Life will happen to us all at some point, whether getting fired, having our hearts broken, being betrayed by trusted family and friends, dealing with a toxic relationship or being frustrated with a situation, among other challenges we all face. Whatever would go wrong would eventually go wrong at the least expected time. It is not a matter of how things will go; it is a matter of when. We cannot control the weather, but we can control how we go into any weather. As the Scandinavians would say, “There is nothing like bad weather; what we have is bad clothing.” The challenge for most of us is that we constantly try to control everything in our lives. Instead of changing ourselves, we try to change others; instead of wearing appropriate clothing, we complain about the weather; instead of getting better, we get bitter. Instead of looking into the mirror, we look outside the window by blaming others.
One of the most important lessons we have to learn at some point is that to change a situation, we have to take personal responsibility for our lives. Life is a series of choices made day in and day out. You can either let a situation lessen you, or you learn the lessons, get the message or stay stuck with the mess, become bitter, or decide to get better. One of the significant differences between humans and other animals is our ability to change the direction of our lives at any point in time; American motivational speaker Les Brown often said, “Always know that as you invest the time and effort on you, that’s the greatest ability that human beings have above animals. A dog can’t be anything but a dog, a tree can’t be anything but a tree. Human being, you’ve got unlimited potential, you can put effort into you. And by concentrating on you and developing you, you can transform your life no matter where you are right now.”
One of the easiest situations to feel justified to get bitter is when one gets fired, furloughed, laid off or terminated from an employment/job. It is not a great place to be; I have been there before, and it is very tough. When you get fired, you feel a rush of different emotions: betrayal, anger, self-doubt, shame, disappointment, and sadness, among other emotions. You question the rationale behind the termination “Why Me?”, “Why Now?”, “Someone does not like me?” etc. At this low point, it is even tougher to look inward and ask questions about what part you played in the situation that led to your job loss. Looking inward and introspecting could be one of the best ways of handling this situation because of the emotions that will likely pop up in the early days after the sack.
Business history is filled with individuals such as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who got fired from the company he co-founded; he went to the wilderness for a while but ultimately came back to lead the resurgence of the brand to become one of the most profitable and iconic brands of our time. Steve was bitter about the situation for a while but did not stay long in bitter land; he worked on himself by improving. He came back better to lead the organization to greater heights. In his 2008 Standford University commencement speech 1, Steve reminisces about that period in his life and the lessons he learned from the ordeal. He said:
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down — that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
We cannot control many things in life, such as the weather, the length of our life, or how people behave, but we can control the clothing we wear for every climate, the breadth of our life and the boundaries we set and uphold with people.
Austrian Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl survived four Nazi concentration camps during World War II; he lost his father, mother, brother and wife in the concentration camps, but he still kept hope alive during these trying times. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning 2, Frankl writes about his experience in the concentration camps and how he used his suffering to improve. He asserted:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The Last of the human freedoms – To choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
- Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt – Silence
- More often than not, we are surrounded by noise. Silence can be mistakenly thought of as emptiness or nothingness, but when we pause long enough to notice how chaotic our environment can get, silence becomes a source of healing.
- We don’t need to go on lengthy retreats to reap the benefits of silence. Just a few regular moments of silence can grow our capacity for contemplation and help us tune inward and focus our attention. By making room for it, we make room for self-reflection and deepen our connection to ourselves and the world around us.
- Daily Jay with Jay Shetty – Imitation
- Habits and routines that fit some people aren’t always practical for others; learning from others is great, but you don’t want to flat-out mimic them. No matter how well a habit or routine works for someone else, that doesn’t mean it would work for you. Your personality, skills, preferences, and schedule may be totally different from theirs, and you might need to make some adjustments.
- Bruce Lee once said “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.” Don’t just adopt someone else’s approach; adapt it to suit you.
- 8 Productivity Books To Change Your Life. Here’s What Actually Works. | Cal Newport
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
- The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkema.
- How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell.
- Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky
- 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.