When life throws you curveballs, how do you handle them? Do you freak out? Do you roll with it? Do you look at it as an opportunity or a disaster? Today I want to about how to keep a perspective on life that helps you keep on moving when things don’t go as planned.
We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
First, I want to apologize for not getting last weeks episode out. As you know I’ve been struggling with pretty severe insomnia over the last few months and last week I just hit a wall. I had the episode about 85% finished, but was so wiped out that It was a struggle to just get to the end of the week. The irony of it was that the episode was about dealing with feeling overwhelmed. I was going to make it this weeks episode, but given some big events that happened for me this last week, I felt it was more pressing to talk about how we handle the unexpected twists that life throws our way.
One of my favorite things that has taken place in Portland over the past 12 years was the World Domination Summit. For those of you who don’t know what it was, it was kind of like a TED conference with all kinds of interesting speakers, classes, and experiences for people who want to live differently in the world. It was founded by Chris Guillebeau, who lives here in Portland. He’s the author of several books and writes a blog about travel and living an unconventional life.
A few weeks ago, I was reading one of his posts called “Congratulations On Your New Life”, that really stuck with me. He talked about how a few years ago he was speaking at a conference and someone who was asking a question mentioned that they had just lost their job, and rather than offering condolences, he felt like he needed to take another route. He congratulated them. Since that time, this is usually the response he offers when someone talks about something that is causing a big transition in life, such as losing a job or ending a relationship.
Now this may seem a little harsh to some people, but Chris mentioned that most times when he followed up with the other person, that even if they were a little shocked at first, when they took the time to think about it, they really didn’t like the job or could see that they were better off out of the relationship. In a way, this event was a favor and an opportunity to make a change in their life that they probably wouldn’t have done were it not for this happening.
The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.
— Ryan Holiday
This last week, as I mentioned, was exhausting. I decided to take off Friday to see if I could get caught up on some sleep. Even though I knew that I could sleep in, I still only got about 5 hours of sleep. I was able to get a short nap in later that afternoon, but soon after waking up received a call from the owner of the company I work for. He let me know that due to financial constraints, he had to cut my project and was letting me go. I thanked him for letting me know and we talked through next steps of making the transition smoother for the other developers who would be taking up the slack for some of my minor projects.
At the end of the call, he thanked me for handling things professionally and not making it a difficult call. I told him there was no reason make things difficult. He was simply doing what he needed to for his company. For me, it was an interesting moment. There was no real stress about the whole thing. It was just matter of fact like “this is just a thing that happens in life”. I felt very relaxed and stoic about it, and after the called was over I laughed about the fact that my first thought on hearing the news was that now I’d finally be able to caught up on sleep.
So what do you when life throws unexpected things your way? Do you panic? Do you look at all the downsides?
— Douglas Adams
The first and most important thing we can do in any situation is to do our best to stay calm. Part of the stoic teaching of Amor Fati, is that we love everything that happens to us, and that our reaction to anything will not really change what happens. In the case of getting laid off, being rude to my now former boss, would not have changed the situation, and would have only made things worse. In fact, by the end of the call, he asked if, when he had more funding available in the future, I was open to working as consultant to finish the development of the software I had been working on. I told him that I was certainly open to it if my situation in the future made it possible to do so.
No One to Blame
To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education; to accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun; to accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.
Another important thing we can do is not get caught up in finding someone to blame. It is one thing to understand the root cause of something, but to waste time trying to pin the blame on someone does nothing to help you move forward. It only leads to more stress and worry. Now, this does not mean that if someone is causing issues for you that you simply ignore them. It does mean that you do your best move on and let go of things that don’t serve you. In this case, being angry with my former boss because he didn’t have the funds to continue keeping me on payroll doesn’t matter. It’s simply the way that things turned out. It’s just the way that all the circumstances lined up. Nothing more, nothing less.
There are no problems, only choices.
One of the most important ideas that I’ve been trying to implement in my life over the past few months is that of focusing on what choices I have in front of me in any given situation. Letting go of all the worries and what ifs won’t help me keep moving forward. In the case of losing my job, I’ve been able to apply this by making a list of things I can do, not worry about why didn’t things work the way I wanted.
It is not what happens to you that matters, but how you react to it that determines the quality of your life.
So what comes next for me? That’s hard to say at the moment. This last year has been a turbulent one already, so this is just one more factor in the mix. But right now I have a little more of the most precious resource known to man – available time. And this is something that will allow me to accelerate some things I’ve been working towards.
I find myself in a place full of opportunity.
I’m reaching out to recruiters and others in my industry. Since I’m working on getting my house ready to sell, I’m appreciating the fact that I will have more time available for getting things prepared. I plan on improving my workout regimen and cycling more once the weather warms up a little more. I plan on getting a few more podcast episodes made so I have them ready a week or more in advance so that I don’t run into something like last week. I’m working on some ideas for expanding the reach of the podcast.
But first, I’m going to get some sleep.
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