Have you ever talked with someone who always has a negative attitude? They bitch about the weather. They complain about their boss. They gripe about people who seem to have it all. Are you one of these people?
I used to be that way. I blamed my circumstances on being dealt an unfair hand in the game of life. After all, Cleveland, Ohio did have a rough economy. My parents, teachers, and coaches would say, “Crew, stop making excuses, and start getting things done.” But I kept grumbling about how my problems weren’t my fault.
When I was 27 I was in a relationship with a woman whom I took for granted. Let’s call her Lisa. Lisa was strong and fiercely independent. She didn’t need my help with anything, and at times she was more my caregiver than my lover. Her patience was matched only by her desire to meet my emotional--and sometimes financial--needs. Don’t get me wrong, I had a job and I paid my share of our bills, but if Lisa decided to end our relationship, I would’ve been in deep financial and emotional trouble. I had no savings, and I was living paycheck to paycheck. Lisa was my polar opposite. She tucked her money away, and always remembered to invest for retirement. She had tens of thousands of dollars put away.
I convinced myself that my economic hardship had less to do with my poor discipline and more to do with my environment. All I needed was a change of scenery, and Austin, Texas was just the place. Some of my acquaintances (I had no truly close friends at the time) had told me that Austin had one of the strongest economies in the country. This was 2010, and we were still in a Great Recession, which I used as another excuse for my situation.
Lisa said I should stick it out, and pay down my debt in Cleveland, but I was stubborn. I’d already made my decision. Despite her protests, Lisa ultimately agreed to leave her life in Ohio. She’d planned on joining me 3 weeks after I found an apartment in Texas. From there I’d help her find a new job, and we’d live a fairytale life.
Lisa never can to Austin.
My initial response was to freak out and wonder, “How could she do this to me? How will I pay my bills? I’d just signed a 1-year lease on a luxury apartment in an expensive city. I’m screwed!” I recognized that no one was going to help me, so I needed to depend on myself. Slowly I started to see my misfortune as an opportunity. I worked harder than I’d ever, and developed skills. I made more than twice as much as I’d ever earned--and much of it was from doing work I’m passionate about.
I look at adversity differently now. I don’t complain, but instead I wonder, “How can I learn from this? How will this challenge make me better?” Frustration is a decision. Bad things happen, but you can decide to see them differently. It’s all in your head.