“IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster….Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken… and lose, and start again at your beginnings…” Some fine words from one of the finest poems ever written by Rudyard Kipling. Without pain, struggle and failure, how could we truly appreciate the good times and acknowledge our success and achievement.
When I first started speaking as a professional, one thing that I felt quite happy about was the fact that I was able to deliver my talks and ideas with conviction and energy despite having never failed in business or life (so I thought). I don’t believe I was smug in any way; I was just pleased to be on stage having not felt the pain of failure and everything that goes with it. I was young, enthusiastic with a hunger to succeed and a self-belief that I would. Knowing that I had always succeeded in my life and work up to that point, gave me an extra boost of confidence.
Then reality struck! Many of us have suffered professionally and personally since 2008, many businesses have gone to the wall, property empires have collapsed and relationships have changed forever. I can admit that some of my less happy circumstances have been caused by self-inflicted flaws and weaknesses in my business model or in the decisions I made when feeling content and ‘bullet proof’ prior to the global meltdown.
I don’t tell you this story to depress you but to empathise with those who have suffered similarly, share with those who are just getting going and shine a light of hope that the good times will come again.
I recently worked in a tough secondary school, a school where the students were very disengaged and clearly didn’t want to be there. On top of that there was a big fight between students during the lunch break, with ambulances and blue-flashing lights, which meant that during the afternoon session the students were hugely distracted and even less engaged. Keeping any sort of order or learning objectives in mind through the day was a real challenge for me.
Excluding the trouble makers and removing students from the classroom would have meant reducing the class by half. It really was a tough day at the office. Feedback from the students was understandably mixed. The negative feedback was blunt, rude and hard for me to read, especially since I knew I had given it my all. Yet by contrast, the positive feedback was really special showing that many students had gained a great deal from the day. Overall, I had to be philosophical about that particular day. I used all the tools in the box to deliver a memorable day for the students and other circumstances that occurred meant that perhaps it was memorable for different reasons…
Contrast that with the next time I worked in a school delivering a speaking skills programme, only a week later. There were students who didn’t want to be there and others that were keen to learn, those that were challenging and difficult still got involved, we engaged on a different level and they all stood up and delivered their speeches at the end of the day like they had never delivered a speech before in their lives. It was a real privilege to be in the room and hear their words.
What was different? The moon, the stars, the school, the teachers or the environment? -All of the above probably, or maybe none of the above. In everything we do there are tough days, days when everything just seems to go wrong despite our best efforts and then there are days when it feels like you just don’t have to try and everything works. Those days feel so good, but what makes them feel even better is the fact that you know and understand the pain of the ‘crap’ days. Everyone has good and bad stuff going on, enjoy the good times, forgive yourself when things go wrong and learn from the bad days. Remember that tomorrow is another day, it isn’t yet written, so go for it!