Adversity

flagWe all face it. Adversity. It’s what we do with it that matters.

I’ve been slogging through a rough month and a half.  Things that have always gone right have gone inexplicably awry. People I thought I could count on, managing to question my faith. Even the things I have always sought to be my foundation instead became a struggle. I have trained myself over the years to not look to the external for my solutions, but to what I did or didn’t do to put myself in that situation.  But on any number of occasions, I was left shaking my head asking, “How the hell did THAT happen?” I’m not really a believer in fate.  I think there might be a little karma that finds its way back to us all, either good or bad, but I strongly believe that what you reap is what you sow. I don’t believe luck is something that finds us, I think we find it.

A key teaching in Iaido, I have shared with you before, is heijoshin, loosely translated as “constant, stable spirit”.  Even meditating on that belief, trying to just let everything flow around me and to maintain heijoshin, was impossible.  There were even moments of desperation, not understanding why or how or what.  And admittedly, there were some really dark moments. Half of the fight, sometimes, is simply willing ourselves to get back up and to take another smack to the head. At some point, though, we should see a way out, but you know, after shot after shot after shot, sometimes it just gets hard to get back up again.  But we must.  Giving up is not an option.

I do, however, believe in human nature and in psychology, and I believe that when you get it in your head that you are in a slump, you will find you are, really, in a slump.  It’s like seeing a pothole in the road, acknowledging its presence, then hitting it anyway.  As humans, we tend to sometimes focus so hard on avoiding bad things that we steer our lives right into their path.  A few years ago, I had a driver at one of our stations who had a run of accidents. He hit one thing, then another, then another.  I went down to the station and sat down with he and his officer.  “Pull him out of the seat,” I said.  There was the usual protest and I pointed out my perspective: You are concentrating so hard on avoiding another accident that you aren’t concentrating on just driving. He was snakebit. I told them, just pull him out of the seat.  Give him a month to relax, put it behind you.  Then we’ll try again. He did just fine.

Dealing with adversity is part of being a leader.  When we get out in front, we are the target for anyone who doesn’t like where we are going. When we begin to trust and make ourselves vulnerable, we expose ourselves to the killer shot. And just when we believe that everything is coming up roses, we can find that the shit has really just begun to hit the fan.  We can face adversity and let it ride us, or we can climb on and ride it instead. We all face hard times, but what breaks the leader out from the pack is the effort of examining our situation, looking for the way forward, putting our head down, and pushing through.  Focus your anger and frustration on finding the solution instead of feeling sorry for ourselves.

None of this is easy and sometimes it is just damn brutal. But you can look to others for inspiration, you can pray and seek guidance from that place where you find solace, and you can focus on surviving for just one more day, and when the next day comes, focus on the next day.  When you put those together, you find the steps away from your problems and toward a new place. And it isn’t always easy, and in fact, it can be extraordinarily painful.  But as I have friends and family I can look to for inspiration, so too you can, and just using that as a basis for living your life, you can make it, I promise.

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