How Do Tragedy And Joy Change Our Perspective?

“The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings—words shrink things that seem timeless when they are in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out.” Stephen King

Last week, a colleague asked me about a working relationship that hadn’t fared well. It made me a little reflective, which is a good thing. Sometimes in our busyness, we fail to pause for the reflection that gives insight into both work and life, to the detriment of both.

As I mentally reviewed my career, I remembered several work relationships that hadn’t prospered or that had been somewhat toxic, sadly, but one stood out from quite early in my career.

It was a situation where I had been working very hard to do a good job, and I can say that objectively. My boss hired someone new to do the job that I thought I was supposed to be doing, and was doing, and installed the new hire above me in the ever-present pecking order. 

In retrospect, I recognized that the new hire was better credentialed than I was and more experienced, but at the time, it still felt lousy. It was dispiriting. And my experience with this new gentleman was that he wasn’t aware of my disappointment and frustration or didn’t care about it. To keep the long story short, I resented him—a lot.

When my current colleague asked about my experience with a bad working relationship, after not having thought about this situation for years, I wondered: What is this man doing now? The one who displaced me in my work and my own sense of confidence and fair play. 

It turns out he died five years ago from a drug overdose.

And in that moment of discovery, my dislike of this person felt glaringly irrelevant. Especially when I considered he was already battling addiction way back in the day.

Also, this past week, friends from our church community gave birth to a stillborn baby. He was alive in the womb, but then he wasn’t. My daughter and I attended the funeral – which both parents managed to get through with tremendous grace–one parent, Kindra, said, “We have all managed to distance ourselves from birth and death.” In the face of the joy and tragedy of those two life-defining bookends, we can all find an opportunity for introspection and evaluating our perspective. There’s a stripping down, exposing, a baring of what matters most to us.

What about you?

Have you had any experiences recently that caused you to reflect and focus on a better sense of what is really important to you? Would you like to share?

This week’s podcast is with Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry, head of Apple Retail, and now Chairman of the Board of Save the Children. 

She has done her own perspective-taking around children dying far too young and wanting to change things because it breaks her heart. She is a truly impressive leader and a role model, to be sure.

As always, thanks for being here.

My best,

P.S. If you are a coach or leader looking for an opportunity to help others grow, check out the Disruption Advisors’ Smart Growth Certification program. Learn more and register here.

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