Curveballs

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I am not a baseball guy, per se, but I’ve watched enough on ESPN to know that if you’re going to hit a curveball, it is best if you are looking for it based on the count and the pitcher. I sure wish it were that way in life.

In life, it seems, you don’t ever see the curveballs coming. You’re bouncing through life and everything seems to be going well. You’re getting fastball after fastball and hitting most of them. While we rarely hit the big, towering home runs in life, we at least know what life is throwing at us most of the time and we can scratch out some ‘runs’ with singles, doubles, and an occasional triple.

And then life throws you a curve.

The two pics above were taken a few minutes ago at my house this morning (a Saturday). If you’ve had this particular curveball thrown at you, you know exactly what you are looking at…if not, you should pray that you don’t ever face this pitcher – replacement of your air conditioning unit! When we headed upstairs Thursday night to tuck the kids in we were greeted with temperatures in the high-80’s and no way to get the AC back on. One night on air mattresses downstairs prompted a call to the AC company on Friday morning and by mid-afternoon we were staring down one of the nastiest curves life can throw a homeowner; both our upstairs and downstairs AC units were completely corroded in the coils, leaking freon, and freezing up (which shuts them down). I will spare you the gory details, the painful facts and figures, and the heart-wrenching looks Jessi and I gave each other and just say that it is NOT an inexpensive repair. If there is a bright spot in the story, it is that Morris-Jenkins Heating and Air of Charlotte, NC treated us with kid gloves, were as generous with the pricing as possible, and had a crew here at 8:30a this morning to make the replacements.

Here’s what I’ve learned about life’s curveballs…you can’t ever really be ready for them, but you can still make contact and stay alive.

The interesting thing about curveballs in life is that the most important thing about being able to survive them is being present in the moment. You can’t get caught up in the last bad thing or tough time you just went through because if you’re emotionally whining and complaining about the past, today’s curveball will make your knees buckle and feel devastating. You also can’t be thinking too far ahead about how great you feel about your financial stability or upcoming opportunities. If you do that, today’s curveball will take all of the wind out of your sails because it can wipe away all of those opportunities. If you stay present in life, however, you can at least view the ‘pitch’ with clear eyes and no distractions, which is the only way you’ll have any chance of making contact with life’s curveballs – and making contact is probably the best you can hope for most of the time.

My initial instinct when we found out about having to replace the air conditioners yesterday was disappointment. I think anyone would react that way. We were looking forward to having our credit cards paid off completely for the first time in a long time in a few weeks; we were excited about our savings being in a place we finally felt comfortable with; we were looking forward to an upcoming commission check that would allow us to do some things we’d been looking forward to; and I was looking forward to a relaxing Saturday at home with no agenda and some family time. When I woke up this morning, however, I realized that it is just one of life’s curveballs and because I am getting better at being present in life, I was able to foul it off. We’re still enjoying a no agenda day at home as a family (albeit it with workers walking through the house all day). We’ll get those debts paid off sooner or later. And we’re sure to have some great experiences together in the coming months despite the financial setback because experiences are a priority for our family. We just have to get back in life’s batter’s box and take a few more pitches, that’s all.

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Slumps

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This picture is what a slump feels like to me – a long path in front of me, no end in sight, no one to talk to, only the path to keep running. What I have learned about slumps, and what I am having to do right now as I go through one, is that all you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and move on down the path in the moment you have right now.

Slumps come in a lot of different forms and in various parts of our lives. When we’re experiencing slumps in multiple parts of our life at once it can start to feel overwhelming. When only one area is going through a slump, we often think there is something we can DO to get out of it if we just work harder, push harder, focus our effort. The reality about most of the slumps we go through in life is that there isn’t much we can DO about them, we can only keep moving forward.

Life is pretty good right now. My wife and I feel like we’re in a real “sweet spot” in the parenting of our 9 and 6 year olds (if you haven’t hit these ages yet, they are the easiest to date). After a major physical wake up call, I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds in the last month and feel healthier than I have in a year. Spiritually and emotionally I feel as peaceful and tuned in as I can remember in my adulthood. Financially our family is stable and comfortable and we live in a great neighborhood with a lot of luxuries that many others do not enjoy.

Yet still, despite all of the good in my life, I’m experiencing a business slump. Almost daily I spend some time wondering why I’m on a cold streak of closing new business deals? I start to analyze what I’m DOING and questioning whether I’m working hard enough, making enough calls, reaching out to the right people, saying the right words. All of my insecurities revolve around some failure on my part to not DO THE RIGHT THING or enough of it. I feel like my business prospects are like staring down this empty path – no one to talk to or no one to listen to me, no end in sight, and no opportunities in view. It is maddening and disheartening. Sometimes I exacerbate the situation by trying to DO something else unrelated to work just to get the satisfaction of accomplishment. Maybe if I can successfully plan a family trip that will make me feel better. Maybe if I can get a good deal on a new car I’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Maybe if we moved to a new house the change of scenery would jump start things! It snow-balls quickly…

Here is the reality I recognized this morning as I finally sat quietly and examined my thoughts (crazy thoughts about uprooting my family in hopes a change of scenery would help)…slump-busting isn’t about DOING. Breaking out of a slump is about staying on the path, putting one foot in front of the other, and staying true to who you are and the values you hold true. Slumps are a normal part of life, family, sports, and business. Jon Doyle, from BaseballTrainingSecrets.com, said this about hitting slumps:

Most people actually think slumps are created by the hitter doing something wrong with their mechanics. However, what usually causes an ongoing slump is how the hitter is affected mentally.

I believe business slumps are the same. As I reflect on this slump I’m in, I realize I’m not doing anything different than I was doing 6 months ago when we had so much business coming in we couldn’t keep up with it. No, what I’m doing is allowing my focus from a business standpoint to wander to other solutions, looking for an action that will fix things. Like a hitter who starts by moving back a bit in the box to get a split second longer to see that ball, I started with trying to get the ‘feeling’ of winning a deal a different way and focused energy there instead of plugging down the path. As a hitter’s slump continues, they often make more and more drastic changes in an effort to break out of it until pretty soon they’re using a different bat, eating a different pre-game meal, and shopping for new cleats. All along, for hitters, and for me, the solution is in our head. And it isn’t a solution at all…it is just getting all of that other junk out of our heads and focusing on the moment we have right now.

So today I’m going to stop worrying about the details of that family trip that is months away; email those car dealers back and tell them I’m not buying after all; and I’m going to throw away those real estate listings on the coast that I’ve been fixating on for that past few days. Instead, I’m going to focus on staying in the moment with my clients which leads to meaningful conversations. I’m going to talk freely and without pressure to prospects about the value our company can bring to their projects. And I’m going to keep my mind and eyes open for possibilities for business and explore them when they come, not choke them when I see them. I know that less DOING and more BEING PRESENT MENTALLY will break this slump.