When I was small, I learnt a powerful lesson. I didn’t know then how powerful it would be.
I was too shy to make a phone call. Dad confided that in his first job he was so shy that rather than call the warehouse a few blocks away, he would run there multiple times a day to check if they had an item. A few years later he was in an accident and became a quadriplegic. Conversation was suddenly all he had left and it seemed to him, time to get good at it. As we grew up, he embarrassed our teenage selves endlessly by making new friends every time we left him alone for 5 minutes.
This week I talked with a leader who had to announce bad news to an area of the business. I talked with someone grieving a death. An athlete out for the season with injury. Sometimes not even Napoleon Perdis can put lipstick on the pig. It’s just tough.
That’s when I remember dad. When there is a rare hurdle or outlier of an event, there is always, equally, an incredibly rare opportunity to rise. As hard as it is, when we can get up again our task is to find that thing the situation has left in front of us and not waste it.
The senior leader who had to announce bad news set up at a hot desk near the team in silence just to be closer to them.
The client grieving a death knew they had to get good at learning to ask for help.
The athlete in a moon boot asks to sit in the coaches box and becomes a master of strategy.
We'd watch Dad spend hours in his gym practising the smallest leg movements. When that was lost, hours practising standing. When he could no longer stand, we'd watch him spend hours on his hand gripper so he could continue to hold onto a fork. And when he had nothing but his sense of humour left, he’d call out to the person down the other end of the table at meal times and blame them for dropping food on his shirt.
It has been a hard lesson, and a life changing lesson. But I am reminded so many times a day lately that the task we all have is to look less at what has gone and notice that one rare opportunity, that just maybe it has left in front of us instead.
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