Last week, I had a bit of an upset. Two things happened that derailed my good cheer and caused me to question the value of what I am doing. When you hear what they are, you will probably laugh because they are so, so minor in the grand scheme of things. But, I know you’ve been there too and will understand what I’m talking about.
First, I made a really embarrassing public mistake by misidentifying someone.
It was, of course, totally unintentional but I felt absolutely terrible about it. Fortunately, the person involved found it hilarious. I’m pretty sure we are now bonded for life over the incident.
However, at the time I was going through the first few minutes of the experience, it was excruciating. I was mortified. It was like one of those near-death experiences where your life flashes in front of your eyes but, instead of my life, every embarrassing mistake I had ever made flashed before my eyes.
- Like the time I told a gruff judge I was working for that a certain lawyer was a real stinker – only to later discover I had identified the wrong lawyer – after the judge had chewed him out in court.
- Or, the time I told my boss a piece of legislation was stupid and antiquated, only to discover she had helped draft it.
- Or, the time I mentioned to a woman I was having lunch with that a certain guy had been flirting with me and he really wasn’t my type, only to remember on the way home that she had once dated this guy for years.
The second thing that happened is something that happens to all bloggers on a regular basis.
Someone unsubscribed from my subscriber list and felt compelled to leave a comment as to why they were unsubscribing. In short, the person said my work was, “boring.”
I looked at that word for a long time. I wondered why someone would take the time to say such an unkind thing. After all, they could have just unsubscribed and we could have parted ways gently and kindly.
Every person who works hard at their craft – whether that is writing, painting, or repairing cars – hopes their work will be appreciated and well-received, if not adored. If it is not, we tell ourselves that the person expressing the negative opinion is not one of our “tribe.”
Logically, this makes sense.
But, in those tender, vulnerable parts of ourselves where we question on a daily basis whether we are adding value, creating beauty, or helping someone, unkind words can land like a heavy stone.
Which was exactly how I felt. Like someone had thrown a stone. That “stone” caused a ripple effect where I wondered what I was doing, did anybody care, was I on the right path, was I really helping anyone.
And, I didn’t feel like writing another word.
At this point in my narrative, you are either laughing at the high drama surrounding these two minor incidents or wondering about my sanity. I hope it is the former.
After getting some distance and perspective, I know I was gifted with two great learning experiences.
First, “shit happens” as we used to say in law school.
It is how you deal with it that makes the difference. You can either crawl into a hole and never come out. Or, you can stand up and look for the opportunity in a situation.
In making my mistake, I chose to look at the opportunity it presented – the opportunity to get to know someone much better than I would have otherwise because we will always share this moment.
Second, the opinions of others do not belong to you.
Opinions can be instructive and well-intentioned or damaging and mean-spirited. In either case, we get to choose our learnings from them.
My learning from my unsubscribed subscriber is that perhaps, there is a grain of truth in the comment; otherwise, it would not have touched me so deeply. It is something for me to explore and consider as I continue to write, define my purpose, and build my business.
So there you have the whole sorry saga.
Once in a while, we need to be shaken up a bit. It’s the upset that gives us the opportunity to reevaluate or reset our thinking, perceptions, and understanding of ourselves.
Have you had a good upset lately?