It was one of the scariest moments of my life. September of 2006 we took our two-year old daughter to Boston Children's Hospital for testing. She was born with sensory neural hearing loss. It was progressive and we were trying to figure out why. The doctors at Boston Children's ran a day long battery of tests and hooked so many wires to her head she looked like a stolen car stereo.
At the end of the day, Dr. Z as my daughter called her sat us down and gave us the results of the report using a lot of medical-speak. I asked Dr. Z, "In layman's terms what does this all mean?" Her response left me thunderstruck. "Your daughter's hearing loss could stay where it is forever or she could wake up tomorrow morning completely deaf." At the time my wife and I were hurt by what we thought was a very insensitive comment. What she really gave us was a gift, the gift of perspective.
Her comment was the worst thing I've ever heard and simultaneously the best thing I've ever heard. I share this with you because everyone needs reminders that put things into proper perspective for both our personal and professional lives.
The best part of my day is each morning when my daughter wakes up and still has her hearing (3,405 days now). It sets the trajectory and lends perspective to my day, no matter what else happens that day, she wakes up with her hearing it's a good day. Her hearing loss has gotten worse but she can still hear. It's instant perspective for me. She's a loud kid, because she can't hear herself she doesn't have great awareness of just how loud she really is. Sometimes it's hard for me to be patient and not to get frustrated by this, but I'm trying to remember I don't "have to" hear her, I "get to" hear her. We are fortunate each day she wakes up and gets to hear.
You can't connect the dots in life looking forward; you can only do so looking back. And now as the father of a child with a hearing disability, looking back prior to her birth I realize just how blessed I was to coach at a college that championed accommodations well before the American Disabilities Act. As a result of their forward thinking, the University had a significant population of physically disabled students. One of whom, Andrew, was a student in one of my classes and became my team's manager for three years. Andrew was an incredibly talented writer and statistician it was his unique ability or gift. His "disability" was that he had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheel chair. He had a magnetic personality and people just gravitated to him.
Technically, I was his professor but I learned way more from Andrew than he did from me. He taught me perspective and gave me an appreciation for the unique abilities individuals all possess. As much as he benefited from being around the team, I think I learned more from him. I never told him this but he made me a better coach, a better communicator, a better person and a better father. As a result of getting to spend time every day with him for three years, I have an appreciation of the real challenges many people have in navigating daily life.
He also made our players better people. I wasn't the easiest coach to play for, ask any of my former players and they'll tell you I pushed them pretty hard. Sometimes the best reminder for them that they had been given a gift and sprinting up and down the field in full pads in the 90 degree heat was a privilege not a chore wasn't me pushing them. It was seeing Andrew on the sidelines cheering them on, keep stats, offering words of encouragement and no doubt wishing he could do what they were doing.
He gave them energy, in spite of the heat or the score of the game. I told my staff I believed having Andrew was worth two goals a game. He was grateful to be a part of the team and made us grateful. If there's one thing I've learned from my daughter and Andrew it's that gratitude multiplies energy.
Sometimes we take for granted simple blessings in our lives. Like the fact that we have two eyes, two ears, and two legs. We need to remind ourselves to be grateful that we have ears that hear, eyes that see, legs that work and use them to the maximum of our ability.
There are literally thousands of blessings that pass right before our eyes on a daily basis and to bring out the best in ourselves and those around us we need to recognize them. If you're grateful that you have a job you "get to" go to work instead of complaining you "have to" go to work. When you go to work do you get to go to work or do you wake up thinking you "have to" go to work? If you're grateful that you get to use your god given abilities at work you'll be an energy multiplier. If you're a have to, on the other hand you'll be an energy drain.
If you're in the midst of something difficult, find a way to gain perspective. Approach your challenges with gratitude not resentment; with fascination not frustration. Watch your results soar. Don't take this at face value, try it out for yourself. Warning: Don't be surprised if your energy multiplies.