The Best Life-Hack I Know

Not the actual people's feet.

Sitting in the circle of 30 people, I scanned their faces and tried to read them. My chest felt fizzy; a rampant mix that was equal parts excitement and utter terror.

Not the actual people's feet. I was in New York for a weekend workshop on coaching. It was directed at people like me at the time – those who only recently learned that coaching was even a thing – to give us some basics and help us decide whether or not we wanted to make a career out of it. I was excited because this felt like a job that had been invented for me; in one way or another, I’ve been coaching (for free) my entire life.

And I was terrified, because of all those people.

What if they realised I had no idea what I was doing? What if they thought I wasn’t cut out to be a coach? What if they knew I hadn’t had a proper job for months?
And, deep down, another question:

What if they don’t like me?

But, as I’ve written about before, instead of realising that I was asking this last question, I transformed it into something else.

Hating them. All of them.

The workshop began, and we each had to take turns telling the group a bit about ourselves, and why we were there. As everyone spoke, my loathing of them deepened.

“I’m Sally, and I’ve been an HR Manager for seven years. I love my job, but I’d like to expand my responsibilities within my position.”

Of course you do. You already have a job and you’re so proud of yourself, aren’t you?

“Thanks, Sally!” said Emma, our instructor, a cheerful lady with short, red hair. A few years older than me and clearly steeped in the coaching world. “Who’s next?”

Oh god. It was me.

As always, I’d already been running through in my head what I was going to say. One of the things I had recently learned was to act ‘as if’. So rather than telling them ‘I don’t know much about coaching but I think I’d like to do it’, I said,

“I’m Marsha. I’m a life coach, who helps people who are at a career transition. I help them figure out what to do.”

I mean, that was what I had done for free in the past. That was what I thought I wanted to do. But I didn’t add that bit.

“Thanks Marsha!” Emma chirped. “Next?”

Next was The Guy. Short, crewcut, smart button-down shirt tucked into jeans, above leather loafers, I’d noticed him in my earlier scan of the room. He looked like he loved himself.

“Hi everyone,” he said, in one of those boomingly confident, New York voices. “I’m Steven and I’m a consultant for top-level executives in the corporate world.”
Of course you are.
“I help CEOs and other heads of companies to get the most out of their teams and their jobs. And I’m very good at it.” he smirked.

UGH. This guy was THE WORST.

As the introductions continued, I occasionally flicked my gaze back to Steven. He was sitting listening with this smug look on his face. God I hoped I didn’t get paired up with him in any exercises. He thinks he’s so great.

The introductions finished, and Emma told us about our first exercise.
“I’m going to randomly pick four of you to bring up something you’d like to be coached on. Then, we’re going to take it in turns to coach you, as a group.”

If they pick me, I thought, I’ll just talk about wanting to meditate more. That’s pretty straightforward.

Emma ran her finger through the registry, and called out, “First – Jenna! Jenna, what could you use help with?”

Jenna was in her mid-twenties, shoulder length hair in smart jeans and a sweater. “I’d like to figure out how to make exercise a more regular part of my routine.”

“Thanks! Next,” said Emma, “Abigail! If we pick you, what would you like to talk about?”

“I could do with getting a little more organised – my office is covered in receipts!”
Ooh. I hoped she got picked – that might help me, too.

“Third,” called Emma, “Stephanie!”

Stephanie put up her hand. “Hey! Um, I guess I’d like to talk about my work/life balance. Sometimes I really struggle to take breaks.”

“Ok, thanks Stephanie!” Emma looked back down at her clipboard. “And finally….”
Don’t let it be me don’t let it be me don’t let it be me

“..Steven!”

Oh NO. What was he going to say? ‘How can I be more perfect?’ ‘How can my career continue to grow at breakneck speed?’ ‘How can my CEO’s love me evenmore?’

“Hey..” he started. He looked up, then flicked his eyes down to the ground. “Um…” his voice was quieter than before. “I’m…I’m really lonely.”

He paused.

The rest of us were SILENT.

“My wife left me three and a half years ago. I’ve tried dating since, but nothing sticks. Sometimes I take a woman home, but that’s not what I want. I want someone to wake up with, to go to sleep with. But I just can’t seem to make anything last longer than a date or two. So I work and work, just to keep myself distracted.”

Holy.

Holy.

