Gratitude…connecting the dots

As the river of life unfolds, we can never join the dots going forward only looking back – Steve Jobs

I often read business and personal development books because I like to have my brain stimulated by people who are far more intelligent than me.  I love the ideas that people come up with, the businesses they create, and their personal stories.  I am often bewildered that we are still facing people and performance issues in the workplace that I thought were solved decades ago.   Alas, the same problems just new recruits.

The most recent book I have read is – The Inside Track, by Peter Sage.  It involves a six-month stint in Pentonville which is one of the UK’s toughest and most violent prisons for an apparently “innocent” man (Peter) for contempt of court.  As a public speaking coach, I was intrigued by the possibility of working in such an area and because I was going through my own adversity – physically (surgery) and emotionally (why me) I thought  a mindset reset would be a good investment.

80% of people are not interested in your problems and the other 20% are glad you have them.  Good to know!

In 2020 I had an unexpected failure of a hip prosthesis that put me on crutches for eight months.  Its not my first hip replacement, in fact it is my third.   It stems back to a motorcycle accident when I was 17 years of age.  While I was waiting for surgery, and generally pissed off, I met with someone at a speaking engagement.  As it turned out that person was born with no hips and the discussion turned to their amazing journey not mine, thankfully.  Talk about steeling my thunder.  Suddenly, I was feeling very fortunate and inspired.

Post-surgery we had some work done on our house and the guy installing the windows had just gone through a relationship break up.  Every day the first 30 minutes started off with him unloading what occurred in the last 24 hours.  Having been though something similar I understood the “unloading” process.  Its like spewing out everything in your head all at once as you try to make sense of life and what’s happened to whomever is in front of you, whether they want hear it or not.  As I was on crutches and could not run away I was the perfect candidate.

In complete contrast, another workman came on site to complete some plastering.  He was somewhat scrawny, missing some teeth and had a few tats.   Anyone would instantly judge that he had a bit of a hard life.  As he got talking, he explained that he had 4 stents in his heart.  He was so glad to be back working and contributing to his family.  It was a different unloading.  This guy felt blessed to be alive.  He knew that his life tinkered on the precipice many times.

I stood at the bottom of the scaffold leaning on my crutches and contemplated my situation.  What did I have to complain about? Really, WHAT?

There were some messages in this book:

  • You get to choose what your focus on.
  • Resisting what I cannot change is stupid.
  • Look forward not back.
  • Life acts as a mirror.
  • Liberty may be restricted but no one can take your freedom.
  • Get busy, set some goals.

You, like me, are here today.  You can connect all the dots of the river of your life.  Everything that has shaped your life has already happened.  You cannot change one thing.

Here is a simple and powerful exercise (as Peter puts it) that consists of three questions when going through adversity.  Why don’t you try them?

Q1: What actually happened? (Remember facts only)

Q2: Which means what?

Q3: What can I learn from this? (Give a minimum of five answers)

It does not quite stop there – Exercise 2:

List as many reasons as you can as to why you can be genuinely grateful that this experience or event has happened?  (Note – this only works with at least ten to fifteen minimum)

Q1: What actually happened? (Remember facts only)

My prosthesis separated unexpectantly.

Q2: Which means what?

That it will need to be extracted and a new one implanted.

Q3: What can I learn from this? (Give a minimum of five answers)

  1. I learned that sometimes “shit” happens.
  2. I been through this before and I can get through it again.
  3. I trusted the abilities of my surgeon before, after all he never intended for this to happen.
  4. Biology and technology do not always play ball in the human body.
  5. Adversity does not discriminate. Some things you just cannot plan for.

What am I grateful for? (Remember 10-15 minimum)

  1. My wife (The rest is private).
  2. My new surgeon who basically brushed off my doubts and said – “don’t worry, you’ll be fine, I do this all the time”.
  3. I have a new prothesis – bigger, stronger, longer.
  4. I am thankful that it did not result in a medical emergency.
  5. We have a downstairs guest room, so I did not have to climb stairs.
  6. On my new Scott Scale 930 I get to keep biking – next trip the Wilderness Trail
  7. I can still walk the tracks at home even though it might be “the BIG easy”
  8. I had time off during a pandemic, talk about timing – brilliant.
  9. I found my word “faith”. You must have faith in other people.  It is as vital as the air we breathe.  Faith binds us.
  10. None of this has ever stopped me talking which for a public speaking coach is important. Other people may not be grateful though?
  11. I got a chance to reset and make sure I was doing exactly what I wanted to do.
  12. I am grateful for my parents. My father was a kind and gentle man and my mother saved me, in every way a person can be saved.  They exist now only in my memory.   They have been in the river of my life more than anyone.

Your turn 😊