Happy Thanksgiving! It’s time, once again, for the Thanksgiving newsletter where I drone on and on about the Pilgrims, their tribulations, and ultimate success. Consider it done. We all know the story and we know how it ends. Yes, the holiday has become a bit tiring and trite. However, the triteness of Thanksgiving belies its powerful message.
As children, we learn that the Pilgrims were grateful they survived, that they had the help of the natives, and that they were able to establish a viable colony. In last year’s Thanksgiving post Pilgrims Don’t Eat Turkey I wrote “Thanksgiving reminds us to reflect on the good things in our lives.” Today, I’m here to say I was wrong! Or, at least I was not complete. Thanksgiving is not just about gratitude for the things that worked out, rather it is about gratitude for EVERYTHING that has happened in the past year, the good with the “not yet shown to be good.”
Notice I didn’t say “the good with the bad.” The reason is simple, when we can inculcate gratitude to everything that occurs, we can alchemize a “bad event” into an “unpleasant/uncomfortable event” that ultimately works out for the better. Imagine the power in that! I’m not talking about denying the unpleasantness of the moment, locking the ill feelings and powerful emotions in a closet where they can fester until someday, they make themselves known. I mean feeling those feelings when they come up while simultaneously understanding that something good will come of the situation if you let it and look for it. In other words, when you are done feeling whatever it is you are feeling, look for the lesson, find the positive, and act on it. The rewards for this will be amazing.
First, you will feel better faster. Our feelings are pent-up energy. If we bottle them up, they become endothermic and suck the energy out of the environment. When we feel and release them, that endothermic reaction releases the energy into the environment and it is now potential energy available for us to recapture. Finding the lesson and being grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow is the vehicle to recapture that energy. With our emotions acknowledged and felt, we can now clearly see whatever lesson is there for us. The newfound energy then allows us to implement whatever lesson there is.
In 2009, during the great recession, my 6-year-old telecommunications company was up against the wall. People had stopped purchasing technology as they waited for the correction. I had used up all of my reserves and was deep into a line of credit with no end in sight. Faced with a personal financial disaster from personal guarantees on the debt I felt powerless. I remember as clearly as if it was yesterday the feeling of helplessness, the rage that everything I had built may come to naught, and the cardinal sin of failure. Then I found myself driving home in my 1-year-old Porsche beating the steering wheel, a strange salty liquid running out of my eyes, screaming at the top of my lungs “I WILL NOT FAIL, I CAN NOT FAIL!”. I felt it all. The 45-minute shame, frustration, and guilt-ridden ride home is clear as day and a blur all at the same time.
While at the time I had no idea what I was doing, my unplanned reaction was the exact right thing to do. My emotions were felt and spent; I was able to look at things with vision unclouded by emotions. It was then that I conceived of selling my company. With renewed energy, I undertook to do just that. I am eternally grateful for that moment and event. Without the impetuous of the Great Recession, I would not have gone on to run several more companies, thereby gaining a wealth of knowledge, experience, and a modicum of wisdom. All of this led to me sitting here and sharing my experiences and insights with you.
My challenge to you is this: When you are sitting down at the Thanksgiving table, and you are asked what you are grateful for, find that gratitude in the unimaginable events, the hard events, the unpleasant events. Discover how to feel the “negative emotions” and be grateful at the same time and your life will never be the same. When we can alchemize seemingly negative experiences into positive ones, we create positive energy. Like attracts like, practice this and you will see even more positive energy coming into your life. I promise you this will be one of the most important skills you can develop.
I am grateful for each and every one of you. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!