Resistance is futile. –The Borg
It’s our choice, whether to hate something in our lives or to love every moment of them, even the parts that bring us pain. At every moment, we are volunteers.
As I write, we are in the throes of a market correction. As of Monday, August 24, 2015 the markets worldwide were down over 10% from their peaks. This was a long over-due but needed purging of the overvalued froth. Unlike financial pundits, I’ll focus more on the emotional impact of this phenomena.
[NOTE: Despite the equally euphoric rebound of the market a couple days later, remember that PTSD-like numbing you may have felt then…or in 2008 or in 2001 or …!?]
Whether you are reading this as an investor in the market or as a business owner, suffering–like taxes and death—is an inevitable part of life. How we choose to react to it is what’s most important for us is how we choose to react to it: are we resisting or are we volunteering?
For our business primer, let’s learn from someone who’s an expert on suffering. Stephen Colbert is on the cusp of taking over the Tonight Show in the shadow of David Letterman and Johnny Carson. He’s about to step onto one of the most storied stages spanning the 20th and 21st centuries. And he’s an individual whose humor, like that of many comedians, has been born of great suffering.
When he was 10, his father and Peter and Paul, his two next oldest siblings, were killed in a tragic plane crash. He and his mother were left behind; his 8 older siblings had already grown up and left home.
How did he get from tragic childhood to the stage of The Tonight Show? What can us business owners and financial advisors learn from his journey? Let’s consider a few pivotal episodes in his life:
- When Colbert performed at Second City with a class that included Amy Sedaris and Chris Farley, director Jeff Michalski taught him that “You have to learn to love the bomb.”
Colbert explains, “It took me a long time to really understand what that meant. It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”
Our businesses are our stage. And in this current environment, we’re all touched at some level by the fear of what market volatility will mean for our future and our livelihood. Or, we’re calming worried clients. We need to embrace our clients’, and our own, discomfort.
- When asked how he could be so grounded and joyful after living through all those deaths, Colbert said
“Yeeeahhhh, I’m not angry. I’m not. I’m mystified, I’ll tell you that. But I’m not angry. So my reaction when I hear that question isn’t”—he shifted into a somber, sonorous voice—“‘Oh, I don’t want to talk about that.’ It’s that I don’t want to say this—ready?” He snapped his fingers and locked eyes with me in a pose of dramatic intensity. “MY. MOTHER.” His face softened. “But the answer is: my mother.”
“I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died…. And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example am I not bitter. By her example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.”
Interviewer Joel Lovell goes on to explain:
Maybe, he said, she had to be that for him. He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. What is this in the light of eternity? Imagine being a parent so filled with your own pain, and yet still being able to pass that on to your son.
- What you see is the tangible, experiential impact of Mrs. Colbert’s faith on young Stephen:
“It was a very healthy reciprocal acceptance of suffering,” he said. “Which does not mean being defeated by suffering. Acceptance is not defeat. Acceptance is just awareness.” He smiled in anticipation of the callback: “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”
So what’s the lesson of Business 102? You will face “the bomb” when things blow up in your business (and not in a good way). You could fight it and become the embittered comic who eventually takes his own life or lets his business run into the ground. Or you could choose to embrace your suffering—volunteer for it!—in a way that gets you to gratitude. There is no way around. The only way to gratitude is through suffering.
Love the bomb!
- What’s “the bomb” you’re facing today?
- What are you going to volunteer for?
Article source: http://www.gq.com/story/stephen-colbert-gq-cover-story
Image: Hand Holding A Grenade by George Hodan via publicdomainpictures.net