I looked at him. And I could physically feel all my resentment and anger towards him dissolve. I felt it gather in my chest and then course down my body, into my feet, into the floor and away. And it was replaced with a swell of compassion for him. It felt like my soul was stepping forward to hug his.

All that confidence, all that bravado that I’d read as being real and so called it ‘smug’ – it was just armour. He was using it to build himself up, so none of us would notice.

And now, here he was, opening up completely.

And I felt suddenly overwhelmed by the understanding that all he is doing, all any of us is doing, is trying their hardest to be happy. Just like I am. Just like you are.

So I try and remember this, whenever I can:

Everybody – every single person – is trying their hardest to be happy. Just like I am.

It doesn’t pardon bad behaviour. It doesn’t make oppression ok.

Most importantly, it absolutely does not excuse us from fighting the horrors of our worlds, local, national, global, whenever and wherever we can. (Some ideas on how to, below).

But when we can start from a place of recognising that, people that we don’t feel great about or are in conflict with aren’t solely just trying to f–k with us. When we can understand that they, too – even if they’re doing it in a really cack-handed, f’d up way – are just trying their hardest to be happy. When we understand this, we’re more productive in moving forward. In our lives, in the world, righting wrongs.

So please remember:

Everybody – every single person – is just trying their hardest to be happy.

Just like you are. twitter_bird_logo

 

When you encounter someone who’s rude on the subway.

When you get in a disagreement at work.

When your friend voted in a way you wish they hadn’t.

It’s because they’re just trying their hardest to be happy. Just like you are. Just like I am.

 

 

Thank you so much for reading. Before you go, an important note:

In this post-election shock, understanding is the first step. But second, and most important, is action. Hope and love is not enough – we have to reach back to pull up and support or fight for people who don’t have the privilege that we do. Some suggestions for how to do this:

(1) Sign up to the mailing lists, to receive and sign petitions on these sites.
They often make a difference – especially when their members (like Avaaz’s) number almost 50 MILLION. It takes you ten seconds to sign each:

www.avaaz.org
www.colorofchange.org
www.amnesty.org
www.weareultraviolet.org

(2) Make donations to one of these sites – who are helping and fighting for those who will likely suffer.
These suggestions mostly came from the post-election episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Bless that man.

www.refugeerights.org
www.naacpldf.org  – NAACP Legal Defense Fund, fighting for racial justice.
www.reproductiverights.org

www.thetrevorproject.org – focuses on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ youth
www.maldef.org – Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
www.propublica.org – independent non-profit newsroom producing investigative journalism in the public interest
Black Lives Matterhttps://donate.idex.org/checkout/donation?eid=66399

(3) If you see someone being abused in public, here’s a great suggestion on how to deal, from Maeril:
1-maerils-cartoon-how-to-deal-with-people
(Find her @itsmaeril)

 

(4) Educate yourself on your own privilege, as much as you’re reasonably able.
I had no idea about this sort of stuff until relatively recently. I moved through life thinking that being a good person was enough, and that probably good things happened to me because I am nice and kind and smart. I had no idea how many doors and opportunities were open to me because of the colour of my skin, the fact that I’m able-bodied and straight-presenting, and middle class.
If you want to know more about what I mean – and I hope you do – Emelia from Trying to be good’s latest is a good place to start: http://tryingtobegood.com/darkness/white-people-can-change-world

Also, this (that I wrote) has suggestions for more reading: yesyesmarsha.com/blm

Thank you, for reading this last part. I appreciate that this stuff is not easy or comfortable to face. That you have speaks volumes about you. Now it’s time to take action.

You rule,

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS: this story first appeared in my email, where some people asked that I post it publicly.

PPS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

Feet Photo Credit: Tatiana12 Flickr via Compfight cc

2 Comments

  • Melanie

    Reply Reply November 16, 2016

    Thank you Marsha, for being brave and writing about this election, and for offering thoughts on moving forward.
    Thank you for being thoughtful and for planting your feet on something you believe in. I am realizing that the privileged life I lead has given me a false sense of my own bravery. I am seeing just how brave and amazing some people are and have been my whole life – and I never understood what it took until now.
    Thanks for writing this.
    All the best,
    Melanie

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply November 17, 2016

      Melanie, thank you so much. I feel like I’ve been learning this lesson more and more and more throughout this whole process (eg reading this thread).
      Onwards, and in action

      xxyyM

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