A student raised his hand during an MBA guest lecture some years ago and said to me, “Thanks for telling us about the barriers you overcame to succeed, but could you tell us how you overcame them?”
Without much thought, I offered my answer, “I guess I became very good at pity parties”.
The confusion in the room was visible. As I thought a bit more, the reason for my reply became clearer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt very comfortable in feeling sorry for myself. Maybe there is some of that in all of us. Perhaps it’s a part of the human condition, but I feel I have a particular talent for it.
And so, when my biggest challenges hit, I’ve traditionally whined like a baby to anyone within earshot – family, friends and business partners.
I told the MBA class that over time I had learned to welcome my pity parties by recognizing they were my exercise to flush the bad stuff out of my system.
But, like any party, pity parties must end too (or at least they should).
Sometimes it would take me a day to recover, but other times it would take a good week, month or more. For example, the time:
- A client who represented 30% of our business quit using our services without notice.
- Our bank, who without warning, froze our media company’s assets.
- A close family member stopped talking to me due to a misunderstanding.
And sometimes I could figure out how to ignore it completely, which isn’t all that helpful either. I’d ride that river in Egypt my sister, Mary, calls DeNial.
- I didn’t really like that client anyway. We’ll be better off without them.
- We’ll just find a new bank.
- I don’t miss that family member. It’s their loss anyway.
For me, pity parties keep me from either extreme: denying my loss or wallowing in it for too long. I allow my sadness, anger, resentment to unfold openly until I get sick of hearing myself and decide to get on with my life. Days or weeks of wallowing cause me to get back in the game, with vigor.
Got something that’s really killing you? Maybe try having a pity party?
Then, perhaps, as the Avett Brothers sing in, February Seven, you may be “rested and ready to begin”.