On Air with Ella - podcast episode 311
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Below is a transcript of On Air with Ella - podcast episode 311
When it's hard.
I am talking today to anyone who is feeling down. Anyone feeling like life has been a bit tough, or they are stuck or frankly, like you’ve let something already pass you by. This is a message for you if or when you need something. So, if you’re riding high right now, if you’re feeling your power and you are killing it, or maybe you just want to have some fun today, this might not be your message today. You can just put this in your back pocket for when you need it.
But if you’ve been dealt a few blows lately and you’re feeling overwhelmed, then pull up a chair at this table, my friend, because I have saved you a seat.
Let me first ask you this: Do you think it's possible that when you’re feeling most attacked (or thwarted or frustrated) that maybe you’re actually onto something?
Is it possible that when we feel tested that we’re actually closest to breakthrough?
I think it’s easy to sound overly optimistic sometimes when we are trying to make our challenges more palatable or make ourselves feel better, but truthfully, it’s impossible not to see that some of my greatest times of challenge have preceded my greatest breakthroughs:
There was a time when:
1) My dream job in Europe turned out to be a complete swindle >> that led to me starting my own business (20 years ago!)
2) Complete burn out in my profession >> led to starting my own podcast
3) Physical challenges >> I've come back stronger
Of course, I have had some challenges that felt insurmountable, that left me curled up in a ball for longer than I care to admit. But it is always true for me, that with challenge comes either COLLAPSE or TRANSFORMATION.
I will collapse under the weight of it, or I will gather strength, upskill or up-level where I need to, then recalibrate and CONQUER. And I don’t always win, of course. But in all cases, I survive.
And when I cannot win, when I cannot conquer the opposing force, whatever it is, I still win through doing, through surviving it, through learning that I had what it took, and building muscles that needed strengthening.
Remember - resilience isn’t being made of Teflon – the trouble doesn’t bounce off you. Resilience is bouncing back, and coming back stronger and wiser than you were or even could have been before.
Are there lessons I wish I hadn’t had to learn? Certainly. Most of my regrets are lessons I wish I didn’t have to learn twice, honestly. And I say this as someone who is very aware that I am still iterating through lessons that I probably could have learned 5 lessons ago. But, alas, here we all are in the human condition, iterating, iterating and hoping that even when we do fail, or fall short of the goal, that we fall forward. There’s still a momentum there that doesn’t exist if you shut down and didn’t even try.
I think we have a tendency to buy into the notion that life is a linear graph of successes that spring you forward and failures that send you back. I don’t buy this. To me, life and this motion, this momentum we gather every day that we show up to live it, this life and its lessons are a spiral, not a line. The truth is:
You are always ahead of the last version of you.
Picture a spiral emanating round and round and upward. Every step you take moves you forward, because whether you succeed or fail at a thing, you’ve learned something that means you can - by definition - NEVER go back to zero.
You are traveling in an iterative path. When you take a real leap, or learn something really transformational, or have a big win, you jump up a level on that spiral – you bump up to the next ring.
And when you have a misstep, or you profoundly fail at a thing, you gather up all the hard-won lessons, and you take the next step.
You simply cannot fall back to zero. It’s not possible.
Let’s say you took a real loss in financial terms. Maybe it was a job loss or a bad investment, a loan or a failed business – it hurts, it makes a dent, it takes the wind out of you - and yet it gifted you a few things. If you’re awake to it, it gifted you a lesson you in fact could afford to learn because - here you still are.
Maybe you had a rough relationship experience. Maybe you got your heart broken, or you were left feeling less than or unloved. That loss can feel like such a deep emptiness. A hollowness. And yet, here you still are, profoundly solid and strengthened by the resolve it took to leave it, or find peace within or without it.
It’s not always a happy ending, but it’s so important to recognize the density of your own power that has kept you standing through it all. You are made of solid mass of resilience. You are all strength and losses hard won, and wins hard fought.
Yes, of course you can lose. You can hurt. You can feel low and unworthy and less than. But you cannot fail.
Every day that you show up is a day that you’ve won by deciding you are going to learn, you are going to grow and you are going to maybe even advance on this iterative path that was set in motion on the day that you arrived on this Earth.
Does that sound hyperbolic to you? A bit dramatic? Like just something we say when we’re feeling attacked or out of control? I mean, I’m telling you that not only are you not capable of a return to zero, therefore absolute failure does not exist, but I am also telling you that many times when we are tested that we are closet to breakthrough. That these pains in life are indicative of something good, something better coming... I don’t blame you if you think at first glance that is "greeting card nonsense" at best, or toxic positivity at worst.
