You know how it is when you see someone every day and they look the same to you from one day to the next, but then you are apart for a week and suddenly the next time you see them, you notice they’ve grown or aged or lost weight or gained weight?
We are a lot like that with ourselves. It’s hard to tell from one day or month or year to the next how much progress we are making. And most of us are so focused on how far we have to go that we completely lose sight of how far we’ve come.
One of the best parts about blogging is being able to look back and become aware of the evolution.
Tonight, as I write this blog post on the eve of Thanksgiving, I’ve done just that. I vaguely recalled being in a different emotional space last Thanksgiving, but couldn’t remember exactly what that space was. Looking back to my blog post from last Thanksgiving, the emotions of where I was then have come flooding back in.
And along with them the awareness that a major shift has happened in my own consciousness regarding gratitude. A shift that you can make here and now without waiting another year.
Last year, I didn’t know how to be grateful for EVERYthing. My gratitude was conditional on the “good” things. I even shared a gratitude exercise that helped me connect with all the good things happening in my life.
Here’s the big, exciting shift … you can be in extreme, deep gratitude even (especially) for the experiences you are having in your life that no one would call good. And that’s something huge to realize as we move through a global shift that is impacting the economy, our weather patterns, and our old traditions.
With this shift is coming a lot of experiences that no one would call good - economic collapse of families, increase in bankruptcies, foreclosures, divorces, and a loss of jobs across the board.
What I’ve discovered is that it’s possible to find gratitude, even in these things. And that’s where the real power is in your business and your life.
When you can find the gratitude even in the tragedy, the heartache, and the pain, you have freedom.
So many of us claim freedom as one of our highest values and yet we are seeking it through on the exact things that will keep us in bondage. More money, more time, more, more, more …
More is not where freedom comes from at all. Freedom has nothing to do with the external circumstances of time, money or our work.
Freedom comes when you can be truly, deeply grateful for whatever is happening in your life right now. Whatever is happening. All. of. it.
To show you how serious I am about this. Here are a few things I’m grateful for this year that I might not have been before I understand that gratitude for EVERYthing is the secret to true freedom.
The summer before last, my ex-husband got a DUI. With our kids in the car. You would think I’d be pissed, right? Actually, I was grateful. GRATEFUL?!? What? You might be thinking (or even saying right now).
But, really I was.
For the 6 months before the DUI happened, I had been wondering fairly consistently “should I try to take full custody of the kids?” I really, really, really didn’t want to have to go there. I knew it could mean a protracted court battle and I wasn’t willing to subject my kids to that. Plus, I wanted them to have a relationship with their dad. And, frankly, I was working a lot and having them with him half the time worked for me from a business perspective. (It’s hard to admit that last part, but it is true).
I had been in Orlando teaching Personal Family Lawyers for a few days and flew to Virginia to speak to another group of lawyers about building a law business on a new model. When I landed that morning, there was a message from my sister-in-law telling me everything was okay, but to call her as soon as possible.
That’s never a good sign.
When I called, she let me know that she had my kids. My ex-husband (her brother) had been arrested for DUI with the kids in the car.
After I got over the initial shock, I felt an odd sense of calm. My question had been answered. I would have full custody of the kids and there would be no custody fight. I didn’t know what else would happen. But, I did know that. And I was grateful.
As a result of my gratitude, I was able to respond to the situation in a way that resulted in the near complete healing of my relationship with my ex-husband.
Had I not been able to see the blessing in the situation, I would have been outraged, enraged, and in rage. The ramifications of that would have been enormous for my family. Perhaps my children would have been alienated from their dad. Maybe he would have made it difficult for me to obtain custody of the kids. Whatever it would have been, it would have been painful.
But, it wasn’t painful. Well, it’s been painful for my ex-husband. He lost his license and his house and has been staying in a room above my garage while he gets back on his feet. Even in that though, there’s freedom.
He’s finally found his passion and begun pursuing it. He no longer feels as if he can’t be truthful or hide what he really wants. We can have the hard conversations without too much drama. And, of course, the kids absolutely love having him around.
So, that’s one thing.
Another thing like that is the circumstances that led to me closing my law firm. My firm generated more than a million bucks in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, I sold the firm to another lawyer so I could focus my attention on helping more people.
I sold it with the belief that he would take great care of my clients at the standards I had created and continue to build upon the foundation I had laid.
That’s not what happened though.
Within a few months, I began to see signs that he wasn’t handling things the way I did or would have. I tried to ignore them and pretend it would get better. It didn’t. Within 6 months, he had stopped paying the bills.
It had been nearly a year since I’d seen new private clients, the firm had brought in nearly $700,000 for the year anyway, and I had to decide whether to come back in and take the reins at the firm again or close it down.
I decided to close it down and arrange for the Los Angeles area Personal Family Lawyers to service the ongoing needs of my clients. An extremely painful, difficult decision to make.
That firm was my baby. I had painstakingly designed the office. Invested my heart and soul into it. And it was still making great money.
But, I couldn’t trust that it would be run to the standards I set and so I had to let it go. It cost me nearly three hundred thousand dollars to do it, not even counting the lost income I would have made if I would have kept the firm in the first place or kept it going.
What’s to be grateful for in that?
So much, it turns out.
As a result of my own experiences with building my law firm, selling it, and then closing it down, I learned a tremendous amount about the right way to set up a business and the wrong way, I got to see what it is that actually puts businesses out of business, and I gained confidence by seeing how hard it actually is to get to the point where a business cannot continue.
I also learned firsthand how important it is for entrepreneurs (especially those of us who identify as creative entrepreneurs) to understand legal, insurance, financial and tax issues.
It’s more than a little embarrassing that I had so many problems in these areas considering I’m a lawyer and I felt as if these were things I “should” have known about.
But I didn’t. And my lack of knowledge cost me dearly.
And yet, I’m tremendously grateful for it because as a result I decided to learn everything I possibly could about legal, insurance, financial and tax and put all of that knowledge into a system for other entrepreneurs who, like me, are not good at those sorts of things.
This January, after nearly 9 months of intense effort, we will finally launch my LIFT Foundation System for business owners who are tired of wondering whether they have a solid foundation under their business, want to be able to count on their business surviving for the long haul no matter what happens, and are ready to cut through all the legal mumbo jumbo, hard pressure insurance and financial sales and want the straight truth on what is really needed to build a business the right way.
I never would have put this together had I not experienced a lawsuit myself without the proper insurance in place to cover it or made the mistakes I did when I sold my business. Sure, I could beat myself up for those errors. That would be normal, right?
But, I choose to be abnormal. Instead, I’m grateful for these hard knocks. Yes, they cost me a lot of money, but they taught me far more. And now I get to teach it to you.
And to me, that’s what life’s all about folks.
This Thanksgiving season, do everything you can to find the blessing in each and everyone of the hardships you’ve experienced this year, this decade or this lifetime.
Write em’ down, thank God for them, and ask yourself how you can share the gift you’ve received from that challenging time in your life to make the world a better place.