I jokingly referred to my next installment as The Power of Letting Go, in my last Snack story. Since then, a lot has happened with the world, country, my hometown of Salinas, my business, my clients, my friends and family, and more. Needless to say, 2020 continues to be the “crazy year” that none of us ever expected or wanted—and we still have the election!
Here at Joe Produce, we have been speaking with people who have been through some tough times. Some are business owners, and others are (now) job seekers. I’m thankful that we are here to help in whatever way possible. I will admit the toughest part of my job is not having a job available at the time when someone really needs one.
What I’ve observed over the past few months is something that I’ve known, and many of us have at least read about—“stuff” happens. When it’s out of our control, there is no use worrying about it and/or dwelling on it. Easier said than done, I know, especially for some of us. What we do have control over is ourselves, our perspectives, our reactions, and our actions. Again, a lot easier to say than to swallow to varying degrees and in varying circumstances.
I’ve seen some of the toughest professionals devastated by losing their jobs, and then there are others going through the same thing with surprising resilience. Neither reaction is wrong. We all have our own journeys, with unique bumps and bruises along the way. I’ve had my share over the past 34 years, in the produce business and in life, and there is no doubt that these experiences have made me more empathetic to others’ plights.
So where can we learn lessons along the way that will prepare us for the tougher periods? Over the past two-plus decades or so, I have been playing tennis. Most of those years were spent hitting thousands, or perhaps millions, of balls; working on all the mechanics of the game, like my forehand, backhand, serve, return, footwork, reaction time, etc. There is so much to know, develop, and hone. Much like a career.
For the past eight years, I started spending more time working on the mental aspects of tennis and the ability to compete. At the same time, I returned to backpacking and learned some lessons there, too. Beyond my work ethic and willingness to suffer, I’ve learned some great fundamentals that are applicable to life and our careers. For the purposes of this story, we’ll focus on a select few:
1. Live in the moment
I just watched the documentary The Last Dance about Michael Jordan’s playing with the Chicago Bulls. My greatest takeaway from that docuseries was a comment made about Michael Jordan by his best friend George Koehler: “Yeah, he’s a great shooter, jumper, and defender, but what makes Michael special is that he’s always present.” Always be present...in sports, life, and work. We can do that!
2. Short-term memory loss
A quote that still resonates with me and that we can all learn from involves the Williams sisters. In Brad Gilbert’s Winning Ugly, he writes, “Serena Williams (and Venus, too) have serious short-term memory loss. By that I mean when things go bad in a point, game, set, or match, they have this ability to mentally wipe the slate clean—to forget about it immediately and not get ruined.”
3. Change a losing strategy
If you have a winning strategy, then keep it. If you have a losing strategy, then change it. I refer to this often when speaking with a job seeker who is losing hope. They’re sticking with their same old approach and/or resume, and they’re not having success—change may be needed here!
4. Don’t add weight to your journey
Metaphorically, you may not be able to afford a titanium set of utensils, but surely you don’t want to add sand, pebbles, rocks, or even boulders to your backpack. Life’s journey is tough enough sometimes, especially the uphills. Keep your pack light!
5. Enjoy the journey
Our perspective is our choice. Some people choose to look at the journey as drudgery, lugging that “backpack” up and down the mountains. Others of us enjoy the scenery, the struggles, the sore muscles, and we know that, in the end, we’ll look back at the journey with great memories and stories. We’re stronger both physically and mentally because of the mountains we climbed and the struggles along the way.
Nelson Mandela said that resentment—in our case, carrying these “rocks”—is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. Let them go! Your trek will improve, and the other parties will continue on their own paths. Drop those rocks. Let it go. Live in the moment. If your strategy is not working, then change it.
Enjoy the journey, my friends!