During the summer of 2010, I accidentally left my bag behind a friend’s car. We hopped in, she put it into gear, reversed, and then she said, “that’s weird, it feels like something is under the wheel.”
Time froze. My draw dropped.
My eyes sprung open, and I just looked at her; I imagine like this:
Panic swarmed over me as I realized what I had done. And then it got worse, as I thought about all the files, images, and work I had lost (more than likely forever).
(Spoiler Alert: I lost everything on that laptop… forever!)
I imagine Jayson Gaignard went through similar shock and panic when someone stole his laptop at the beginning of 2017. He talks about this ordeal in this great post, and although he initially took the news like a champ, he then realized all his slide decks (among other work) were gone.
I imagine this was his face:
We’ve all had moments like this.
I imagine you’re reliving one right now, picturing it as you read these very words: the panic, worry, and hot-flash that rises up your cheeks.
When something bad happens, your emotions take over. In the moment, you have little control over this.
Your body and mind does what it does, but you then face a choice. You get to choose what you feel (and do) next.
There are always two juxtaposing frames to any scene, and which one you choose to listen to determines so much about who you are as a person (and the sort of life you will lead).
How you perceive a situation is everything.
You can look at a half-filled glass of water, and see it as half-empty or half-full. The situation is what it is, but it’s how you choose to look at it that guides you forward.
Someone stole Jayson’s laptop. He lost his files, and he no longer had access to his presentations. This was the situation he faced, and no amount of wishing things were different would change this. The initial pain he felt was real, and he had little control over it.
But what he did next… that was within his control.
He could have moped and canceled his speaking engagement, and blamed those who stole his laptop.
Or he could choose to “see the silver lining in the situation and decide to take this as an opportunity to design a completely new talk (on a different topic) from scratch.”
This single situation offers two opportunities: a crossroads, if you will.
This is perspective.
And this is the daily battle we all face.
The flip flop of perspective
I took a walk recently, close to where I live.
As I wandered aimlessly, I passed and noticed this row of tall, thin trees that reached high into the sky. Like fingers springing out of the ground, I stared at them for a few moments. And I then realized that like us, that tree faces an inner battle.
On the one hand, the tree rose high, reaching with all its might to get further and further from the ground. The branches wish to go higher, inching closer to the sky so it can escape gravity and explore the unknown beyond it.
Yet this image tells a rather different story.
This same tree remains rooted, digging deeper into the ground so it will never float away. It doesn’t want the unknown of ‘up there’. It’s happy down here. It knows where it stands on the ground, and it’s comforted by this security.
This same tree that rises high with all its might also digs deep with all its worth. Part of it wants to explore, whereas the other desired security.
The same tree, but with two contrasting views.
The silver lining of failure & pain
We are a silly species when you think about it.
As humans, we worry so much about thoughts that do not matter. We place great emphasis on what we own, and what we wish to own. We stress about losing it, and we do all that we can to get more of it.
Why are we so driven by ego and ‘stuff’?
Why do we cling to things we cannot control?
You cannot control whether someone steals your laptop. You can do certain things to avoid it, sure, but sometimes shit happens.
Sometimes you make a mistake.
Sometimes you fail.
Jayson no longer had his laptop, yet he still had a choice to make.
He could choose to cancel the talk, and blame it on the fact he no longer had his slides (after all, he spent many hours creating these).
Or he could decide it’s him and his voice that matter, not the slides or the ‘stuff’. He could place importance on himself and see this situation as an opportunity to create something better.
Of course, this isn’t easy. It’s scary. A huge part of you will want to play it safe and run and hide.
“The truth was, I was absolutely terrified to deliver it,” Jayson said. “I am always incredibly nervous before delivering a talk, but given that the bulk of this talk was brand new, and the fact that I’ve never ever given a talk where I’m the “headliner” brought my anxiety to an even higher level.
“The end result was that I channeled my inner Joey Coleman and the talk was super well received (and I felt better while delivering it than any other talk I’ve given to date).” he continued.
Because you’re a human being, you will feel pain. On occasion, you will fail, make mistakes, or realize someone has stolen your laptop (or in my case, listen to it get crushed under your friend’s car).
This is fine. Life happens. Sometimes it is good… other times it isn’t.
But there are always two sides to the tale, and you (and only you) get to choose which one you take inspiration from.
Often, your gut reaction is to listen to the glass-half-empty side of your brain. But those destined for success (who practice and grow their mindset each day) take a breath and say, “not today.”
You too can own a Successful Mindset
I don’t know how much ‘stuff’ was on Jayson’s laptop, but I do know it isn’t the slides that make his talks the chat of the town.
He’s a class speaker because he’s an inspiring dude with stories galore. That’s it. That is all.
I also know he went to battle with himself that day. Part of him wanted to dig in its roots, hide, and blame the situation so he didn’t have to take action.
But another part of him grew curious by what could be; wishing to creep into the unknown and embrace this new challenge.
He did so because he practices this approach, and it’s something you can practice, too.
In his post, he talks about Ryan Holiday and ‘The Obstacle is The Way’: a book that offers a different perspective on failure and adversity. It’s one that doesn’t vanish the pain but does show it in another light. It shows you that a situation is what it is, but it’s you who chooses what happens next.
He also mentions James Altucher, and his transparency towards anxiety. Another battle many of us face, and another crossroads where you can choose to play it safe or embrace the challenge ahead.
For so many years, I fell victim to this glass-half-empty life. I’ll admit, when my laptop became a crumpled piece of hardware in 2010, I lay awake most of the night wishing and pleading.
(spoiler alert: it made no difference whatsoever)
I like to think I would approach this situation different today. I would do so not because I’m better than I was, or even because I’m smarter. It’s because I know people like Jayson, who inspire me to focus on a different (and much brighter) light.
It’s because I read books from the likes of Ryan, who offers an alternative approach.
It’s because I read articles from folk like James, who show it’s possible to be both average and normal, yet amazing and inspiring.
And it’s because I can look back on the summer of 2010, and appreciate it was my crumpled and broken old MacBook that forced me to buy a new (better) laptop that I continue to use today.
(that I used to write this very article, and have written several books on)
You too can choose this approach.
Nothing mentioned here is out of your reach.
It isn’t easy, and it does go against a lot of your natural instincts (because when you hurt, you feel pain).
This is fine. Feel it. Experience it.
But then appreciate the next decision you make is yours, and that there are always two sides to the coin you flip. Tails you dig deep; heads you reach up high and explore what opportunity has in store.
Matthew Turner is the author of The Successful Mistake: How 163 of The World's Greatest Entrepreneurs Transform Failure Into Success. To learn how you can do the same in 5 easy steps, visit successfulmistake.com/insider
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- This is What Happens When a Successful Person Has His Laptop Stolen - August 8, 2017