Having a “can do” attitude - very valuable.
Knowing when “can do” won’t do - priceless.
There are times when you’ve done your due diligence, you’ve been honest every step of the way with everyone connected to a venture or project, and suddenly, everything you’ve worked so hard for blows up in your face. You re-attack the problem and it’s like throwing a pebble at a freight train. The problem continues to vex, frustrate you, and is costly to you, your business, and your relationships. The problem is here to stay. The good news is so are you. The scenario I’m presenting to you is not being stuck in traffic. I’m talking about something which has significantly challenged your beliefs, your methods, even your confidence. In other words something significant.
Usually when “can do” fails, the first step is to seek comfort in the arms of others. But when significance strikes, we realize all too well while can be part of the solution they can’t make the problem go away. Being willing to trust others and seek external answers is good. What isn’t good is the usual answer we hear when we’re looking for more than just comfort, but answers. We approach our pastor to be told “You have to have more faith”. We call our parents and are told “Don’t worry dear, your father and I think the world of you.”. Too bad your ex-client or boss doesn’t. A coach or mentor may say “Fake it ‘til you make it” or tells us to invoke the “Power of Positive Thinking”. We approach our spouses or significant others and initially receive a compassionate response. But after awhile we begin to be a drain on the relationship because what’s happened is so big we can talk of nothing else. Defeat happens and you need to understand what it is, how to get out of it, and where to go from there. However, an unguided or unstructured means of restoration will result in more heartache and more problems. As for the original problem, it now becomes a pattern.
So when our relationships don’t cut it we turn to books and that’s good too. The problem is there are way too many books which offer quick, general, and ultimately childish answers. Because we’re in an emotionally altered state, we don’t feel like wading through even more complexity loaded with the unknown. If we feel self-pity then it’s “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and it’s all small stuff)”. What about when your wife is diagnosed with cancer? I guess that’s small stuff. Or, we’re attracted to the mystical such “The Secret”. Essentially “The Secret” is that whatever happens to you is up to you and you alone via “The Law of Attraction” (basically a regurgitated form of “Positive Thinking”). But what about when a pedophile kidnaps and murders an 8 year old child? I guess they attracted it. Or how about the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 which killed 70,000 people? Did all of those people attract it?
Society is under the delusion that if we just try hard enough, if we’re diligent enough, and have enough heart, victory is assured. The truth is that we can do all of that and more and still sometimes it’s just not our time. Anyone who chooses to make a living based on passion, knows that it’s a matter of time until we tumble and have to change. If you are doing something which you have been called to do, you know that although defeat is a probability over time, it does not make us who we are. We’ve found that the best method to rebound is contained by the “Six Rs”. Let’s look at the amazing comeback of George Foreman as an example.
1. Relax. When a good boxer takes a blow flush on the chin, he’ll relax and absorb the blow will allow the force to flow through him, vs. into him. There’s a reason why in most fatal DUI crashes, the drunk tends to survive. That’s because he has very little tension in his muscles at the point of impact. What this would look like in real life is quickly confessing what just happened. In other words, acceptance. We all hate to lose. However, we have to go into any venture knowing that although “failure is not an option” it’s still possible. If you know who you are and can already envision what might happen (and therefore put it in its proper perspective) you’ll come out on top and rebound quickly. If you’re attacked by someone wielding a knife, you have to know that you’ll be cut at least once, if not several times before you can disarm the attacker. If you defend yourself knowing this already, the chance of going into shock is greatly reduced and so is the chance of you becoming a statistic.
When George Forman fought in his earlier years, he had an amazing amount of power behind his punches. Before he was knocked out by Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle”, he had dispatched the second most powerful boxer of his day, Joe Frazier in a mere 2 rounds. Ken Norton (who broke Ali’s jaw) met a similar fate. But when Foreman squared off against Ali, Ali refused to go toe to toe with Foreman. He danced, backpedaled when he had to, and repeatedly got Foreman in a clinch. Foreman would have to expend energy to untangle himself, and by round 7, against all odds and the unanimous view of the pundits and the public, George Foreman went down. Years later when he reentered the ring, Foreman, although still possessing plenty of power, chose to absorb the blows by staying relaxed vs. bulling his way through the fight.
The endstate of being able to relax is not to cover up what happened. It’s also not repeating that lie we’ve been uttering since boyhood; “That didn’t hurt.”. But being able to talk about it, limit it for what it is, and make sound decisions after the fact. Ultimately, relaxed looks like not experiencing frustration to the point of paralysis when you think about it or deal with it.
2. Remove. If something has you against the ropes and you can’t absorb anymore punishment, remove yourself from the situation. That doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or reconsider what you’re doing for a living. If you remove yourself, you’ll avoid making emotional (as in hasty or reactive) decisions. A sound decision is one which when executed, results in peace in your heart. Try to get away for a bit. Take some time off, take a vacation, but get out of striking distance of the problem.
After George Forman was knocked out by Ali, he was never quite the same again. After a lackluster performance in subsequent bouts, he collapsed in his dressing room one night and basically had an emotional collapse which resulted in his becoming a born-again Christian. He decided to enter into the ministry and raise a family, both of which he did very well. Boxing was his passion and because of that he was very appreciative of what boxing gave him. He knew that he was meant to box and still, despite his intense training regimen, his heart being 100% in it, and his 44-2 record (31 by knockout), it just didn’t happen. He removed himself from the boxing world, seemingly never to come back.
He still boxed as a hobby, still trained, and therefore kept in touch with the boxing world. But he had removed himself from the effects of the media, the ability for anyone to criticize him, or mention that he just wasn’t the “George Foreman of old”. That’s what successful removal looks like. You’re still aware of the problem, but you’re far enough from it financially, socially, and personally, where you know that despite the fallout and feedback, you’re in a safe place.
