What To Do When Things Go Wrong
The title of this post is flawed. It’s telling a story that might not be true.
Those moments, “when things go wrong,” whether in business, in travel, and in my personal life – for the most part – are better described as unforeseen circumstances, an inconvenience, a deviation from the day/experience I had mapped out. Obstacles.
The Stoics may have been the first to popularize the notion that we don’t control what happens to us, but we do control how we respond to what happens to us. Life happens: good things and bad things. “Life on life’s terms,” is a phrase heard in 12 Step groups and certainly applies.
One of my favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, wrote a book called, “The Obstacle is the Way.” This book received traction within an interesting micro-vertical, professional football. The book was read by Mike Lombardi who at the time was an assistant to the New England Patriots coaching staff. He recommended and shared the book throughout the organization.
Do things actually “go wrong” or are they just not going the way I would have preferred?
As I move through the day from appointment to appointment, there’s a script in my head. I have an expectation of how these exchanges should go and what the ideal outcome will be.
When the actors, events, and results don’t go the way I want them to, it’s easy for me to rocket past “well this is interesting” to “they are being difficult, I’m not going to accomplish my goals, I am going to pay an unfair price for this outcome…and my life will be ruined.”
Thoughts that can take me from difficulty (perhaps minor) to imagined ruin occur in a nanosecond and take a bad situation and make it worse.
What if we took a sad song and made it better (as the classic song suggests)
“The Obstacle is the Way” is summed up in its title: What if that unexpected impediment, that unplanned detour, that seeming setback wasn’t so bad?
Rather than look for someone or something to blame, or become preoccupied with the problem, what if we approached the obstacle as an opportunity to grow? What if we approach the obstacle as Holiday suggests and respond with creativity, persistence, and ingenuity.
No matter what happens to us, Holiday and the Stoics point out there is always an opportunity for excellence. As a parent, you quickly learn, there’s always an audience observing you. Not only does “The Obstacle is the Way” direct us to a richer life experience, it also helps us to be better models of behavior for others.