Saturday, May 9, 2009

Everybody will get knocked at some stage.

As a kid, I was a massive fan of Michael J Fox. Despite the stick I got from mates, I insisted he was one of the finest actors around. I loved Family Ties. I'm still a big fan of his - for other reasons which I'll explain in a moment.

This post is not about advertising or marketing. I want to talk about set-backs.

Actually I made a note to write about set-backs just over three months ago. Not sure what triggered these niggling thoughts. Might have been all the talk of the recession. Or maybe Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Black Swan theory was rubbing off on me.

So sitting down at my kitchen table one morning about three months ago, I scribbled the following few words in my notepad "everybody will get knocked at some stage".

What was on my mind was this: Things don't always go as planned. Bad things happen. You don't get the promotion you deserve. You get let go from your job. Or you mess up at work. You lose a client or an account. Or you get sick. And these things knock your confidence. They make you question your competence, your motives, your career - even the way you live your life. Now, here's the thing. I guarantee it will happen to you. Because it happens to us all. And we never see it coming until it smacks you in the face. We're often left in shock.

The reason I wanted to write about this was to point out that...we recover.

I'm an optimist. I've been very lucky all my life. I know I'll hit bad times. I don't know what it will be, but I also know I'll eventually get through it. We all will. We're resilient.

I never got to write the post that day. Literally hours after I'd written the note, I got a call to say my granny had died. She was sick but I hadn't realised how sick. Exactly one week later, my auntie died. She'd been diagnosed with cancer just weeks before. My poor mum - her mother and sister, both gone within one week. Then weeks later, I discovered an old friend, aged just 36, had been diagnosed with a serious stage of breast cancer.

I suspect we can all relate to this or a version of this.

This brings me back to Michael J Fox. He wrote a book about six years ago about his fight with Parkinson Disease. Titled Lucky Man, he talks about how he has found more happiness because of his illness. His humility and courage was impressive. His new book Always looking up continues with his story of resilience and optimism. It's inspiring and hopeful. I'm listening to it on audio - read by the man himself.

I do believe everybody will get knocked at some stage. Just knowing this won't stop it but hopefully it helps us make sense of it and recover.


Nick McGivney said...


Lisa said...

Yep. Only today when I was doing my mother's day calls I found out my auntie who recently fought off lung cancer; has some new spots on her lungs - bugger.

And I wondered about how this seems to happen more and more, the older you get.
Is it because when you are young, everyone else is younger?

Or is it because when you are young you are a lot more self centred and it doesn't bother you as much?

I agree with Micheal J Fox (and I loved him in family ties too) having two kids with special needs has made me a better person.


Paul Dervan said...

Probably both reasons - I think we take our health for granted when we're kids. And we don't notice others as much.

Sorry to hear about your auntie.

Pat Quirke said...

Thoughtful post. I agree that as we get older, we become less self-absorbed, but lifes knocks do that to us anyway.
Losing a close family member does bring a maturity and acceptance after a while.
Still never easy.

Will L said...

Hi Paul,

I see you have referenced Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan which is an excellent, excellent book - a very prescient, unique book that is full of valuable insights.

I am also encouraged that you are impressed with Michael J Fox's positive mental attitude.
There is a clear scientific link between what you think and how your body reacts.
Another shining example is Lance Armstrongs resilience and optimism in the fact of cancer.
The old self-help adage - "if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change".
Easy to sneer at as trite however it is true.

I recently read this inspiring and touching interview with Marthy McFly in The Guardian.

Paul Dervan said...

thanks Will for the link. Good article. Agree Black Swan was a bit of a revelation.