I don’t know about you but when I go through a huge, unexpected loss it’s not pretty. There is
crying sobbing and giant pity parties and generally acting like a two-year old in the toy aisle of Target after hearing the word “No”. Who knew there was another way? After losing a very successful business of 25 years (that he started from nothing) to corporate bank downsizing, my friend taught me there is another way to go through hard things; so I thought I would share what I learned.
- He didn’t focus on himself. He immediately and tirelessly worked to get all his employees another job. He could have been sitting in a dark corner wringing his hands and worrying about what he was going to do for a job, not that I would know anything about that or even know the most comfortable position to be able to stay there on the floor for long periods of time. (message me if you want some tips ) He instantly went to work finding all his employees a job. He made calls and set up meetings, and he found it motivated and charged him to talk about how great others were.
- He spoke positively. It’s not that he didn’t speak about his fears and frustrations, but he would always come back to the positive. ” I’m OK” “It will be Ok” “This is kind of exciting” His positive attitude put a magnifying glass up to my usual talk when I lose something. Mine usually sounds something like this “This is NOT OK” “Why does everything have to be so hard?” ” I hate change” Yea, I know, I am a joy to be around.
- He kept a sense of humor. After picking his daughter up from her first job interview, he turned to her and said, “Well, at least one of us will be employed this summer” there were lots of “what are they going to do fire me?” jokes and “I guess I will have time to make something out of those wine corks I’ve been saving” comments. And BTW he could build a small house with the number of wine corks he has saved, and he doesn’t even really drink much wine! I may or may not have contributed a few.
- He used it as a teaching moment for his daughter. He modeled resilience, diligence, and integrity. He showed her that life is full of hard things, but you will be OK. He modeled calm, and confidence, and contentment. He certainly wasn’t happy about what was happening, but he had a kind of peace. Compared with my usual OMG I’m freaking out and general panic and fear set in and I begin running around like the Tasmanian devil trying to fix and save and undo what I don’t like.
- He was grateful. He spent a lot of time thanking people. Genuinely thanking people. In fact the only way he would have a party was if it was to say thank you to all those who were loyal to his company. And there were those famous blue boxes to say thank you to his employees. He is really good at being grateful. I am good at bitter.
- He started to dream of possibilities. Instead of assuming he would just pick up where he left off, he started thinking of all the possibilities. I run to the safe, low risk choice but I guess that’s pretty obvious based on what I do for a living. It’s scary when you are standing on a cliff. It’s one thing when you make the choice to jump, it’s another when you are pushed off. It seems like he is embracing the fall. I would be clinging to the first tree limb I could grab hold of and would be hanging on for dear life with my eyes closed tight.
- He finished strong. No corners were cut. No slacking.. Closing down a business of 25 years requires crossing off a lot of things on a to do list. I would have been tempted to skip a few. Not him. He ended his business like he started it and ran it. DO IT RIGHT. MAKE EVERY LAST DETAIL RIGHT, even in the end. I would be tempted to take a 2 hour lunch and a quick stop to TJ Maxx. Oh who am I kidding? There is no such thing as a quick stop to TJ Maxx.
It’s a shame, really, to have to give up my pity parties, negativity and bitterness. I am so good at them. Why can’t I give up the things I am not so good at like accounting and fixing toilets. But after watching my friend, it appears that focusing on others, speaking positively, keeping a sense of humor, being grateful, embracing the change, and using it as a teaching moment for our children really is the best way to get through hard things. I sure wish I saw this modeled years ago when my world was falling apart and I was losing my marriage and dream job. I have to believe it would have saved me some heart aches and head aches. A lot of times I make hard things harder than they have to be. Maybe you do too. Hopefully my friend’s example will inspire you to handle your next hard thing a little differently. I know it inspired me!
How about you? How do you make things worse? How do you make them better?
Ps. Even after all this inspiration, I am still keeping (and using) my latest gift. Thanks girls (you know who you are!)