Life doesn’t deal you a perfect hand.
- Sometimes you’re sick.
- Your boss may question your quality of your work and even your motives.
- Others will treat you with less respect than you think you deserve.
- If you’re a leader, your direct reports will perform sub-par and not get along with each other.
- In a meeting, someone will yell or say inappropriate things.
- Your dog will have an accident, or the cat will throw up on the carpet just as you’re about to leave the house.
- Rain will come when you want sunshine, and drought continues when you need rain.
- Your family may suck.
- Relationships go sour.
- You experience burn out.
- You screw up.
The list goes on and on.
Success is not defined best by how you live in ideal circumstances. Success is defined by how you play when you’re hurt and how you bounce back from adversity.
Sports analogies abound at this point. Golfers practice getting out of sand traps even though they never want to land in one. The greatest athletes play with injuries. Many have to work their way out of a slump, and Dr. Seuss warned us that “unslumping yourself is not easily done” (Oh the Places You’ll Go!). Likewise, you’ll have to perform when you’d like to quit. This concept isn’t limited to athletes. It applies equally to the tech world although our injuries and slumps are not usually physical in nature.
How do you play hurt successfully? Let me give you my top 3 answers to that question.
- Be Real.
Dan Allender in Leading with a Limp makes a case that our weaknesses and failures actually make us stronger. Confess your weaknesses early and often. “…to the degree you attempt to hide or dissemble your weaknesses, the more you will need to control those you lead, the more insecure you will become, and the more rigidity you will impose – prompting the ultimate departure of your best people.” I feel every finger pointed at me with this statement. Only recently have I BEGUN to discover the power in this truth.
- Do your best even when you don’t want to.
If you wait for ideal circumstances, you’ll never try anything significant. If you focus on your hurts, you won’t deploy your abilities. Instead, bloom where you’re planted. If you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, be the best worker-bee you can be. If you end up in prison for 27 years like Nelson Mandela did, work for a cause or learn skills you can use later. Be the best prisoner you can be. Go to work when you don’t want to. Take the next step forward. Determine to make a difference. Serve someone else and help them grow. I’m always amazed how helping someone else makes me feel better.
- Remember your destiny.
Part of this is to believe in something bigger than you. Always dream bigger than your current circumstances. Injury isn’t the final chapter of your life. However, another part or remembering your destiny keeps you from making stupid mistakes and digging the hole deeper before you climb out. I had a friend who went through a devastating time relationally and occupationally. Honestly, he didn’t want to live. He responded (by his own admission) by spending a lot of money and incurring deep debt. He didn’t care anymore. But the apathy didn’t last forever. When he eventually climbed out of his depression, he also had to face challenging finances beyond his initial problem. His advice would be to remember your destiny. Don’t succumb to self-destructive behavior when you’re hurt.
By the way, pay attention to the friends who stand beside you when you’re hurt. Those people are priceless. They are true friends. Chances are they have experienced hurt, too, and they are more caring because of the experience. Your character will deepen, also. Just keep playing.