Tuesday, November 10, 2009

See What the Kid Can Do

He is 30, shrewd and handsome, a smart guy. He’s made millions by his wits, and he just lost everything. This time next week he’ll be sleeping on the floor of a friend’s house. The economy is bad. No opportunities are visible. Rock bottom. Back where he started and out of hope. I meet similar dire predicaments several times a month, and my sympathy lies lukewarm between my client and me. I know what this is, and any nice noises will only hurt him. I’m not being cruel; I’m waiting to see what he’s made of.

Suspend for a moment any belief you have about destiny, God(s), self-will, or how the universe works. Indulge my fantasy. Imagine we all have about a half dozen people somewhere out there watching over us. They are like us but older, been-there-done-that, no-nonsense. (You see them all the time at breakfast places, waving unlit cigars, kibitzing. Who knew these were really celestial power brokers?)

Say this group of smart guys, none of them under 60, is the guardian group of my smart guy, and they’re watching his tragedy unfold.

“Oomph,” they all groan as he takes his body blows. They have similar memories and scars, but no one reaches out to lift him up. They sit there, intent, tight in the shoulders, silent. The head smart guy takes out his cigar, leans forward, and gruffs, “Let’s see what the kid can do.” And they watch.

We can have lucky lives. Jobs appear out of nowhere. An unexpected raise lifts our noses from the want ads. Even a downsizing can net us the capital to start that home business. But every single life has moments that lay us down for the count. Suddenly, you can’t find any job. Or, you’ve screwed up and you’re afraid you’ll get fired. Or, you can’t seem to get back on the yummy side of the organizational scorecard. All your best-faith efforts turn to dust in your hands. You are not — as some people wonder — being singled out and punished for some past-life deed. You have not used up your luck. But this is a test, I firmly believe, to see what you’re made of. How do you handle adversity? What actions will you take when you see no way out? How will you crawl out of this hole?

The smart guys watching you want you to succeed, but they realize the strengthening nature of scar tissue on the knees. They understand the character that can be developed when you shove fear, anger, self-righteousness, and hopelessness aside. They know that, at the end of the day, no matter how many resources you have, it’s up to you and nobody else to make “better” happen. Old smart guys know they learned the most from their failures and recoveries.

What do you do to get going again?

1. Set your “get-over-it” clock. These truly were body blows. Check your spirit in the morning. If you’re full of your misfortune, then set a timer for how long you’ll let yourself feel bad today. When the bell dings, put on your can-do cloak and head out into the day. You might as well take a positive attitude with you.

2. Look around for any hope that might be lying around. You might see a goal you’ve overlooked. “Why not now?” could be your response this time when the ideas pop up that you have said “No way” to before.

3. If you have no goals, go ask smart guys you know. See if their ideas link up with who you are.

4. If you don’t know smart guys, try a coach or counselor. Your ideas may be buried deeper than you thought; and these folks can help you feel better about yourself and more confident on your journey.

5. Pray. Now is the time to seek help from the highest places. Don’t overlook this resource. But don’t just wait to see what the deity will do. You have to get moving.

6. If you still have nowhere to turn, then start anywhere. Get out of your house. Drive around. Have coffee. Go to the library. If you’re truly a smart guy, you’ll be like a dowser who takes a forked twig and wanders till he feels a pull toward the earth, a sign that water is below. Smart guys and dowsers have a lot in common. They don’t know where the opportunity lies, but getting out and wandering around gets the job begun. When you look for what’s you and eliminate what’s not, you begin to feel pulled. Do not, however, consider this your major strategy. Goals and thoughtful action work better every time.

7. Get up. Whatever you decide to do, just get up. And get up every day, even if it feels like you’re flapping on the bottom of the ocean. Be determined not to let this define you or beat you. Countless others before you have experienced this same lousy deal, and they all learned that the fighting they did built their core, taught them valuable lessons and, curiously, gave them gifts. They certainly learned what they were made of .

The path lies long and rocky ahead of you, but I’ve seen hundreds of people rise up out of despair. I know you have what it takes to do what you have to do. My client did. He had only to look behind and see the mountains he had already climbed and test out his calloused hands to realize he had the necessary energy, courage, character, resilience, toughness and ability, and no other options. It took him a year to make real progress, but he got back in the game and started climbing. That’s what smart guys (who are also women) do. So can you. Show the other smart guys what this kid can do.


Anonymous said...

anseaseGreat post. I, too have experienced my share of body blows. I think I have followed every step you laid out at some point. I find it necessary to seek the advice and counsel of the smart guys (and women.) These are some of the most valuable relationships I have.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I, too have experienced my share of body blows. I think I have followed every step you laid out at some point. I find it necessary to seek the advice and counsel of the smart guys (and women.) These are some of the most valuable relationships I have.