Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What to Do with Disappointment

Disappointment. It's a terrible word. One of my least favorite in the English language. It's bad enough when something disappoints you; it's even worse--much worse--when we disappoint someone whom we respect. This flavor of disappointment implies that they had high hopes for you that you were unable to fulfill. It feels sucky with a capital "S".

You know where this is going.

So I recently disappointed someone. This person's ability in the area in which I disappointed them (yes, I will twist myself into pretzels not revealing the exact situtation) is impressive, and I respect them for it. I try to emulate their abilities, but sometimes find myself coming up short. This person often praises my talents, but recently, she said she was disappointed at the effort I put into a specific task (don't you just love all the generalities piling up?).

Whoomp! It hit me like a blimp made out of bricks. Not what you want to hear: "Chris, I'm disappointed." I was transported back to sixth grade when my dad told me how disappointed he felt when he saw the lame job I'd done on a science fair project. I think it had something to do with pinewood derby racecars and CO2 cartridges, memory doesn't completely serve, but the tone of his voice still rings in my ears.

"Chris, I'm disappointed."

It's enough to make you puke. I'm fine with disappointing myself now and again. But I hate to disappoint others who I care about. Which brings me to three helpful steps I take to pick myself up again after a setback.


What's the IDGAS button, you ask? My favorite expression in the world was uttered by John Riggins, the old running back for the Washington Redskins during their glory days of the 1980's. I'm not a Redskins fan, but I love this guy. He's a regular on local sports talk TV and radio shows here in DC.

He said once that what made Joe Gibbs (legendary Redskins football coach) so great was that after days and days of preparation--much of which involved late nights spent with his coaching staff drawing up plays at RFK stadium, many times actually sleeping at the park--after all that preparation, if something awful happened that week during a game, if the wheels fell off and the whole game came tumbling down around him, Gibbs had this amazing ability to hit the "I Don't Give a Sh!@##$" button.

I love that. The I Don't Give a Sh!@##$" button. Or IDGAS button, for short. Sometimes things just don't work out. Try as we might, now and then we get our face slammed into the mud. And there's nothing we can do about it. This happens in writing and in life (as I demonstrated this week). But I'm hitting the IDGAS button right now. I care, but honestly, not that much.


To extend the sports analogy a bit further, like any good athlete, once you've disappointed someone--whether it be a mentor or yourself--you must move on. Sure, go ahead and wallow in the horror of it for a few hours or whatever, I'm not telling you not to be human. But then pick yourself up off the pavement, spit on your cuts and rub it in (like mom used to do) and shake it off. You cannot please everyone. It's not possible. It's even impossible sometimes to please the people who matter most to us, even while we're actively ignoring everyone else.


Wait. Hold on. I know what you're thinking: "Chris is telling me to go out there and kick the world's ass to show the person (people?) I disappointed how great I am! To prove them wrong and savor the spicy juices of their delicious wrongness!!"


I'm just telling you to go out and try something new next time. Being motivated by revenge or by showing people how great you are is a fool's errand. Just go out there and be the best you can be by trying a new approach. Do it for yourself, not because you want to prove the world wrong. Kick ass and take names, and do it because you're so awesome that there's no other way events could unfold.

You have this latent awesomeness that you have to set free. It's kinda like how I'm an Italian citizen. Ok, I'm not officially an Italian citizen. But I could be if I got all the proper documents filled out. My ancestors came from there, and the Italian government is super flexible about claiming citizenship. But to become a citizen of that great nation is just not a priority of mine right now. I am, however, as we speak, already an Italian citizen by their metrics: I just have to prove it.

You are already awesome. You just have to prove it by unleashing the awesomeness within you. And you'll do this by not getting crushed every time someone says they're disappointed in you or your work. By not becoming heartbroken if someone says something mean to you. No. You will rise above this and try new things to prove to yourself that your kick-assedness is still intact. So pick yourself up now--we've got work to do!

No comments:

Post a Comment