Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty comes opportunity.”
What a powerful statement. Think about it, we are all faced with challenges each and every day. More times than not, we power through them and keep going without even realizing that we are. So why is it that when significant changes or challenges arise we freeze?
Perhaps if we actually stopped to think about how many changes and challenges we conquer each day, we might be a little more confident in how we approach the larger ones. Let me explain what I mean.
Say the alarm goes off first thing in the morning and all you can think about is how tired you are because you didn’t get much sleep. Insert whatever reason here (sick child, a snoring partner, a lumpy bed, stress from work or finances, etc.) but yet you get up and set about your morning routine.
As you are getting ready, you feel stiff and achy or sore. Maybe its a pulled muscle, a bad back, or perhaps even something more severe and chronic you have to deal with daily. Yet you continue on with your morning and get ready for work.
You stop in the kitchen to make your coffee for the road and find that the coffee maker is jammed or malfunctioning. Now you need to pick up the pace and get going so that you have time on the way to work to grab a coffee somewhere.
You manage to make it through the coffee shop drive-thru without too much of a delay (minor miracle here!) but traffic is quite heavy, and you are going to be late for your first meeting. You arrive at the parking garage to find that there are only tights spots remaining and thus you will be worrying in the back of your head all day about getting scratches or dings in your spouse’s car (did I forget to mention that yours wouldn’t start when you were getting ready to leave?).
On the way up to your office, you run into an old colleague you haven’t seen in some time. They tell you they just got a huge promotion at a new firm and about all of the wonderful work they are doing. As you walk into your meeting late and see that one of your junior staff is at the front of the room giving your presentation, you notice your boss sitting in front beaming with pride.
You slump down in a chair at the table, one of your other employees slips you a note informing you about significant changes to a project one of your other teams is working on and that the boss wants to talk to you about it today. So you sit and wonder when you can find time in your already overbooked calendar for a conversation you are sure to hate.
Are you screaming in your head yet? You get the point here, this is a truly horrible day where nothing has gone right, and on top of it all, you are getting called to the bosses office. Now, what you aren’t seeing is this:
You could have called in sick when you woke up tired and achy and just stayed in bed, but you didn’t. (win 1) You could have freaked out over the coffeemaker fiasco, but you didn’t and just found another solution. (win 2) You could have been a one-car household and stranded when your car didn’t start, but you had a back-up. (win 3) You had to stop for coffee, but as you sit in the meeting room stewing about everything else going on, you realize it’s actually a damn good cup of coffee, and you needed that right now. (win…well maybe just a silver lining)
The old colleague you ran into on the way up, well you don’t know it yet, but he’s here to meet with you later. He is going to try to get you to come work on his program and then you’ll have a big decision to make. (opportunity) After your meeting is over, two visitors come to your office. The first is not the boss but someone a few rungs up from you who commends you on your leadership skills and how you empowered and developed a strong junior leader in the employee who did your presentation. (win 4) The other is the employee who did the presentation and came to thank you for being late so that they could step up and have the opportunity to lead the meeting. (win 5)
Lastly, you squeeze the boss into your busy day and are informed that you are being put on notice that things need to improve or you’ll be let go. (okay it couldn’t all be a fairy tale because that’s just not real life) Now, believe it or not, this is an opportunity, and you have already overcome so many challenges today what’s one more.
So you can look at the glass half empty now and go to the place where all you can think about is that you are about to be fired.
You can go to a place where you leverage the determination and sense of responsibility that got you out of bed this morning, your ability to pivot and change course which had you take a different car and work a coffee stop on your way into the office. You can leverage your networking skills which allowed you to be supportive and excited for your colleague in the elevator. And you can harness your humility and leadership skills which allowed you to be proud of that junior employee who covered for you this morning and did a fantastic job.
YOU already have all of those things and if you can use them repeatedly through the day why freeze at the big challenge? Is it the levity of the situation, perhaps the fear of losing income, respect, taking a step back in your professional progress? Okay, all very understandable, however, look at all of the opportunity in this challenge.
You have empowered someone who can help you pick up some of the slack. Now you can focus on the failing projects which will continue to allow them to grow and would gain favor with your boss.
You could take a new opportunity and go to work with your colleague from the elevator. This has a variety of opportunities and possibilities in itself.
You can look for a position doing something you have always wanted to do while you continue to work where you are. This will be challenging on your time, but the payoff could be well worth it.
OR you can freeze and panic and worry and do nothing.
Considering how you handled everything else on this day, I guess that last option is not even an option and that is your final WIN.