The Day After
This has been one crazy week.
I had a million hours at work I needed to use or lose. So I took time off to write, brainstorm, and drink coffee.
I made some new friends in my writing groups.
Welcome to the Thriver Challenge
Honor all you’ve survived by writing a letter to your past self during the hardest time of your life.
Reflecting on the pain of the worst day of my life was a challenge. I’ve done it before, and know that awful experience shaped me into who I am today.
Here’s what I wrote, and what I wish I’d known that day.
What I Wish I’d Told Myself on the Worst Day of My Life
A letter from older me to younger me
I dug pretty deep to write this. I held nothing back — the raw emotions like anger, fear, and loneliness. I imagined myself sitting with my younger self, looking myself in the eye with all the compassion I could muster, and telling my young fearful self what he needed and wanted to hear.
You’re not worthless.
You are needed in this world.
You have gifts, and it’s your responsibility to use them.
And Then This Happened
Not 5 minutes after I published, I got a phone call from my daughter.
She was choking on tears as she described what she saw.
“Jake’s not acting right. He’s hardly breathing. I don’t know what to do.”
Her mom was on the way to the house to help since I was an hour away.
Before I left to come home, I got another phone call from my wife.
Our best friend was gone.
I Feel Numb
Last night I sat on the porch and stared into the yard.
My phone was in my lap, but I wasn’t using it.
Cars passed. I know because I heard them. But I can’t tell you what a single one looked like.
And frankly, I didn’t care.
Where we live is beautiful. But after watching my family shed tear after tear, nothing seemed beautiful about this life.
Part of me never wants to laugh again. Life feels heavy. I know that is because the pain is still fresh, and soon it will pass.
Every time someone dies, I reflect.
To be honest, I am always reflecting.
This leads to internal questions like:
- What do I regret about my life?
- What can I do differently?
- How can I keep guilt from driving me nuts?
- How can I grieve without wallowing in it forever?
Granted, I’m talking about my dog. He’s not human. But he did leave a lasting impact on us. And we’ll never forget it.
So what did I learn?
Lesson #1: Your future is now.
I’m a thinker. If I’m not careful, I can think forever about something and never do anything.
I’ve learned that the best way to grow is to learn and do at the same time.
Sure, you can observe and theorize forever. Why not? It’s safe. No one even has to know you’re doing it. And maybe you can even write about what you saw.
But as my friend Tom Kuegler just reminded me this week, people want to read about your experiences, not just your thoughts.
Writers — If You Don’t Have This, You Should Not Even Try
Three years ago, all I wanted to do was be a bonafide travel blogger. So I set off on a 5-month road trip across…
What will you do? How will you test what you learn? What new and exciting insights will you share?
Don’t hold back.
Take risks. Get raw. And leave in all but the roughest edges of your brilliance.
Lesson #2 — Risk isn’t what you think it is.
We think it’s risky to start a business and depend on it to pay all your bills.
But what if it’s riskier to work for someone else because you might limit your income forever?
The choice is yours, and it’s not as clear as it seems.
The biggest reason we don’t take risks is we’re afraid it will go horribly wrong.
- Your viral blog post will label you as the stupidest person who ever lived.
- You’ll lose all the money you ever earned in your whole entire life.
- The experience will scar you so badly you’ll never be able to show your face in public again.
That’s pretty extreme.
But it’s how risk looks to a lot of us.
Let’s respond to each of these, shall we?
Your viral blog post may get you some attention. Some might be negative. That’s okay. You won’t be considered history’s greatest dummy.
It’s the ones who cheer that you’ll remember. Use that as fuel to take another risk.
Losing money is hard. But you can always make more. You probably have friends and relatives that will lend you a hand when you need one. And unless you’re constantly losing money, you won’t be left behind.
The good news is the pain will make you think harder about the next risk. I think you’ll find you’re a lot more resourceful than you think.
Life will give you scars. You can’t escape it. Use those scars to tell us some great stories.
And don’t forget this — your scars qualify you for your calling.
If you don’t know what your calling is, look at where your heart draws you. Talk with a trusted friend. Don’t bottle up your pain. Tell someone. They’ll see things you can’t, and help you have a better tomorrow.
This Morning I Will
I can’t bring Jake back.
I’ll never be able to pet him again.
I can’t enjoy the way he smells or the way he jumped out of his skin when he sees us.
But I can honor him by using what God has given me.
It won’t be easy.
I’ve stopped caring about following all the rules other people make.
I do care about impact.
And I hope you do, too.
Now go be the you the world needs you to be.