Failure at 10,000 feet
Updated: May 26, 2018
I got a message from a friend today who was bitterly disappointed at not being hired for a job she really wanted. We all have that experience. I told her how sorry I was, but it also made me think about all the things that didn't work out the way I wanted at different times - and how grateful I am about those seemingly negative outcomes now. Because today, I know I'm right where I'm supposed to be, and I wouldn't be here if any of the twists and turns in my life went a different direction. It's hard to take the long view when we're feeling frustrated or rejected, but sometimes those very feelings lead us to the next right thing.
I remember when I was getting divorced from my first husband. I had just filed bankruptcy, too. It was a low point, for sure. We had a big fight one day on the phone and I thought, "I need a break. I'm gonna take a vacation." I had met some people from San Francisco on a trip earlier that year and they had offered a place to stay if I ever came west. I lived in Boston at the time. So, I made some calls and flew to San Francisco a few weeks later. My suitcase got lost and we had to go back to SFO the next day to get it. The people I was staying with didn't have a car, so they asked their friend Mike to drive us. The short story is that after my divorce was final, I moved to San Francisco and married Mike. We have two kids, two dogs and a really great life. If I didn't have that fight with my ex, would I still live in New England?
An even more powerful story is about this businessman named Bill, who was an alcoholic. He had been able to stop drinking for a few months, but hadn't worked much the past few years due to his drinking problem. He was from New York, but he got a business deal in Ohio. He jumped on it with high hopes and went to Akron. After some intense meetings, the deal fell through. He was alone in a hotel and at dinner he could hear everyone partying in the bar. As he crossed the lobby to get a drink, he saw this marquis listing local churches. He stopped short of the bar and made some calls. He made a connection and ended up meeting a guy named Bob, a local physician who also had a drinking problem. This was the start of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. If Bill's business deal had gone well, AA, Alanon and the many other 12 Step programs might never have formed. Literally millions of lives would be different today.
When we take the short view, just looking at what I think I want right now, I miss the view from 10,000 feet. When we take the long view, we can relax and maybe even be curious about what is going to happen next. You just never know which "failure" will lead to the next big success.