That Magic Moment (when Bad Things Happen)

Do you remember the story of the Pied Piper? Basically, a town is overrun by rats, so they hire this Piper to come in and lure away all the rats. He does so successfully, but then the town decides to cheat him out of his payment. So, he returns and uses his piper-ing skills to lure away all of the town’s children. 

Talk about paying the consequences.

Like many other kids’ stories, this nightmare-inducing tale is supposed to teach an important lesson. What lesson, you ask? “Never trust a stranger” is what most people say. 

Some people say it means, “Bad things happen to bad people.” Well, sure they do. Bad things happen to ALL people. Bad things happen to turtles, trees, rocks, water, stars… I could go on and on. So let’s just say:

BAD THINGS HAPPEN.

The magic is in how you react. 

Recently there was a huge fight during an NFL game because of inexcusable, unprofessional conduct that occurred with just a few seconds left in the game. After going back and watching it over and over, I realized what actually happened was a series of bad choices, by a lot of individuals, in quick succession… which ultimately led to behavior that could end someone’s career. If just one of those individual players had stopped reacting and instead thought, “What is the best choice I can make right now?” the chain of events might have stopped.

But stopping to think in the midst of a chaotic and emotionally charged situation is, unfortunately, the opposite of human beings’ default response. When bad things happen, instead of calmly thinking it through, we usually default by reacting negatively… which can trigger others to react, too… which, in the case above, might even lead to behavior so unprofessional it burns some serious bridges. 

Think about it. You get cut off in traffic, so you lay on your horn for the next half mile, speeding dangerously just so you can flip the other driver off. As you swerve, you spill your coffee on your new shirt, so you cuss or blame the nearest lifeform (for me this is normally my husband), potentially damaging an important relationship out of anger. All because someone, whose story and circumstances you don’t know, made one poor driving decision. 

I suck at math, but here’s the formula:

Bad thing + bad thing + bad thing = REALLY bad thing

If that’s right, what is this formula’s opposite? Let’s try the converse equation and see if it makes sense:

Good thing + good thing + good thing = REALLY good thing

Sounds a lot better to me! And if the “bad thing” equation has merit, there’s no reason the “good thing” equation can’t, too.

So all we need to do is look for and follow the “good things.” Sounds easy enough, but what makes something “bad” or “good?” 

My daughter pulling on my arm after a long day is neither a good thing or a bad thing – it just is. My perception is she wants my attention, and my physical sensation is pain. I can choose which I react to. So which will I focus on? That my arm hurts, or that daughter values my attention? 

That’s just one small example, but as we look closely at life, we can begin to see that all things are just things. Our minds and our reactions are what make things positive or negative. 

In that split second before you react, nothing is good or bad.

Whether you end up unconsciously reacting or consciously choosing, in that moment, you create your experience.

The more time and space you can give yourself in that moment before you react, the more you will be able to steer yourself towards the positive side of the equation. 

Maybe it is because I am a business owner who is frequently contracted by companies, but I don’t believe the story of the Pied Piper is about being wary of strangers. For me, the lesson is that you should always pay your contractors on time and fairly. Or maybe, on a broader scale, you should always value other people’s gifts, and honor what those gifts bring into your life. 

By refusing to pay as agreed, the townspeople dishonored the Pied Piper’s skill. His skill wasn’t good or bad; it just was. But depending how he used it, the townspeople perceived his skill as positive (no more rats, he’s a miracle worker!) or negative (that thief stole our children!). 

If those townspeople had thought ahead just a bit, they might have seen how their choice not to pay the Piper could yield a negative impact in return. 

In your life and your business, will you learn the lesson the townspeople overlooked? Will you remain unconscious and react to the negative? 

Or will you pause, recognize your options, and choose a more positive perspective and path?

The Pied Piper may not be real, but my hope for you and this world is that this blog will lead you (pun intended!) to allow yourself more space in your decisions. Give yourself permission to stop judging yourself, others, and all the activities and events in your life as good or bad. 

You are you, and because of that, you have the power to make an impact on the world around you through your family, your relationships, and your company. Only you can choose whether your impact is positive or negative. 

So, take that small moment before you react, and choose a different path. When you do, you’ll make the world a better place. And I am grateful to you for that.

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