|Cutting Edge Ideas from 2500 Years Ago|
When Bad Things Happen
We've spent a lot of time this year discussing how to maintain peace of mind and find inspiration in a general business climate that nurtures neither.
But what about when something really bad
happens? When you're knocked flat by a situation or an
event and feel like you either want to hide under your
desk or pick up your computer and hurl it through a
plate glass window. What do you do then?
These types of situations generally fall into two categories. The first is external: a large customer cancels or becomes unhappy, or a sizable deal falls through. You face loss of income, of course, but — worse — you will be blamed for this no matter what the circumstances are. The lower paycheck is overshadowed by fear of job loss or reduced status within the organization.
The second type is internal: you get unexpected negative feedback from your manager. Or you suddenly get a new manager who shows no desire to have a relationship with you. Perhaps you are the manager and an event outside your control occurs for which you will nonetheless be blamed. Or you get caught on the short end of a re-org.
Any of these sound familiar?
The best way I've found to deal with these catastrophic events is contained in the very foundation of the Buddha's philosophy, the Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth states that life by its very nature means that suffering will occur. We tend to beat ourselves up a lot for getting caught in these occasional binds, but we could suffer a lot less if we just accept that the very definition of work contains these moments. To expect otherwise is to expect something other than reality, like expecting an alcoholic not to drink or kids to clean up their rooms 100% of the time.
The Second Noble Truth describes this secondary, avoidable suffering as attachment to things and situations which are highly impermanent, like work being stable or our position within the organization as one that is going quite well.
When something bad happens, the mind and body's natural tendency is to close down, to cling, to strive for control. Yet the way to avoid unnecessary suffering is exactly the opposite — to let go. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go There You Are:
Though it's healthy to note and acknowledge what has happened (ah, major lost client, I can understand that) it is unhealthy to go through all the secondary suffering that is clinging to pleasure or avoiding pain (but I was having such a good year! -or- I may be in deep sneakers over this one!) Neither is what this moment contains, and you may as well train yourself to let go of such thoughts and emotions. If you really do receive signals that your job may be in jeopardy over the event, you can use those present moments to act accordingly.
Here are immediate steps you can take when a tsunami rolls over you.
Needless to say, I was devastated. We had just had a second child and purchased our home. How could this be happening to me!?
Four weeks into the seven the other guy suddenly quit, I was asked to stay, and I went on to have three of the best years of my career. My boss had a falling- out with the CEO and ended up leaving the company within three months. We both behaved maturely and with compassion during that uncomfortable situation, and ten years later we remain friendly and enjoy running into one another. Both of us went on from that magazine to prosper in other jobs, and of course we've each had our ups and downs during the past decade.
So — my question is — what really happened that day??
Longtime readers of this newsletter and those of you who have taken my workshops know that I don't believe in the concept of "there" as a destination. We are already "here," moment by moment by moment.
Nonetheless, in really trying times, I turn for soothing wisdom to the great philosopher and Disc Jockey of my youth, Toby Young of Harrisburg, PA, who used to say at the close of every show:
And you ain't got the fare,
Just put one foot out in front of the other,
and keep on walkin', mama.
You'll get there.
Just don't get too attached to anything you encounter along the way!