Into every life, a little rain must fall. Whether you prefer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem or Ella Fitzgerald's song, the saying has been around for decades when lamenting life's ups and downs. As cliche as the expression may be, its perspective is valuable, in business as well as our personal lives, in order to not lose hope during tough times.
Most would agree that it would be unreasonable to expect sunshine and rainbows all the days of our lives, but somehow we still need these reminders when the going gets tough. Especially so when it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel, such as when a business fails, or as we've seen with recent natural disasters like the flooding in Louisiana or the wildfires in California, or across the pond, the devastating earthquakes in central Italy.
Despite the practical knowledge that unforeseen things can happen to any of us at any given time, we are typically never emotionally prepared to accept major setbacks. In these times it is imperative to "find your steady," a phrase I heard in a yoga class last week. Our teacher was referencing the importance of building a strong foundation, in a literal sense - cueing us to plant our feet firmly on our mats and "find the steady" before advancing to the next level of the balance pose.
It struck me in that moment that so many times in life things we think are firm and steady, indeed are not. Whether it's a job, a relationship, or worst case scenario, our health - anything we currently take for granted as "permanent" can certainly change without notice. If our foundation isn't firmly rooted, we could easily be upended in those moments.
Much that we take for granted as "will always be there" - family members, our homes, even as some have experienced recently in my home state, the very ground on which we stand - can suddenly disappear. Having an internal foundation to lean on is more important than ever when those tangibles dissolve. That foundation can be many things, for some it's faith, others may take comfort in music or the arts, or for some of us, a yoga practice. Yes, when life gets chaotic and everything seems unfamiliar, I know I can look to my mat for sanctuary and comfort, and ultimately the clarity to move forward.
Whatever it is, each of us needs to have a "steady" - something we can count on and return to in moments of turmoil. Best to find your steady before you need it, as I have definitely learned in yoga, it's hard to plant your foot firmly on the mat when it's flailing in the air.
Find your steady, and remember even when the rain does fall - because it definitely will - that the less frequently quoted part of the Longfellow poem states, "behind the clouds is the sun still shining."
I recently was on a short flight and instead of paying $8 for slow internet I decided to be productive and clear out some of the crud living in my phone. First I went through pictures and deleted a lot of no longer needed screenshots of funny Instagram posts or images of products I was considering buying (but didn't), and that process gave me a few laughs (and some grimaces), and ultimately just made me wonder if someone studied my google history what they'd say about my interests (and possibly my sense of humor).
Next I took on my contact list, a huge undertaking considering somehow my phone apparently captures every person I've ever sent or received an email from as an entry, sometimes adding the same email address as multiple contacts. (Suggestions/diagnoses welcome!)
I went through the painstaking process of deleting each name I no longer needed or didn't recognize -mostly in email address format - occasionally smiling as I recalled an encounter with a pleasant person or chuckling as I happily deleted a person whose emails were infrequent, insincere and always asking an extreme favor.
Having spent the majority of my career in sales and marketing, I have a broad network - and because I primarily worked in consulting and recruiting firms, most of the people I interacted with were running businesses (or leading teams) or people looking for their next gig.
Some of the names I read caused me to ponder for a second how that person was doing and wishing them well, even as I deleted their contact knowing it's not likely we'll need to be in touch again considering my departure from the industry. Other names caused me to actually shudder and press delete with delight. "Good riddance!" I thought. "Now that I'm not in a position to help that person they will never contact me again."
That said, one takeaway I had from this experience was regarding the impressions we make in this world, be they lingering or fleeting. It's not always a conscious thing certainly, and some of the more annoying folks in my deleted pile could have just been in a weird place at the time and are perfectly nice, well-adjusted contributing members of society.
While the majority of the "delightful deletes" were pushy salespeople that never really "got it" or candidates that no showed for job interviews (or worse, their first day on the job!) I had to take into account that they too are human and not everyone can be a peach 100% of the time. I'm sure even the worst of the worst have friends and family that think they are just great!
They probably have no idea (and wouldn't be bothered by the fact) that I grimaced at the sight of their name in my phone. And why should they? After all, your life is your own and your happiness should be independent of anyone else's opinion of you. In fact, I'm sure I'm in someone's "delightfully deleted" list and that's OK by me.
But the greater lesson here is the feeling I had as I went through this process (and it's definitely a process. I have only made it through the Gs!) is that I felt lighter and more positive that these people were no longer taking up residence in my phone, and as a result, in my brain. It was like physically deleting excess contacts from my device provided clearing that removed some mental clutter. It's a great feeling and I highly recommend it.
Take a few moments to think about what you're holding on to that no longer serves you, whether in the physical, digital or spiritual realm - wish them all well and let them go! You'll be happier, I promise. (This includes that impressive stack of business cards in your 2nd drawer!) Regardless if you are holding on to feelings or not, isn't it nice to have fewer contacts to scroll through (and take up valuable space!) on your mobile device? Now I have more room for screenshots of delicious looking food and "cows sitting like dogs" (google it, you'll thank me).
Yesterday I attended the funeral of the parent of a friend. It was a terribly sad occasion, but a happy gathering of people who came together to celebrate the life of a beloved father, husband, and friend of many. As each person shared their perspective, telling stories - often humorous, this man's life was honored for the many contributions he made to his family and his community, from having served in the military to coaching sports teams to serving on boards and in various civic positions.
During the nearly 3 hour service, his "day job" (a 30+ year career with one company, from which he retired with many accolades) was barely mentioned. In fact, the only way it came up was in reference to no matter what was going on at work, he never missed his sons' ball games or his wife's various activities.
As I listened intently to the beautiful remembrance of this man's life, a man I met on a few occasions but did not know well, it was clear what kind of person he was, and it was almost uncanny how closely his life reminded me of his son, my friend since college. A person whom I have greatly adored and admired over the years, from being the zany "team captain" of our friend group, a planner (and pranker) extraordinaire, to then marry and become a terrific husband to his wife and later an amazing father to his children. Yes, my friend has certainly lived up to the shining example his father set before him, and it occurred to me that these same words would likely be spoken at his funeral (in let's hope 50+ years from now).
It also occurred to me that if you asked me what he does for a living I could only offer "sales or something?" as my answer. This person, whom I have known for nearly 20 years and who I have looked up to, and been inspired by, even assisted me in choosing my major in college (funny story), does something for a living that I can't really put my finger on.
I can assure you it's not because he's not successful. I would be willing to bet that this person, like his late father, has racked up the accolades and has probably garnered lots of plaques and mentions in the company newsletter. But I don't know about any of it, because that doesn't come up in conversation. You see, friends often answer "How's work?" with "Great!" and then move on to the next, more meaningful topic like, family, or friends, or in this case, who the Saints recently drafted.
It's not to say that doing your best in all aspects of life, including your career, should not be a goal. It's not to say that being successful at the office doesn't lead to opportunities to support charitable organizations and contribute to the community at large. Certainly the more you are respected and celebrated in your professional career the more influence you can have toward promoting and supporting causes you care about. But remember, as you take business calls during family time and postpone vacations to meet deadlines, who will be standing at the podium at your memorial service. Will it be your friends and family, remembering how dedicated you were to making the world around you a better place, or your boss, recalling what a dedicated employee you were?
Chances are, the sacrifices you make in your personal life to advance in your professional life will not be remembered by those that sign your paycheck, and your resume will not be read at your funeral. Spend your time where it matters, and be mindful that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
"I never saw a dollar bill cry at anyone's funeral." - J. Lincoln Fenn