Every day I turn on the news, I hear reporters, politicians, and regular everyday Americans talking about the number of jobs that has been lost in America! I still hear reporters and bankers talking about the housing numbers and the amount of people who have lost their houses to foreclosure. All of New Orleans is upset with the NFL because they suspended our outstanding head coach. The greatest team in America, The New Orleans Saints, has lost the first five games of the season!
The "Who Dats" are mad about the losses! Even the Yankees-the most loved/hated baseball team in the United States-lost big this year. I saw New Yorkers on ESPN violently shaking their heads, screaming, and threatening A-Rod after the Yankees lost 4 straight games in the playoffs and were swept by the Detroit Tigers.
In the last week, people in New Jersey, New York, and the Northeast Corridor of the US have lost much due to the superstorm Sandy. Over the last 5 years I, too, have lost a lot. After Hurricane Katrina, I lost a tenured professorship in the school of engineering at Tulane University, when the president of the university decided to keep the football team and eliminate the engineering program. I lost my dad and stepmother 6 days apart when neither of them could receive the treatment they deserved in the challenged healthcare system of New Orleans.
My childhood community, and even my church, were destroyed by Katrina. I am sure everyone reading this newsletter has lost something or someone very close to them. There is not a person on this earth who can't create a list of Losses in this thing called Life. If you are alive, and breath is still in your body, you will continue to accumulate more losses in your Life! Losing, falling, and failing are just an unavoidable, challenging, and painful part of life.
Recently, my son lost his jacket at school. When I inquired about it, I was directed to Lost and Found. When we got there, my head began to spin-that little room was filled with all types of items from jackets, keys, backpacks, and hats, to cell phones, umbrellas, and other goodies. My son forgot about his jacket and began trying on other jackets, hats, and belts. The boy was shopping!; he exclaimed, "Daddy! These things are better than what I lost!"
Although I didn't allow him to leave with anything but his own possessions, the Lost and Found experience was representative of what happens many times in Life. Often when we experience a Loss or failure, regardless of how painful, we adapt-start anew-and in doing so, find something better and more meaningful.
When I lost my job, I took it hard. But in the years following this painful experience, I have found my passion and discovered my purpose. Losing my tenured professorship was shocking, but, in retrospect, actually strengthening. Losing my dad was painful, but I found the man and the father within me for my family. Yes, I lost a lot but the result was that I found myself! When you experience a loss, crisis, or life-changing event, you find yourself suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar world-a world that can be stressful, scary-even terrifying.
Since all of us will go through such experiences, we must learn to adapt in such hardships, and in doing so, we will find more than we will ever lose:
1. Loss brings you down, but Loss precedes renewal.
When Floyd Patterson was trying to win the heavyweight title for the third time, a reporter commented that he "got knocked down in the ring more than any other fighter." Following his second Muhammad Ali defeat, Patterson responded, "I may be the guy who got knocked down the most, but I am also the guy who got back up the most!" After every embarrassing knockdown, Floyd was renewed every time he popped back up.
2. Loss makes us question ourselves, but Loss makes us re-evaluate.
If a person loses his or her job, this person is forced to take a hard look in the mirror. While this can be painful, it is also enlightening. Rather than whining, "Why me,?" we must learn to think, "What could I have done better?" With every setback, we must assess our strengths and weaknesses. When we truly see our whole selves-with all our imperfections-we have no choice but to improve.
3. Loss makes you feel like a failure, Loss is the key to success.
Ted Williams had one of the highest batting averages and home run records in all of baseball. He had a career batting average of 0.344. This means that, in 10 at-bats, he made less than 4 hits! He struck out 709 times in his 19-year career! If he had thrown in the towel after his 100th strikeout, he never would have become one of the greatest hitters of all time. All successful people have failed over and over. The lesson is that it is always too soon to quit. Success is waiting on you to try again!