You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude and reaction towards it. My friend Jeff Allen is great at controlling his reactions and always has a wonderful attitude. He can be described as a person that always looks on the bright side. A few of us (mutual friends) were sitting around swapping stories about Jeff and agreed that he seemingly has complete control of his reaction to any situation and it’s often positive. If you do not know Jeff, then perhaps you know someone like him. He’s the kind of guy that could be sitting in a restaurant, a bomb could go off bringing the walls crumbling around him and he wouldn’t run, scream or panic. There may be complete chaos. Jeff would simply stand up and say, “woah, this restaurant just blew up… wow that was nuts, glad i’m okay… I guess I should help cleanup!”. There’s not many people out there that have this level of control over their reactions but I am betting you know at least one.
On the other end of the spectrum is where I tend to live. I sweat the small stuff, the medium sized stuff and the big stuff. I live in a constant state of perspiration. If you don’t know me, then perhaps you know someone like me. I’m the kind of guy that catches a cold and starts googling symptoms that inevitably leads me to believe I’m dying of Churg-Strauss syndrome (yes, I research the rare disease database). My bad days always get worse.
An example of this happened about 8 years ago. It was just one of those days that started poorly. One of those mornings where you wake up and your entire body is achy like you spent the night battling dragons. Once my day starts poorly like that, I have a hard time snapping out of it. I woke up sore and grumpy and I began to rush. I couldn’t find my “go to” shoes. Instead of calmly taking the time to find them, I grabbed a pair from the back of the closet that cut into your Achilles tendon as you walk. I arrived at work late with a slight limp.
Sitting at my desk at work, I just kept thinking that this day is really bad, it will only get worse and eventually I would die or get kicked by a mule or something. Frustrated, I decided I needed an early, unhealthy lunch. I barely arrived at work and all I can think about was running out barefoot and stuffing my face with a Wendy’s Baconator. So, I left for lunch and as I drove I kept thinking about what was going happen next in this bad day. I almost expected something bad to happen, and well… it did.
My tire on my truck blew out as I was driving around 65mph on the freeway. I wobbled a bit and pulled over. I wasn’t thankful that I was able to steer to safety. I was frustrated and added “having to change a tire on the side of the freeway” to my list of bad day woes. I got out of the truck, pulled out my tools and spare and I began changing the tire while talking to myself about how miserable I was. Other vehicles on the freeway zoomed by and I could feel the wind of each pass. I kept thinking, “great, I’m going to be hit by a passing Pontiac Aztek and this will be the end of me”. I thought about something bad happening over and over again and then again… it did.
I felt the hit straight across the entire right side of my body. I fell towards my truck where i’d been kneeling to change the tire. It wasn’t incredibly painful but being hit at incredible speed causes more of an intense rush and you don’t think about the pain. I thought it was the end. My eyes were watering as realizing I was still alive, I turned and expected to see an intense car crash. I looked up and thought, “did someone happen to get the license plate of that…ummm…. 50 gallon plastic trashcan that just hit me”. Yes, that’s right. I watched as a big 50 gallon trashcan bounced away from me and along the oncoming traffic, off of car hoods, denting and causing pandemonium.
What in the world just happened you ask? Well, an old pick-up truck was speeding along and his giant plastic trash can flew off the back of his truck at the exact moment he passed me. The trashcan then bounced off of my face and back into the freeway causing chaos. I couldn’t make up what just happened, I’m not that creative. My entire side of my face was red and swollen like someone… well, like someone took a giant piece of plastic and slapped me with it. A city worker pulled over and said he saw the whole thing and asked if I needed help. I felt okay so I declined and finished changing my tire in an angry daze. I got in my truck and peeked in the mirror to see a giant welt along my face. I drove off with a half-red face, forgetting my tools on the side of the road.
That day really didn’t get better for me, although I can say it didn’t get much worse. Looking back at it now though, I must think about my friend Jeff. If I were more like Jeff that day may not have been so bad. Jeff would’ve woken up with the beginnings of a bad day and he would’ve made light of it. He may not have rushed out to lunch, full of rage and who knows, he may not have been hit by a trash can in the face. However, that’s not the point of this post. The point is that bad things happen to everyone. They happen to me and they happen to guys like Jeff. It’s how we handle our emotion and our reaction that is the most important. If what happened to me were to have happened to Jeff… well, I believe he would consider himself to be incredible lucky. What are the odds of that happening? I’d like to think I was the first person to be hit in the face by a trash can that flew off a truck on the freeway. Jeff would certainly believe so and to him, that particular day wouldn’t be so bad.
No matter what happens in life, I urge you all to be more like Jeff. I’m trying. Take in the bad events that unfold and try to muster a smile and move on, no matter how difficult. This will leave you more time to focus on the things that are good.