“The last of the great human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s own attitude in any circumstance.” – Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning
WHEN I FIRST STARTED TEACHING MINDSETS a few years back, I was working on a seminar for our team to describe the John F. Kennedy quote that we had also used in one of our quarterly letters to our limited partners. The quote was about how the word ‘crisis,’ written in Chinese, is made up of two characters. One stands for ‘danger’ and the other for ‘opportunity.’ He was asserting that in any crisis, one should be aware of the danger, but also recognize the opportunity that may be present because of the crisis.
As I thought about how to present it, a light bulb lit up in my head. I called out to my colleague, Christine, who was helping me with the seminar, to come into my office. I had a brilliant thought about how I was going to present this concept. I had come up with a new word! I was quite proud of myself, for I had never invented a word before. That said, I had been disappointed in the past by what I thought had been profound new ideas that, when investigated, had already been taken. So, I asked her to take a look to see if this word had indeed been taken. She went back to her desk and, in 5 minutes, came bounding back into my office with a silly smile.
I thought I finally did it. I created my own profound word. Something so original and with such a beautiful, comforting and inspiring message all at the same time. Christine said, “You’re not going to believe this!” My heart started to sink, but I couldn’t understand why she was still smiling. If some (other) brilliant minds had already taken my new word, this should not be a cause for celebration. So, I thought maybe there was some other explanation for her smile. Maybe she found out that I had, in fact, used it first. So, I asked her: “Why are you smiling? Did you find that I created it?”. She laughed again (ouch) and said, “No (you idiot – to this date I believe she said it in her head).”
So, who did? “It was first used in an episode of the Simpsons. It was created by the brilliant mind of Homer Simpson!”. She couldn’t stop laughing as my heart sank. My word. Created by a beer-guzzling cartoon idiot! And I don’t think I’ve ever even watched (in fact, I’m sure) a full episode of the Simpsons. I told her that this was not good. Now I couldn’t use it in my seminars, and it was such a great way to get the point across. We could help millions. But now all is ruined. A CRISIS!
She laughed again. Really enjoying the moment. She said, “Hey, how about practicing what you preach?” This kind of rattled me. “What do you mean?” I asked her. “Well, you can use it, and you can tell this story,” she responded, “about how you turned a crisis into an opportunity – you can even show the video clip during the seminar.” BRILLIANT!
I started using that word years ago and began applying it in my life. Anytime something happened that was even remotely a crisis, I would shift my mindset to look for the opportunity. Now, this doesn’t mean that I would have the mindset to take advantage of people during a crisis. That goes
against many other mindsets that I have also programmed. It does mean that I would always see if I could “reframe” any lousy situation that arose in my life into a meaningful one that could serve me and the others in my life.