Allow me to lean on someone else’s analogy to explain better: I am adapting this analogy from Steven Furtick. Here it is: I have been to a few live football games in my life, a handful of rugby games and some great soccer games. Can you picture that? The noise, the crowd, the energy? AND, yet, not once at any of those matches has anyone EVER tried to tackle me. Not once. Why is that? I’m there, I am pretty fast and arguably strong, but there are two things that I am not:
I am not on the playing field, and
I am not in possession of anything the opposition wants from me.
Do you get it? You are only challenged when you are in the ring! When you are showing up and in it. You want an unchallenged existence? Easy! Stay off the pitch. Don’t step on the field! Don’t show up to the challenge. Sit on the sofa, do nothing and stay immobile, but cozy.
But of course, that’s not who you are. That's not who I am, and that’s not who you are. You are here right now because you KNOW you belong in the game. You have something to bring to the table.
Are you letting someone, or something keep you down? Making you feel like the safety sofa is the best option? Don’t do that. Don’t play small because it’s safer. Don’t stay in your small box because nobody can try to take anything away from you. If it’s the business, start it. If it’s the relationship, improve it or leave it. If it’s the body, mind, soul, explore it. Try your next iteration.
There is no failure, there is only the next lesson. You cannot go back to zero, so take the risk to take the step you know you need to make and trust in your ability to survive any outcome.
Returning to my analogy, we can agree that nobody has ever tried to tackle me at one of these events that I mentioned, because I don’t have anything they want! One reason I am really safe from challenge (in this metaphorical contest) is because I am not a threat. I don’t have anything they want to take away from me.
What do I mean? I mean that sometimes when life, or other people, or our own inner critic knocks us down, it’s because we were about to make an important move. We have something the opposition wants to take away - or tamp down - in us.
Now you do not have to believe what I believe, but I believe in opposing forces in this life. I believe that there is dark so that we know what light is, that there is ugliness so that we appreciate what beauty is, that there is loss so we know what fulfillment feels like. And, yeah, I believe that sometimes something is trying to keep us from the fullest expression of ourselves and sometimes that opposing force even comes from within – inside our own brains and protective little egos.
(Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. Have you ever felt like that? Or, do you have people in your life that feel like they’re keeping you back from your next stage of growth? Or do you every feel like when you are getting close to the next step, life in general pulls you backward? I hear you. I have felt that. I still feel that sometimes.)
For me, when I KNOW that I am on to something good, when I know that I am a force of nature, and I feel the challenges coming on, I know I am "carrying the ball." I have something GOOOOD. I am on to something GOOOOD. And that brain of mine, or that external opposition, or that hurdle in my way - well I am either going to run full force into it and collapse, or am I going to gather under my own steam and I am going to leap. But, get this:
Nobody is putting hurdles in front of the person who ISN’T MOVING.
You are moving, you are creating momentum. You are iterating, and learning, and gathering yourself for the next leveling up. And I want you to remember that when you’re feeling low and slow! I want you to remember that when you are feeling like you just don’t have it, when you are stuck, when you are beaten... I want you to remember who the hell you are, what you’re made of and why you’ve made it so far.
You are powerful stuff, my dear. You are picked-back-up-again, and you are sinew and strength built from life’s lessons hard won. You are resilience and sunshine, baby! And you know what? You are a force of nature and I cannot wait to see what happens when you remember who you are.
So remember these 3 things, and return to them when you need them:
1. Even if you don’t conquer, you can win – that win may be in the form of lessons learned or resilience built, or surviving the experience.
Would you rather be stationary and safe or engaged and in play?
2. You can lose sometimes, sure, but you cannot fail, you can never fall back to zero. You are always ahead of the last version of you.
What have you already conquered that did not make you stronger, smarter, wiser, better equipped for the next thing?
3. Nobody is trying to tackle the person sitting in the safety zone. Nobody and nothing is setting out hurdles in front of the person who isn’t moving. If you’re feeling challenged by life, by circumstances, another person or your own inner fears, consider that might just be the indication that you’re on to something gooood. That you are carrying something important and you need to run it over the line.
If I could guarantee you success, what would your next step be? (go do that!)
So, dust yourself off. Get back out there, grab the ball and start running. We’ve got this.
You’ve got this.
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