3. Replenish. This is where most of us go wrong. When we’re drained of energy and hope, we have to go somewhere to fill our tank. “Blowing off steam” is a part of the process. But the pursuit of pleasure, if it’s the core of what you do and think about, is not. It’s very seductive to sink back into the couch and zone out (“chillax” a friend of mine calls it) watching television. That’s ok, but ensure that you have a plan to get back up. The best way to do this is by a) accountability from a peer or coach and b) setting a time limit both long term and daily for leisure activity. And c) Selectively choosing the activities you will use to fill up your tank. Playing endless video games is neither relaxing nor replenishing. Most men play video games which entail shooting, killing, or some sort of competition (myself included). But when you’re done with your Halo or “Street Fighter” marathon, you’re not fulfilled, you’re spent. Try to focus on hobbies which entail some sort of creativity, something which is growth oriented. If it’s a video game, try one of the SIM games or even strategy games, something which uses your mind but doesn’t tax it. If you want to take a vacation, go somewhere relaxing, not Vegas. If you’re taking a break from your career or the market, choose something where you can come home everyday feeling somewhat fulfilled.
George Foreman’s boxing days were over (from his perspective) for quite some time. Yet in the interim he raised a family, developed a great church, constructed a youth center, and was willing to share his experiences on shows such as “The 700 Club”. Most importantly, he got his sense of humor back. Not by “keeping the dream alive” but by seeing what else he could do well, aside from boxing. You can tell where someone is emotionally by watching how they handle their pleasures. And what separates good men from great men, is how they spend their free time, how they connect with others when they’re down, and the sincerity of their reflection.
4. Review. This is usually where most men stop. You don’t have to indulge in debauchery in order to avoid the truth. You also don’t have to whip yourself endlessly (although you can expect this too). But if you want to stick it out, something has to change, usually you. We can keep doing what we do and succeed wildly at it for awhile. But eventually, conditions will change, either in your market, your industry, client base. Whatever it is, no one can get by doing the same thing over and over again no matter how brilliant their past performances were. If you’re properly and adequately replenished, then you’ll have regained your energy. Energy enables hope. And now you’re ready to review what you’ve done, what happened, and how you want to do things from here on out. If all of the above require changing who you are (and usually it does), then you’re ok with that too. What a review looks like is threefold: 1) Asking for counsel from a coach or mentor. A good coach can help you not only conquer lost ground, but to conquer yourself. 2) Being willing to conduct a thorough “AAR” (After Action Report) on not only what went wrong, but also what went right. Avoid the temptation to dissect your reasons for failure alone. 3) Refrain from taking anything which is said or discovered personally. In his book “Integrity”, Dr. Henry Cloud calls this process an “autopsy”. But just remember that you’re conducting an autopsy on something which will remain dead, be it a part of your character or way of doing things.
5. Re-Arm. George Foreman knew that he could no longer throw powerful combinations (a quick series of punches). Throwing a rapid succession of powerful punches like he used to would wear him out too quickly. And, although he had strength, he lost the 2 other “Ss” of punching power: speed and “snap”. Diminishing speed as you age is a given. And “snap” is the quickness and timing applied in retracting a punch. Think of striking someone with a whip. The pain you deliver is not from the whip hitting the unfortunate victim, but pulling back on the whip at just the right time so that the tip of the whip leaves a lash. However, rather than chase his ability to “snap” for endless hours in the gym for minimal overall return, he continued to get stronger and changed his strategy to overwhelm his opponents by sheer size.
What we’re getting at here is that when you decide to increase the lethality of your arsenal, you have to make what made you great even greater, and figure out a way to cover the gaps in your methods. If you spend the bulk of your time and effort working on your weaknesses, you’ll wind up having strong weaknesses. But you also have to find a way to manage your weaknesses. One of George Foreman’s weaknesses in his younger days was his attitude. In public, Foreman appeared morose and sullen. He appeared to be motivated by a grim determination. When he lost, boxing fans didn’t feel like they lost as well. But when he returned to the ring, he answered the borderline insults from the pundits with humor. In an upcoming bout with Evander Holyfield, a commentator said that Holyfield looked like a Greek god and Foreman looked like a Greek restaurant. In the commercial for the fight, Holyfield said that he couldn’t wait to wear the championship belt around his 32 inch waist. When the camera flashed to Foreman, he said “I can’t wait to wrap that belt around my 32 inch…..bicep!”. Foreman simply wasn’t attached to the outcome because God had asked him to do this. In addition to doing something he was literally called to do, he also repeatedly said that he wished to inspire “older folks” and show them that they were capable of more. This time, the American public had not only accepted Foreman, but adopted him as well.
6. Re-engagement. Against all odds, and with several losses along the way, Foreman, at the age of 45, regained the heavyweight championship of the world (and not against weak opponents either). His championship fight was against Michael Moorer, who was not only stronger, but had beaten the “Greek god” Evander Holyfield. Moorer was not only stronger and quicker, he also had a first rate trainer, Teddy Atlas who trained Mike Tyson in his rise to greatness. Years later, Teddy Atlas appeared on ESPN as part of a round table of boxing experts who were debating the greatest heavyweights of all time. When he was asked about how his protégé Moorer was knocked out, Atlas replied; “I knew we were in trouble when I saw him walking towards the ring. He was wearing the same trunks he wore the night he was knocked out by Muhammad Ali. I knew we were in trouble because any man who is willing to confront his past is dangerous.”.
The “Six Rs” are proven. They’re reliable not just for how to get out of a rut, but how to do better next time. This is because the “Six Rs” focus on how to be better next time. Following this method won’t undo your past. But it will make it irrelevant. Not by denial, not by avoidance, but by making it a part of who you are.