Monday, November 2, 2015

The Power of Maybe So

Nicolette Michele Johnson
by Nicolette Michele Johnson, Associate Director of Kelley School's Graduate Career Services

I remember, years ago, when I was laid off from a large corporation. It was around the housing crisis with a lot of layoffs swirling around. I imagine some people felt bad for me, thinking how unfortunate it was.

During my newly found free time, I read one of Eckhart Tolle’s early books, one that Oprah endorsed as part of her well-known book club that often took authors from relative obscurity to fame in what seemed like mere seconds.

I vaguely remember a story in the book in which an individual was in an auto accident and people told the individual how bad that was. “Poor thing,” they said. His response was: “maybe so.” Then, while in the hospital, he later learned that his house had fallen into the ocean. People told him how bad that was. He said: “maybe so.”

That’s when I honed in on the principle of “maybe so.” I had always had somewhat of a “maybe so” attitude, but I hadn’t thought about it deeply. I don’t think there’s an actual principle called that, but I’m sure the concept is an old one.

Are there worse alternatives than being in the hospital after an accident? Had the person not been in the accident and been home when his house slid into the ocean, could his fate had been worse? It’s quite possible.

In my situation, was it a bad thing to be laid off? Maybe so. It’s all a matter of perspective, with events only deriving the meaning and impact that we give them. Did I lose an opportunity to continue to work at that large corporation? Yes. Was that a bad thing? Not from my vantage point.

During my "break," I gained lots of free time which included my daily 10 a.m. workout at the gym or walk on Atlanta's Silver Comet Trail, staying up as late as I wanted to (as the night owl I truly was and am) and talking with new companies about all sorts of the possibilities.

I also read more books during that time than I had in several years combined. And because of other events in my life, that layoff could NOT have come at a better time. It was like kismet, with the universe knowing I needed a break, especially from work I never loved. The universe likely knew that a few short years later, my experience, skills, wisdom, sense of direction and even income would double, surpassing anything I had left behind.

In the years that followed, my affinity for “maybe so” grew. There are so many silver linings in most events, especially involving work, dreams and relationships, that I actually have difficulty finding the negative side. Sure, I don’t totally overlook the negative aspects, but the positive takes their place with lightning speed.

And when I can, I try to help others, especially those I coach, embrace the positive after they've had some time to sit with their feelings, good or bad.

So when the next event that appears less-than-positive to you occurs, I wish you, too, a big dose of maybe so.

“The Power of Maybe So” was originally published on Linkedin Pulse on October 13, 2015.