4 Words that will Define Our Lives

Throughout all the “ups & downs” of each day, week, month, let alone each year, we are “dealt all varieties of hands.” What it all comes down to is:

How will you respond?

Life is not fair.

Things will not go as you planned.

You will be let down.

You’ll have unearned successes that you don’t deserve.

You’ll have failure after failure when you truly did all you could have to succeed.

Those 4 words, “how will you respond?”, were the theme for the emotional training I did for many years during sales school with the Southwestern Company. Thousands of college students came and went over the years during those trainings and this was always the most difficult part for me to teach.

It was an emotionally draining evening that would leave me exhausted. Most of this week was technically preparing them to be “selling machines.” The ins and outs of running their own business, doing 30 presentations per day, how to live and work by “goal periods.” How to connect quickly and build enough trust with someone who never knew you existed. Because 20 minutes later they might be writing you a check for hundreds of dollars.

This one evening, however, was all mental and emotional preparation.

I’d read the Sheng Wen Sun Letters, telling of a Taiwanese-born international student whose English was by far his 2nd language. I read how, for someone who was actually working hard, he had the worst first month of anyone I’d ever seen in my 20 years. He ended up being an incredible success story that would inspire many of them during their summers.

I’d talk about my time of delivering books to families just outside of NYC in 2001 – fully wrapped up in my world of trying to have my best summer ever – and sitting with a dad in his living room as we watched the Twin Towers fall on 9/11. The same towers his wife worked in. He had no way of knowing if she survived or was among those who lost their lives that sunny New York morning. I sat with this man for hours and then went on to deliver to families all week who were missing a loved one or friend.

I talked about my college love, Marcy, who died unexpectedly during my 4th summer with Southwestern and how I heard the news from a phone call late on a Saturday night in New Jersey.

The overriding theme – “How will you respond?”

When life kicks you in the gut.

If you get a raise that you didn’t earn or deserve.

If you are treated unfairly by a loved one, friend or coworker.

When you make a sale or have a huge business victory that puts you well above your goal.

How will you respond?

We’ve all witnessed someone have a victory in some area of life and then get complacent, accepting the success with very little gratitude. They begin to lose that hunger that helped bring it in the first place. This has been the downfall of many careers, athletic teams, and even national powers.

We’ve all seen people have a failure and then get so down about it they refuse to bounce back. Maybe they’ll blame someone or something else. Petty office arguments happen, gossip spreads, and there is a lack of forgiveness. Or there’s arrogance in the moment because something fell our way. It goes on… We’ve all lived this ourselves and sometimes fallen short.

How do champions respond? Words like humility, grace, appreciation, perspective, and ownership all come to mind.

Two fellow coaches, that I personally lead, have both had significant health scares in the past year. No one could have blamed either for being quite rattled and coming out of it with less confidence and fully lost momentum. However, both of them emerged more grateful, more humble, and hungrier to make every day count. To not live by excuses and rationalizations, but rather have the incredible resilience to overcome and be even better because of the adversity.

This week countless little occurrences will “happen to you”. I challenge you to “play big.” Be bigger than the moment and be one who is not easily rattled. It is a worthy goal to respond as though you were more mature and grounded than you were a month ago.

When, not if, something happens to you today that could throw you one way or the other – how will you respond?

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