Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, October 9, 2016.
Question: I was just recently fired from a job I loved. I won’t go into it, but I honestly feel my firing was wrong. I’m not going to try to fight it – it wouldn’t be worth it and now I don’t want to go back. But I just feel totally hollowed out inside and am having trouble moving forward. Any suggestions?
Answer: It’s something that seemed like it couldn’t happen in a million years…but it did…twice…in the same year.
In March North Louisiana received over 20 inches of rain in four days, quickly filling up tributary rivers and causing historic flooding in the delta.
Then, just six months later, a similar weather event occurred in south Louisiana, sending more rain to parts of the Baton Rouge area in four days than Los Angeles had received in the previous four years.
Even as the rains fell, an impromptu “Cajun Navy” of john boats and weekend fishing rigs organized itself to rescue family, friends and complete strangers. Afterward, churches from within the region (and from far away) sent folks to help with clean up. A movie studio did an impressive improve act as a temporary relief shelter. And football teams stopped August practice long enough to pay visits and offer hugs and encouragement.
Out of crisis came creation – or a re-creation – of sorts.
That’s what crises do – or rather, what our reaction to crises can do – they can create. Or they can crater. It’s largely up to us.
Some of the lessons we can learn from the Year of the Floods in Louisiana can also apply to work and financial crisis as well. Here are just a few:
A crisis reveals the quality of your preparation. A crisis is never convenient or expected. Still, readiness is a must. Preparing for a crisis is actually the opposite of living in fear – preparation gives you permission to not think about whether the next crisis is far off, or just around the corner. Either way, you’re ready.
Financial crisis preparation means having a savings account with at least six months of income in it. It also means having an insurance portfolio you review yearly with your professional agent to make sure it is protecting you against major losses (not minor ones – that’s why you’ve got the savings account).
Career crisis preparation means having a “bank account” of healthy relationships – people who would love to have you on their team if you leave your current job. It means always expanding your professional skills, so that you are becoming more and more valuable in the marketplace.
A crisis reveals the value of your community. When you get knocked down, who will get down there with you, just because they care? Who will lend a helping hand? Who will try to help you find solutions?
When the Louisiana floodwaters receded, the world saw not only the magnitude of the damage, but also the magnanimity of the people. Communities came together to rescue one another. Strangers pitched in. Before the floods we thought there were some pretty good folk that lived in Louisiana. Now we know.
A crisis reveals the depth of your character. You can be as prepared as possible, with the greatest community support systems available, and still find yourself wading waist deep in the dark waters of a crisis.
It’s not fair. It ain’t right. But so what?
You’ve got a choice to make. You can react reluctantly or you can respond responsibly.
Reacting is reflexive, resentful and retreating. It implies being acted upon, as a victim. The reactive person feels his response is involuntary. He is a slave.
Responding implies responsibility. Or…response-ability. As Stephen Covey pointed out, we are “response – able.” We need not be controlled by what happens to us (a crisis), but we can choose our response. And that choice is everything. It is freedom.
I’m really sorry you got fired, especially if it was undeserved.
But now you’ve got an opportunity. You can evaluate how well prepared you were for this crisis (and do better next time…because there will be a next time). And now you know the quality of the community you have cultivated along the way.
But mostly, you now have an opportunity to decide the character of your response. Will you be a victim or a fighter? Will you be a slave to this crisis, or will you be free to rise above it?
The choice is yours. It’s a choice that will either create you or crater you.
How will you respond?
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