August 31, 2018
21 years ago, this week, my first daughter, Caroline, was born. At first, she appeared to be perfect. She was big: 8 pounds, 14 ounces. Her color was ideal. And she could scream like a banshee. But a few hours later, she started to turn blue. We learned that she was born with a very rare heart defect called transposition, and she might die. That night, she was flown 200 miles in a Citation jet to Ann Arbor, Michigan where she would have a very complicated open-heart surgery.
During those weeks in Michigan, I learned an awful lot about the human heart. But I also learned about my own heart too. No doubt, I will share a few of those lessons with you during our time together, but the most important one came at the end, when it occurred to me that we – Caroline, my wife, Annie, and I – had all survived it, mostly unbroken, with the exception of a rather large wound down the chest of my little girl.
And what I took away from that experience is this: that I had seen the worst that life has to offer, and lived through it. I realized that the things that used to cause me to become agitated, scared, or worried didn’t anymore – because I knew that I was capable of outlasting the most horrible thing I could imagine. I realized that unless an awful boss or customer or situation in my life or work could duplicate what I just lived through, they/it better pack a lunch, or back way up. I also realized that anger, anxiety, or other negative energy, either directed at me or from me is both unproductive and ineffective.
And that’s the point for the week.
Things go wrong in life. Because we are not made to be infallible, humans make mistakes. We aren’t perfect. My own daughter wasn’t made perfectly. I mess things up every day – here at work and at home. People around me don’t always get things right. When others around us let us down, we have a choice: to react poorly, or to respect the dignity of the human being in front of us and work with them to make sure that things are better next time. And when we are on the receiving end of negativity we also have a choice: to first and foremost never give the abuser control of our own perception of ourselves, next to recognize but we are capable of withstanding any petty trial, but most importantly when we err, to recognize our faults, ask forgiveness and work hard to never make the same mistakes twice.
On our way to building the sort of business we want for our futures here, things are going to go wrong. People will make mistakes. I want people to try things and to fail. But when things go awry, I likewise expect that we always treat people the way we want to be treated. That the leaders here never overreact to setbacks, and that all of us recognize that any difficulty will be temporary on our way to something better.
Pretty much all I ask is that when we mess up, because we will, that we be kind to each other, and that we all work very hard not to repeat the same errors. Because when we do these things we will more often win, for no other reason than we will not waste time on the negativity that most companies invest when mistakes occur. Because you see, when things go wrong there’s a right way to react.
So, choose the better way.
P.S. As you can see, Chick did just fine in Michigan, thanks to Dr. Edward Bove and hundreds of other beautiful people. She’s 23 now, still the light of my life and a constant reminder to me to see the good in everything.
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