A few years ago I received the type of news that no one ever wants to get, let alone on Christmas Eve: “Your role at the company is no longer needed.”
Losing my job was a pivotal moment I’ll never forget.
Over the following weeks, text messages, phone calls, and emails rolled in from colleagues and friends offering their support: “I can’t believe they let you go on Christmas Eve!” They lamented.
I thanked them for their sentiments, but their perspective didn’t ring true for me. I didn’t feel sorry for myself. My former employer letting me go on Christmas Eve was actually a blessing.
What my friends didn’t see was being let go before Christmas helped me look at the New Year with fresh eyes. Without my employer responsible for my future, I had to be. I had won the opportunity to reinvent myself going into the New Year. And that’s what I chose to do.
I took the first of many steps that led me to where I am today. What those steps were, I outline in my upcoming book: Digital-First Leadership.
Even in my current business, with all the upheaval that’s happening in the world, if I wanted to, I could choose to focus on the negative: “I didn’t hit that goal, I didn’t achieve that objective, I wasn’t able to accomplish all that I had hoped.” It comes down to the half-full, half-empty glass mentality.
By focusing on my successes, I’ve been able to create momentum that will propel me into 2021.
Whether we choose to see a situation as a win or a loss is really up to us. Our outlook will be what forecasts and shapes our future.
The more you celebrate your wins, the more momentum you create for yourself, and the closer you get to achieving your goals!
This concept is elaborated further in The Motivation Myth, by Jeff Haden. He explains that progress and motivation are counterintuitive — that motivation comes after we’ve achieved something. We can’t expect the motivation and momentum just to show up!
Once you recognize and celebrate even the smallest of achievements, you will motivate yourself to tackle the next task. I’ve spoken about this before, but it’s worth repeating: write down and mark off all your goals and achievements. In doing so, you will send a celebration signal to the brain, which will catapult you forward.
A clutch aspect of this principle is that you must be clear about your goals. Decisiveness towards your destination is an essential element to celebrating silver linings. If you don’t know what your goals are and you don’t know where you’re headed, you can’t track your progress. You will feel lost wandering without purpose.
Goal setting, celebrating wins, and focusing on the positive all work in conjunction — to demonstrate that sometimes “our losses” actually move us significantly closer to our dreams.
I don’t want to downplay anyone’s hardship — there have been plenty this past year. My point is that in many situations, we can empower ourselves by finding the silver lining.
As we look to 2021, we must continue seeking out the silver lining. That way, we gain the momentum and power we need to move forward and find a break in the clouds.
An Aspiring Life
The power of writing your aspirations down and sending them into the universe
I’m a big believer in aspirational goals. I believe if you define your aspirational goals in detail and send them into the back of your subconscious, the universe will align itself to bring those goals into a reality in your life. You have to seize the opportunity and aspire to greatness.
Some people refer to this as the Law of Attraction.
I first discovered the power of The Law of Attraction and setting aspirational goals in college. My lifetime dream was to earn $40,000 a year. If I could hit that goal, I believed I would arrive at the pinnacle of success.
Little did I realize how foolish I was. A few short years after college, I found myself having arrived at this number with minimal effort. I was struck by my failure to believe in myself and to push my dreams and aspirations beyond my own expectations.
I had to do better.
This time I promised I was not going to underbid myself and wrote a new aspirational goal for my salary: by January 1st, four years from the moment, I would be making $105,000 a year.
I got fired from my job a month later!
Yet, through a series of unpredictable events, on January 1st, four years later, I made $104,500 — only missing the mark by a mere $500! You can bet that I was thrilled, especially considering when I’d set this aspirational goal, I had no idea how I’d achieve it.
Another story of the universe aligning took place in my early twenties. I was broke but desperately wanted to go to Taiwan to teach English. I was not sure exactly how, but I knew I had to go there.
The trip cost $2,000. I begged everybody I knew to loan me the money. Not a single person would help me out, so eventually, I stopped asking. Yet, I had written it down, and it stayed in the back of my mind, my subconscious.
Then one day, while home from college visiting my family in Olympia, Washington, I ran into an old contact of mine from high school who I hadn’t seen in years. He said he was living in Taiwan, teaching English.
“Really?” I asked. “I want to go.”
“Seriously?” he asked.
“Seriously,” I said.
Suddenly, I was lined up to go to Taiwan with a former peer from high school who showed up out of the blue.
Now here is where the story gets crazy.
The flight was in 10 days, and the ticket cost me ALL my money — every penny. I was broke. On top of that, all my possessions were in Provo, Utah, where I had been attending college, nearly 1,000 miles away. Which meant I had to figure out a way to get to Utah from Olympia and back without any money.
Monday evening, the day after encountering my friend from high school, another contact heard my story and offered to pay gas money if I was willing to drive his truck and trailer from Seattle to Provo, Utah. I agreed, and the next day, Tuesday, I was heading south.
Once I dropped the trailer off in Provo and picked up my stuff on Wednesday, I had to find a way to return to Olympia and catch my flight to Taiwan. I had less than a week to figure out how to get back. And I still didn’t have any money.
This gets even better!
While walking down the street in Provo on Thursday, I ran into my best friend’s parents from Olympia. They proceeded to tell me they were trying to figure out a way to get their son’s truck back from Provo to Olympia. They asked me if they paid for the gas, would I be willing to drive it for them?
“Absolutely,” I said. So the next day, Friday, I found myself heading back to Olympia.
Finally, back in Olympia, my friend, who worked as a pizza delivery guy, gave me a ride to the airport. He had an ashtray full of quarters from tips and spared me $10 worth of change.
On the flight to Taiwan with a pocket full of quarters and a heart full of dreams, I was told that foreign coins could not be exchanged. The flight attendant was happy to convert my pocket full of quarters into a $10 bill.
My high school mate travel buddy said that he had contacted a family we could stay with upon our arrival and that they were expecting me.
Upon arriving at the family’s home in Taiwan, I was surprised to discover they weren’t expecting me — my friend had lied. But after the initial alarm, the family decided they liked me much better, and let me stay and kicked out my friend instead.
I ended up living with them for a year in Taiwan.
I tell this story because I was operating on the unquestioning belief that if I put my desires out there, the universe would align the planets and bring them to me.
This whole story is one chance event after another — the most improbable things happening — to make it possible to reach my goals.
I could go on and on about how writing down my aspirations has helped me achieve countless other goals: I met my favorite author, David Brin, sat on the exact plane seat I manifested on my trip to London, eliminated three-quarters of a million dollars in debt, and so much more.
To this day, I write down these aspirations on 3×5 index cards, put them in a box, and every few years, go back to check if I’ve achieved them.
For me, when writing these goals down, I seldom have a plan on how to achieve them. Instead, the critical part is the visualization and firm belief that they will come to me, rather than pursue them.
You may be full of skepticism about this idea. I understand that we each have our worldviews that shape our thoughts and actions.
My worldview is one of infinite possibilities. I don’t worry about the how of accomplishing these goals. My focus is to stay open enough to act and respond to the opportunities given to me by the universe.
And the one takeaway I have is never to underbid my own aspirations.