When I was 25, I had terrible trouble with my vision.
It freaked me out. And was especially worrying for a communication designer.
This was during a time in my life where my father had recently been diagnosed with cancer, I had broken up with a girl I’d been dating, and I was moving house.
I arranged to see a GP. When I explained my symptoms, and he couldn’t diagnose what was wrong, I became anxious. I wanted it fixed, and I wanted it fixed fast.
I went to see an ophthalmologist who ran some tests. Nothing showed up abnormal. Then I saw a neurologist. Same deal. “Everything’s fine, it’s good news,” they said. But for me the news wasn’t good. It meant they didn’t know how to fix what was wrong.
My parents comforted me and offered sage wisdom: maybe you could accept that your vision has changed, and that it may get better soon. But I didn’t want to listen. “What if it got worse?” I thought.
After months of tests, I eventually found myself speaking with a specialist who said something I’ll never forget: “You’re going through a turbulent time in your life. You’re trying to juggle all these spinning plates above your head — you need to remove one.” That made sense. He continued: “Now what if I said to you that your vision is not going to get any worse, but it’s not going to get any better … Could you live with that?”
I paused and considered what he had said. A plate finally dropped. Yes! I didn’t have to like what was happening, but I could live with it.
And from that moment on, I stopped pushing against the problem and started accepting it. When I returned to work, I began managing my time better and soon found myself promoted to Marketing Manager. After rounds of radiotherapy my father was on top of his cancer. And I started salsa dancing and soon after met the love of my life.
After a few years, I realised my vision was back to being what I considered perfect. What was different now in my life, compared to before? My attitude and my ability to manage stress.
How does this story relate to marketers in the professional world? The following are three life lessons that also apply to business:
If you’re stressed, remove a plate
In a 2015 study by WorkFront, 80% of marketers said they feel overloaded and understaffed. There’s simply too much to do, too little time, and too few people to do it. Whether it’s running a new Google Adwords campaign or coming up with a new product name, you don’t have to take on the world and do everything yourself.
Stress manifests physically and your health is the most important thing you have. So get help, offload work, and remove that plate before it becomes a problem.
Sad but true: We listen more to strangers than those closest to us
It wasn’t until a specialist reframed my parent’ advice that finally I sat up and took notice. The professional world is like that at times. Imagine you’re a marketer who’s been trying to convince management for months to adopt a new tagline, but they’re not buying what you’re selling. And then one day a consultant waltzes in, echoes your sentiments and suddenly all heads are nodding in unison.
What’s happening here? In David J Ley’s post “7 reasons we can’t hear the people closest to us” he explains that it’s hard to be a prophet in your own land. “When we are too comfortable with the people around us, it’s far too easy to treat their words casually”, he explains. The inconvenient truth is that even though you know your stuff, your managers are far more likely to listen to external experts. So if you’re having a hard time getting a project over the line, maybe it’s time to hire a consultant to help out?
And the third lesson ... For every project that’s tested you, difficult people who’ve challenged you, or any situation that seems out of your control … remember this piece of zen wisdom:
Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.