When Things Go Wrong…

A framed version of a poem entitled ‘Don’t Quit’ hangs on the wall above my desk. It begins with the line, “When things go wrong as they sometimes will…”.

If I’ve learned anything in my time on this earth, it’s this: “Things Going Wrong” is a fact of life. There are a multitude of ways to express this idea, but they all say pretty much the same thing:

Shit happens. The fallout can range from minor discomfort to major, life-changing disruption when it does.

These events are often accompanied by an emotion: shock, surprise, hurt, anger, fear, disappointment, frustration, confusion, resentment, hatred and more. Whatever the reason, wherever the blame, whatever the result, some sort of internal response is inevitable when things go wrong.

This inevitable, immediate, impulsive reaction is, I believe, part of an instinctive ‘fight or flight’ response over which we have no control. It is designed to keep us alive in situations where real danger might be present. Once that initial adrenalin fuelled response has passed (it doesn’t take long if matters don’t escalate) we begin to think rationally again, which enables us to get on with the task of survival.

Faced with an unexpected, disappointing piece of news that forced a step change in my long term plans last week, I’ve taken time over the weekend to reflect on what has happened and to deal with my Self. As I did so, a saying came to mind that I have heard (and used) for years without really thinking about it.

“Pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again”. I looked for the source of this pragmatic advice and discovered that it came from a song written for the film Swing Time in 1936 by Jerome Kearn and Dorothy Fields.

Hidden within the song, I found some great advice for when things go wrong….

· Don’t lose your confidence when you slip, be grateful for a pleasant trip

· Work like a soul inspired, until the battle of the day is won

· Remember famous men, who had to fall to rise again

· Believe in the impossible…

When things go wrong, hold on to your confidence. We control our thoughts and our reactions. We direct our internal ‘Person’ and get to choose our next steps. No matter what’s gone wrong, our mindset in the face of any challenge is critical if we are to eventually achieve a meaningful outcome. Be grateful. Look for the good and celebrate it. It’s there if you care to find it. Let go of resentment and don’t let bitterness take root.

When things go wrong, persevere. Look for ways through, over, under or around the obstacle. It’s in solving problems and overcoming disappointments that we experience meaningful growth as human beings. We don’t get strong picking up pencils. We get strong by picking up heavy weights: frequently, determinedly forcing our minds and bodies to submit to our desire to keep moving forward, to grow, to learn, to develop, to become bigger, better people.

When things go wrong, look for role models. Allow the fortitude, determination, grit and drive of others who have overcome greater hardships than those you face to fuel your motivation. Allow yourself to be inspired by the often-incredible exploits of ordinary men and women like yourself, who overcame impossible odds, unimaginable disappointments, significant failures and more to move the mountains in their lives. They weren’t always famous. It was their demonstration of resilience in the face of difficulty that catapulted them to greatness. The same can be true for you.

There have been so many occasions in my life where I have been at my wits end. I have faced what appeared to be insurmountable barriers, obstacles that presented impossible challenges. And yet, here I am, many years later with those obstacles behind me, the problems solved, the impossible resolved.

In the story of the tortoise and the hare, I would be the tortoise. A slugger. Stubborn in the face of difficulty. Doing what I can with what I have available to me. Often unsuccessful in my efforts, I’ve learned over time that in the final equation, the sum of all my steps backwards amount to nothing if the sum of all my steps forward is greater by one.

That’s progress. Keep it up for long enough and you will go far: small, positive steps, consistently taken for a long time, lead to great results.

Finally, when things go wrong, believe in the impossible. Everything is possible to those who believe. The words of the song have this to say. “Nothing’s impossible, I have found, for when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again”.

So, there you have it. This is a new day. I am a better person. I am grateful for yesterday. Today I will use what I have learned as a platform upon which I can build a brighter tomorrow.

Always looking up, always falling forward.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, when my chin is on the ground, I will pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.

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