One of the best life lessons I ever learned was from something John Murphy said to me. I had just started working for John at Star DJs so this must have been late 1988. He hired me to do sales in his office (as well as DJ on the weekends) so I had moved out to New Jersey and was living on my own for the first time in my young life. One day I made plans with the cable company to come to my apartment and hook me up. My schedule that day had me starting in the office at 1pm so when they promised me a 9am to noon window for the technician to show it was perfect.
As you can imagine I waited and waited that morning and finally got a call about 11:45 that they were running 2 hours late. Seething, I told them to cancel the appointment and headed in to the Star office.
I was still upset when I got in and I’m sure I wore that expression on my face. John greeted me and could tell right away something was wrong. When I explained to him that I’d sat at home all morning waiting for cable and They Never Showed!!! he tilted his head and asked, “And you’re still mad about that?”
Being a small business owner myself now for almost 20 years I get that John’s goal was to cheer me up. Quickly. Nothing worse than a disgruntled employee, especially if he’s doing sales. “What do you want?” isn’t exactly the best start to a sales call and I’m not sure I had the wherewithal to muster up much more than that that day. So I’m sure John was just trying to change my mood a bit with that question and not intending to teach me some important life lesson. And certainly it’s not something I learned right then and there in the bright fuchsia sales offices at Star DJs. No, it would take years for this lesson to really sink in and change my attitude towards, well, attitudes. And it’s something I still struggle with from time to time. But on that day, with that one simple question, John Murphy planted this seed in my head: I control my moods. I do. Completely.
When the cable company leaves me waiting for hours and I sulk about it, that’s my decision to hold on to that experience. When someone cuts me off on the road and I blow my stack, that’s my decision to react impulsively. When someone lies to me and cheats me in business and I spend days pissed off about it, that’s my decision to cling to that anger.
And notice I’m not talking about anything major here. If you lose your job and then your house to bankruptcy, or you’ve been diagnosed with a horrible disease, or you’re going through an ugly divorce, it’s natural to have your mood affected. But how many of us react as if we’ve had a major tragedy in our lives when really it’s something very minor?
My favorite Beatles song (and believe me, it is hard to choose) is “Across the Universe.” I think it’s John Lennon at his most poetic (“words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup…”) and when he sings over and over “nothing’s gonna change my world” I relate to it. I don’t think Lennon was saying “I’m stubborn and I’m never gonna change.” I think what he was saying is “my belief system is rock solid and I’m not going to let outside forces change that no matter how much they try.” And again, I’m not saying I’m successful at this all the time. Certainly I let outside influences affect me from time to time (as much as I try not to) but I’m aware that that’s my goal. To be strong enough in my own convictions, to believe firmly enough in the direction I am headed that I’ll let nothing change that. I’ll let nothing rock me enough to take me off course.
I try to be as positive and upbeat as I can. I believe that we all possess an energy and we give that energy off throughout our day and that energy can effect other people we interact with. We can give off positive vibes or negative vibes. That’s our call. We can be the Yes influence or the Naysayer. We can touch people in a good way or in a bad way. And it really is completely our decision which vibe we emanate.
So the next time you’re left waiting for the cable guy, or your flight’s delayed, or the supermarket is out of your favorite brand of corn flakes, remember it’s your decision how long you hold on to that experience. You can either laugh it off and treat yourself to Lucky Charms or you can sulk and complain about it all day. But just know that everyone you meet, and especially the people you tell your Tragedy to, whether they say it out loud or not, is probably thinking the same thing John Murphy was the day I was fuming about the cable company: “And you’re still mad about that?”