The reason I wrote this post is to help you see that everyone gets punched in the face by life or their career. No one is immune—even when you think you are vaccinated. It is more about how you handle the punch than the punch itself. Take my advice and breathe and be grateful and you will be back on your feet before you know it.