It used to take me about thirty minutes to commute to work. I often would spend the drive home analyzing my day to look for what went right. Unfortunately, I do have bad days. In these cases, I would spend time evaluating what I did wrong and what I could have done better. It is a good way to assess my performance and myself so that I can become better the next time. I’m sure my wife appreciates the wind-down time more than when I worked two minutes from the house. Unfortunately, I also have a habit of over-thinking my day’s assessment and continuing this far into the night. I overanalyze a lot of things, but there have been too many times when I have beaten myself up over things I should have just let go.
As a newer manager, I wondered why a solid performer of mine had been out of the office for a long time. I was getting worried about him and decided to call to make sure he was alright. We had a decent relationship and I felt comfortable making the call. When he picked up the phone, he said he was quitting. I asked if there was anything I could do to keep him. I was not looking for him to go into his health history, but I did want him to know that I cared and that I was there to help. He said that he was having a nervous breakdown and “no thank you” to the assistance. I thought the response was odd considering that he had never had any performance or conduct issues in the past. He had always come to work with a smile on his face, ready to work, and gave no indication of any mental issues. However, I knew I was getting out of my psychiatric league, so I offered some internal services to help. He responded as if he was annoyed with my caring attitude. He said that I could not help, but if I truly wanted to know what was going on he would tell me. I was hesitant now, but if he wanted to get something off his chest, he could use me as a sounding board. He told me he had broken up with his girlfriend. Now, I personally was no expert on relationships since I was single at the time, however, I knew it could sometimes be difficult. However, I did not think that most break-ups caused nervous breakdowns. I thought I was being a good manager when I said he could use more time away from the office so he could work things out. He started to yell at me and said it was not possible to come back to work, ever. This was probably the time in the conversation to let things calm down, but I wanted to be the patient manager and be a good listener. The employee went on to say that his ex-girlfriend was the official voice on the prompt that every associate in the company heard at the introduction of every single phone call. This means that he would have had to listen to her taped introduction every time he answered a call—eighty times a day.
I learned a lesson that day: sometimes you can’t help, even when you want to. You can always try, but there are times when we just need to let go. I later found out the person did need professional help and there was not much I would have been able to do for him long term. Sometimes, there are better things around the corner. You may recall my story about when I was not hired for a position in which I would have managed hundreds, but was given the opportunity to start a new taskforce role to reduce employee attrition. Not being hired for the original role taught me the value of losing, but also taught the lesson to “get over it.” I started to realize the many great things that are ahead of us when we let go and move on. Hard work and patience did pay off with a job I was better suited for, even though I did not know it at the time. The great news when I changed jobs was that I did not have to relocate my family, and I have since grown into several other, higher-level roles because of that particular stepping stone. For further validation that I was on a better trajectory, several years later, the economy crashed, the site I would have worked in closed, and the market we had been house hunting in dropped like a rock. I most likely would have been in financial trouble. We have all had bad days or want something different.
We may want to revisit a mistake, we may want a “do over,” we may want to go back to the way things were, or may want what we can’t have. I have to repeat three simple words: Get over it. Sometimes, our control over circumstances is limited. We need to deal with what we can, and learn to get over the rest. I grew much happier when I began to understand that my career is not a sprint, it is a marathon that I hope grows and prospers with my ability to learn and become better. To use business jargon, if we continue to try to “die on this hill” or “spin our wheels,” our attempts to move forward are hindered. If I am going to hang on too long to something, I should make it the great days in my career. We should all play off the positive energy and momentum from the high points in our careers. We must take the appropriate time to recognize and celebrate the wins and enjoy them, learn from our trials, and get over the rest.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World (Honorable Mention at the 2012 New England Book Festival) and From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide (2013 Axiom Business Book Awards Gold Medal Winner and 2013 Paris Book Festival Honorable Mention). Audiobook version of “From Fear to Success” is also available! See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com. Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby