The view from the the Sky Ranch Lodge above Sedona
I never thought I’d visit Sedona.
I’d heard of it, but nothing that I heard moved me one way or the other. There’s plenty of stunning natural beauty within an hour of my home so why travel a few thousand miles just to see some sights?
But life’s full of surprises.
Earlier this year, my doctor announced he was moving to Sedona. Bad news for me because he’d been helping with a lot.
I’d made a half-hearted pledge to visit him “someday,” but, as I said, life is full of surprises.
Twists and turns
About a month or so ago, not much more than a week after I arrived in New Orleans for my winter visit, I stepped on some unstable pavement and torqued my left ankle. “Boy, that’s going to hurt later,” I thought.
Surprise. My ankle was fine, but later my knee was not. Pretty soon it became clear that if I was going to walk around, I was going to need a cane.
“OK. I can live with that. I’ll use the cane until the knee gets better and then back to normal.”
That was the plan and the knee did get better and I was walking fine. Great.
Then about a week later, it went out again and a few days after that it stopped taking any weight at all. The cane didn’t cut it any more. To further complicate things, I had a pre-existing problem with my right arm so crutches were out.
That fast I found myself in a wheelchair less than a week before I had to get on a plane to run five full days of seminars. As if that weren’t enough, I’d also taken on a “mission impossible” type project for a very worthy and very needy non-profit in New Orleans.
The consolations of philosophy
There’s only one thing to do in a situation like this: become a philosopher. There’s not much else you can do.
First, I marveled at how easy it is to end up in a wheelchair. Two bad legs or one bad leg and one bad arm and you’re in.
Second, I consoled myself with the idea that it was a temporary condition.
But neither of these ideas helped me deal with the practical problems that kept me up the night I realized that the wheelchair thing was not going to resolve itself quickly.
Practical questions like how I was going to get from New Orleans to Chicago and then from O’Hare to the hotel reared their ugly head.
And so did the big one: How was I going to cope with needing to be wheeled around in a wheelchair for five days at the System Seminar? Would it freak people out? Would it freak me out?
Normally, I do a lot of standing and walking at my seminars. Now I would be able to do zero.
Normally, running the seminar takes a lot of of me physically. Now I was running the longest seminar I’d ever attempted and I was going into it already exhausted and stressed out.
Suddenly not being able to walk before your biggest event of the year can do that to you.
“Conditions are rarely ideal”
The night before the seminar starts I always have insomnia. In fact, I pretty much have insomnia for the whole seminar.
Usually that’s fine. I just deal with it.
But I needed every bit of rest I could get so I did what most human beings do: I worried.
I worried about it being 3:45 AM in the morning and not being able to go to sleep. I worried about how I was going to keep my energy up for five days. I worried how I was going to keep my mind sharp since normally I literally “think on my feet” and I wasn’t going to be able to be on my feet.
I worried and worried and worried.
Then I got a message. Where it came from I do not know, but it popped into my head clear as day and it made me laugh.
The message said: “Conditions are rarely ideal.”
I had to laugh because it was such a profoundly true and obvious statement.
Tell me when in anybody’s life conditions are ever perfect.
Sure, occasionally you catch a wave and everything is smooth sailing for a while, but how often does that happen? 5% of the time if you’re lucky.
The biography of every living person (and every person who’s ever lived) is full of screw ups, set backs, massive inconveniences, with the occasional disaster thrown in for good measure.
It’s called life and it happens to everybody all the time.
Conditions are rarely ideal…so what are you going to do about it?
I chuckled and went right to sleep.
Realizing that not only are conditions rarely ideal, they were certainly not ideal now, I changed my focus.
Instead of thinking about all the things stacked up against me, I focused on one thing: How I was going to do what I had to do with excellence regardless of the obstacles and, equally as important, how I was going to use every second of downtime in between presentations to maximum effect to recharge my batteries so I could hit it again – and again – and again – for five days in a row.
One thing that helped enormously: instead of engaging in idle chit chat with every person who wanted to shoot the breeze, I left the seminar room immediately when I was done and rested.
Small thing but it helped a lot.
I also enrolled a lot of people to help me, something I normally never do. I’m big on being self-sufficient. Big mistake when you’re running a complex operation.
So I assembled a team of people I knew I could count on.
Teamwork and necessity
Chef Mark Garcia, a member of my System Eagles Club, prepared me exquisite, healthy and delicious meals so I was always well fed and not dependent on the whims of the hotel kitchen and room service.
Dr. Andrew Colyer, another System student, worked on my leg and back on the breaks to not only keep them from seizing up, but also to promote their healing.
Thad Winston, a colleague of super System grad Lloyd Irvin, wheeled me through freight elevator and maze of the hotel kitchen so I was able to get to the stage without going through the lobby and seminar room in a wheelchair. Instead, I popped out a door next to the stage and made the last ten feet on crutches.
Then, for practicality’s sake, I did something I’ve never seen any seminar leader ever do. I sat on the stage for the entire five days of training. (It was a lot easier to do that than get up and down the stage stairs every time a new speaker came on.)
The result was that System 2010 was one of the most focused events we’ve ever done. I always knew exactly what was going on in the room and was able to keep things on track at all times.
At first I worried how I was going to keep my attention “on” eight to fourteen hours a day (Saturday started at 9 AM and ended and 11 PM.) Then I made an important discovery: worry consumes energy I couldn’t afford to spare. So I just dealt with things one minute a a time, taking great care not to waste energy on anything unnecessary and to make sure I had ample time to recharge my batteries on the breaks.
As the seminar wound down, bit by bit my knee got better. So much so that on the final day, I was able to put some weight on the knee and actually walk in my room a bit.
Nonetheless, it was clear that the knee was still in bad shape.
Once it was clear I was going to make it through the seminar, I allowed myself to start thinking about what I was going to do after the seminar.
Back in New Orleans, I had a gorgeous apartment waiting for me. A classic place with its own private courtyard right in the heart of the French Quarter. In a few minutes, I could walk to one of my favorite places on earth, Frenchmen Street, one of the last spots in America where you can see ten or more great bands in a one block area without paying a single cover charge.
Just one problem: I couldn’t walk to Frenchmen Street and New Orleans, God bless it, has some of the most messed up sidewalks in the world. Normally it doesn’t matter, but my knee could not afford another twist.
So, what to do?
Back home in the Hudson Valley, my home has lots of stairs and going up and down stairs is still a killer on my knee.
I was beginning to worry and then I realized: “Hey, why not just head west to Arizona, get a place near your doctor, and work with him for as long as it takes to get better?. You have the time. You have the money. Why not?”
The practical problems of getting to O’Hare and then Phoenix and then Sedona (a place I’d never been) and finding a place to stay all the while on crutches (after the seminar, I graduated to crutches) were solved and the next thing I knew, I was in a comfortable room in a peaceful spot with a view to die for.
Just down the street there’s s little restaurant that’s good enough for now. (I can walk there without crutches as long as I don’t step on uneven ground.)
Monday, I start the next round of treatments for my knee.
Meanwhile, I’m reading, watching TV, napping, eating – just generally taking it easy, something I too rarely do.
Could messing up my knee actually turn out to be a good thing?
I’m going to withhold judgement until I am walking again normally, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying the peace and quiet here and thinking it might not be a bad idea to get more of this (minus the knee problems) in my life.
Conditions are rarely ideal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get things done and even enjoy yourself in the process.
Good luck with your challenges. I hope this story helps with them.
– Ken McCarthy
P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.
If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.