I finally got ahold of my pal Halbert, down in Miami, after listening to a busy signal for two days. Hurricane Wilma did a number on the town, and I’ve been worried about him and a number of other friends in the area.
Harlan, John, Dean, Rich… if you read this, drop me an email or call, just to let me know you’re okay, will you?
Unlike the previous two hurricanes that ripped into the continent, there’s not much real news to be found about this one. Just rumors and sound bites, as the easily-bored media move along to other news.
And yet, you can feel that vague sense of dread steadily build across the land.
Most of the country is jittery. (If you’re not nervous, you haven’t been paying attention.) I remember this feeling well — I was in that generation forced to do “Duck and Cover” drills in the third grade during the Cold War. The school assigned us all local houses to go to during a nuclear attack. “Why can’t I just go home?” I asked, naively. “Because the bombs will be here too quickly,” was the patient reply.
Silly little boy. The Russians want us dead.
I’m a history buff. And I can tell you with some certainty that there have been precious few periods without major threats hanging over our collective heads. Huns, plagues, revolutions… natural disasters.
Long list of troubles.
Short list of times when you could really relax.
As a culture, we tend to look at events as isolated spots of unwelcome and unpredictable discomfort. Hurricanes hitting Florida? Who’d have thought it? Earthquakes in California? You’re kidding me. Tornadoes in Kansas? Is that what the cellar is for?
Denial is a basic part of our make-up as humans. Without it, our ancestors would have never strayed from the comfort of the jungle into wetter, snowier and more hostile lands.
In modern times, denial causes a lot of problems, though. Light up another cig, have another affair, write another check that can’t be covered… and maybe worry about it tomorrow.
Right now, everything seems fine. Life’s all about living in the moment, anyway, isn’t it?
This is where many people get confused. Your denial system is there to help you get through emergencies and prolonged crisis. If you keep it turned on all the time, though, it’s a narcotic that will keep you half-asleep.
As one of the masses, being a zombie is a tradition. It has ever been thus, throughout history.
However, if you want to compete as an entrepreneur, you need to wake up.
To dominate your market, you need to be the most awake person available. You need to be the “go to guy”. And that requires a sometimes painful awareness level that keeps denial locked away in a closet.
There are many paths to full awareness… some are difficult and complex, others more like getting slapped upside the head and having an “a-ha!” experience.
Here’s a quick one: Stop resisting what’s happening.
Just that simple. In business, if the market is telling you it doesn’t want your product, stop throwing money into the project. Don’t get mad at your prospects for not realizing how great your stuff really is, don’t rail at the gods for torturing you, don’t try to twist reality with the power of your ability to fret and obsess.
Just realize that business and life is a maze, and you wandered down a blind alley. Stop, turn around, and go find another path.
People in deep denial find it tough to roll with the punches. Especially since most of the folks they know are acting in the same resistant manner. Remember that two of the three little Piggies were in denial about the abilities of the Wolf to huff, puff and set up his own Bubba’s Bar-B-Que.
Years ago, some friends of mine had their beautiful house burn down. They lived in a part of the country where this happened with regularity — canyons that acted like wind tunnels during wildfires, wildfires that erupted nearly every year.
Still, it is and always has been a stunningly-gorgeous place to live.
My friends reacted quite differently to the disaster. Both lost everything, including photos and other evidence of their life. For one, this was devastation almost beyond enduring… an event that rocked her world to the core.
I completely understand that reaction. If I were home during a fire, I’d probably try to save photos and mementos (right after the Missus and the dogs). I’ve never been without some of these things my entire life. Losing them would be jarring.
The other friend, however, reacted quite differently. He immediately referred to his lost accumlations as “just things”. Those which cannot be replaced are still committed to memory. And anything that can be replaced… was. Quickly.
They built a new house, on the same spot. It’s magnificent, and life goes on. They weren’t hurt, and their lives are filled with new evidence of living well.
I’ve been in both situations. I’ve suffered loss and crumpled under the weight. And, as I grew up and realized that loss would always be nearby, I began to look at events with stark realism.
I can tell you this: It’s a choice. You are not doomed to any particular way of handling trauma. You can learn to deal with it.
You can — if you choose — learn to wake up, and make decisions based on refusing to allow bad things to crush your spirit and ruin your life.
And when you start making proactive decisions… you become a “go to guy”. You become someone to be relied on. In life, you become the friend we all need. In business, you become the marketer we trust.
It’s not always comfortable seeing life as it is. You have to guard against becoming cynical, and you have to allow your heart to grow along with your awareness.
It’s not always comfortable… but it is invigorating.
Seize the day.
And stay frosty.