I played softball from the age of four. You needed to be five. My parents lied about my birthday so I could be with the five-year-olds while my older sister played on the big kid team.
You would think anyone who does anything from the age of four is bound to be some sort of phenom. This is not a story of athletic precociousness. I don’t remember too much other than my pink glove and the gnats.
Gnats fly up to the highest point on your body. The grown-ups taught us to lift one hand above our heads when the gnats got in our eyes. I remember having sore arms, not from throwing or catching, but from the gnats.
My main softball takeaway was effective gnat management all the way up to middle school. I tried out for the school team and was cut in the first round.
I cried. I cursed my pink glove for letting me down and threw it in a sad rage. My parents felt terrible too, as I saw no good from this. But now, zoomed way out, I see it. Boy, do I see it.
My parents had a rule that we each participate in at least one extracurricular activity every season. I had to do something, so I half-heartedly joined the only team at school that didn’t have cuts: track and field.
But here’s the thing. Because it was open to anyone, the track team was this beautiful co-mingling of one or two sad stragglers from every other sport and popularity circle. There weren’t enough kids from any single faction to make it cliquey. It was an almost unimaginable safe space at a time in life when I was so vulnerable I could have shattered.
I loved track.
It wasn’t just the other misfit kids I loved, many of whom I’m still friends with. It was the act of running. Rhythmic pressure can be a tonic for the high-strung and the hypersensitive. It’s a way of meditating without having to be still.
Running has carried me to the other side of almost every emotional adversity since being cut from softball. I love it so much, I spent three years doing physical therapy after having kids to get my beat up, postpartum body back into (much slower) running shape. Running has been one of the few freedoms that still exist inside a pandemic. This sport is a lifelong joy, an endless motivator, and a source of peace for me.
What if I had made the softball team?
I tell you this because as you pursue the career of your dreams, with the money and freedom you deserve, you’re going to get cut from a softball team or two. You’re going to blow a deadline, miss out on a job offer, lose a client, and get a weird condescending social media comment from someone who did make the softball team. This will happen. You will need to learn to weather these storms as a means of growing into your bigger, better self.
How to Gain Perspective
The trick is that you have to be able to see it that way. This is a hard thing to do without the magical perspective of time. The good news is, we can force perspective.
In this way, we can alter our reality to one that sees possibility just beyond our setbacks.
You do it with gratitude. Radical, bordering on the ridiculous, gratitude. I have tried this, rolling my eyes HARD the whole way and it still works.
Gain Perspective; Instant Exercise
Think of two things that are going wrong in your work life (or your life-life) and write down at least two reasons you are grateful for each of those things happening.
- “I’m grateful Erin got that promotion instead of me so I can stay focused on my sales approach.”
- “I’m grateful my essay got rejected so I can fictionalize it and turn it into a short story.”
This is going to feel forced. But this is also no small feat we are undertaking, altering reality. It requires force.
Each time you force yourself to do this small, annoying exercise, your perspective muscle gets stronger. You get up from setbacks faster. You see the next opportunity sooner.
And remember, if your doubts fly in and start swirling around your eyes to distract you, lift one hand high over your head and keep going.
Dig Deeper: How to Care Less About Work (and Why)
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