In the spring, I was invited to Budapest to teach Centered Leadership and share my perspective on advancing women at work. I had never been there, and as it turns out, I got to bring Jetta, my youngest daughter.
What an experience! Apart from drinking 21 glasses of wine to celebrate Jetta’s upcoming birthday, something very big happened. My world opened up to embrace another city, another culture, and some remarkable people. It was a whir of a week, and I’m left with image traces that feel like dreams – of a fairy tale building, or a brutal painting, or a baby’s face.
And Ewa is certain that I made this video. You can see it here. I don’t remember making it, but I can confidently say that the jet-lagged woman in this video is me. I was obsessed with Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech. Still am. Whatever you think of Teddy Roosevelt, and there are many sides of the matter, this was one helluva speech. Reframe that first or second job decision as a chance to stand in the arena. No matter what happens, you will learn something. It isn’t your only chance and it isn’t your last chance. The odds of falling down are high. And when that happens, our hero gets up, dusts off, and stands in the arena once more.
Yes that’s a romantic notion. Maybe the Hero’s Journey is not for you. That’s all fine. But when work pushes you down, and it feels like forever, know that it isn’t. How you experience the fall is up to you. Personal or Situational? Pervasive or Specific to one aspect of your life? Permanent or temporary?* Falling turns your world upside down, literally. Get some distance. Talk to people who know and support you. Look for what you’ve learned.
When you can see what happened as less personal, more specific, and short-lasting, the world reappears in technicolor. The hero in you regains the energy to stand up and get going.
* These three dimensions come from Martin Seligman’s book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (New York, Vintage, 2006). Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant found this approach helpful for people struggling to recover from a traumatic event like the loss of a loved one. As Sheryl notes, that process is neither easy nor quick. But if you’re dealing with the everyday kind of upset, challenges at work, learned optimism is a powerful tool you should consider.