• Bill Petrie

When It All Goes Wrong

When nothing seems to go right, how will you respond?

We’ve all had those days – days where nothing seems to go right, and the best option seems to be to stay in bed and hope for a “Law & Order” marathon on TNT. As it happens, I had one of those days last week where in the span of 24 hours, the following occurred:

  • Our first-floor air conditioner unit went out….in August, in Tennessee

  • All the contact information stored on my iPhone suddenly “disappeared,” and it took over three hours fiddling with iCloud to get most of it back – most, not all

  • The service that hosts the brandivate website would not save any changes, which meant I had to wait until about 11:00 at night to update the site for the Promo UPFront Podcast and the brandivate beverage of the week

  • The master bedroom shower sprung a leak which required a bit of late-night plumbing surgery from yours truly

That’s quite a bit of disappointment and frustration for a 24 hour period. Add to the fact this all happened as we are packing up two kids to begin their first year of college at different schools, and you can imagine the amount of stress that billowed in and around the house. Because I’m human, I allowed that frustration to negatively impact my mood: I was cranky, curt, and downright persnickety with just about anyone who had the misfortune to come in contact with me.

After a bit of isolated reflection, I recognized that I was allowing myself to get angry over things I couldn’t possibly control – and it was an enormous waste of energy. When this realization finally hit me, it was as if the stress was magically lifted from me, and I could enjoy life again.

Many of us do the same things in our business lives: we allow something outside of our control to conclusively – and negatively – influence our moods. When things go wrong, the only thing we control is the space between what goes wrong and how we react to it. By fully accepting and owning that reality, we can avoid wasting calories by complaining and getting angry and instead focus on a solution or a workaround.

In my situation, we were able to replace the air conditioner in about two days, most of the contact information on my phone was recovered, everything got updated on the brandivate website well before any self-imposed deadline, and the master bedroom shower is no longer leaking. In other words, everything was back to normal – and even improved – in a matter of a few days.

In the end, none of these were worth the negative energy I initially spent on them. It neither reversed what happened nor did it make me feel any better about each situation. Only after I accepted that I needed to focus on the things I could control (my response, anger, and attitude) was I able to move on.

Don’t try to control what is out of your control – it’s a fool’s mission. When something goes wrong, the only control you have is the space between the event and your reaction to it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn that new air conditioner unit as low as it will go and make up for lost cooling time.


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