In many ways I’ve been unlucky these past few months.

I fell at a gas station and injured my hip (now it’s fine); my checking account got hacked (it’s been fixed); on a busy street my car’s transmission stopped working and the transmission had to be replaced (costing $7000 – don’t buy a Ford Escape). 

…And Good Luck

Of course, lucky things have happened too:  my friends provided great support; my house is warm and comfy; I got a good trade-in for my lousy Ford Escape; I enjoy my work, etc.

So, when I heard billionaire Japanese investor, Masayoshi Son (seen in the photo), talking about luck on a recent interview on YouTube, I perked up.  This is a man who has made hundreds of millions of dollars and lost hundreds of millions.

Luck and Success

New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Masayoshi Son, “How important is luck to your success?”

The billionaire replied, “In life you get unlucky things and lucky things.  It comes almost equally; it’s a mix of events every year – like a roller coaster.” He added, “I work hard to capture the lucky things and then work hard to solve the unlucky things.  The end result is my responsibility.”

Mistakes

When asked about mistakes, Masayoshi Son said, “Some people don’t admit mistakes; they make excuses.  I accept and admit mistakes.  I accept a bad decision and learn quickly from it, so I don’t repeat the mistake.”  He spoke about losing billions of dollars and then having wins that gave him a positive outcome.

Lessons from Bad Luck

I’ve been asking myself, “What have I learned from my “bad luck?”  I’ll pay more attention to slippery oil slicks on the ground at gas stations; I’ll handle my checks more carefully – and avoid mailing checks when possible; I’ll ask more questions before agreeing to major auto repairs….and I won’t buy a Ford car again.  In general, when I have “bad luck,” I’ll ask myself what mistakes I made that contributed to the problem. 

Uncontrollables

Of course, some bad luck is out of my control.  When that’s the case, I need to recognize it.  But there’s always something to be learned in any lucky or unlucky situation.

Yes, the Netflix logo – for a reason

I was feeling bummed

Somebody opened my mailbox and took the mail I wanted to have picked up by the mailman.  He/she stole checks I intended for the DMV and the tax collector.  The thief took the check numbers and made electronic (EFT) purchases by typing in my account number online.  Suddenly the money was missing from my checking account.  I’m hoping my bank can get the money back.

Take back control

I had already been feeling irritable and Covid Cranky.  Now I was angry.  What to do?  I confess, I had a little chocolate.  And then some ice cream.  I knew I had to gain control over what I could control (besides eating ice cream). I needed to get moving.

Take action and cheer up

I walked along the San Francisco Bay near my home, picked the last of the roses and veggies in my garden, took used books to Goodwill, made zucchini bread, talked to friends on the phone, then downloaded some e-books from the library. 

Netflix to the rescue

Best of all, I found wonderful movies and shows on Netflix.  If you’re feeling down, I recommend the following:

Fisherman’s Friend – A true feel-good story about 10 fishermen in Cornwall who were discovered by a recording executive who appreciated their singing of sea shanties. And it’s a love story.  Enjoy the Cornish scenery as well as the songs (which, thanks to the executive, became best-sellers).

Move – Feel inspired by the dancers who are changing the art of movement around the world.  This is a five-part documentary of the struggles and ultimate successes of brilliant dancers and choreographers.  Part one focuses on taking the street dance arts of popping and jooking to the next level.  The performances are startling and sensational.

The Queen’s Gambit – If you want a fun, thrilling, cerebral, binge-worthy show, don’t miss this mini-series.  This is the story of orphan chess prodigy, Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), during her quest to become the world’s greatest chess player while struggling with emotional issues and drug and alcohol dependency.  I was hooked from the start. 

My Octopus Teacher – This gorgeous nature documentary has been trending on must-see lists world-wide for a good reason.  The filmmaker tells a joyful tale of what he learned from an octopus he befriended in the kelp forests of South Africa.  It sounds unlikely until you see it.

Tales by Light – Here’s another must-see show if you have an interest in science, nature, photography, travel, and adventure.  The series of documentaries feature the stories and work of 18 hugely talented and courageous photographers.  You’re in for a treat.

Feeling Better

Maybe it’s the inspiration or maybe it’s the distraction. I’m just grateful to have easy access to entertainment that makes me feel so much better.  And, no, I don’t feel guilty about watching so much TV.  In times like these, these shows help calm us and make us less Covid Cranky.

(Follow-up note – all’s well. My bank was great!)

Covid-19, our modern plague, is tragic; but there is an upside for many of us.

Because I have some financial security from social security income, I ‘m able to step back and see over 30 benefits from the pandemic.  I hope this list helps you feel more positive.

Our Collective Experience

  • Globally we are all in this together.  There’s shared humanity
  • World-wide there’s a greater appreciation for front-line workers, teachers, healthcare providers
  • We have global cooperation to find a vaccine
  • More volunteerism
  • Younger people are feeling inspired to create change
  • Underlying inequities in our society have been exposed – in finances, education and healthcare 
  • We had time to watch and reflect on George Floyd’s death – and react
  • There’s increased focus on how to solve the inequities

Impact on Nature

  • By staying at home, we have created less air pollution.  The earth will have a 7% decrease in carbon dioxide this year
  • Nature has begun to heal
  • Plants are healthier 
  • Animals are more abundant
  • The birds are happy

Our Culture

  • As a society, slowing down has made us kinder
  • We’ve had a chance to refocus on what really matters
  • We learned that when working from home many of us are more productive
  • Zoom works well for meetings and gatherings of all kinds and for small group learning
  • We’ve seen an upsurge in new music.  There’s the Rolling Stones’ “Living in a Ghost Town,” plus 5000 songs on the Spotify virus playlist
  • We have greater appreciation for “normal,” such as haircuts, eating out, travel

The Personal Impact

  • Feeling humility in the face of fragility
  • Becoming more patient.  With the uncertainty, I’m learning to take things day by day
  • Feeling more relaxed.  Reduced traffic makes driving less stressful 
  • There’s less pressure – no longer over-scheduling every day
  • Appreciating the quiet and listening to the birds
  • Time to be one on one with friends via zoom, phone calls or walks
  • Getting to better know my neighbors and their children
  • Time to paint, practice the guitar, bicycle, hike, clean the house, cook, garden, and read
  • Finding new TV shows
  • Watching “Conversations with Authors” from Book Passage
  • Thanks to Zoom, taking online classes – yoga, Pilates, sketching, guitar, and gardening
  • Finding new local hikes and bike rides.  Exploring local neighborhoods
  • Making new hiking and biking friends
  • Saving money – no gym dues and reduced restaurant expenses

A Huge Change, But Not All Bad

It’s true our world will never be the same.  So, when you feel discouraged, please refer to this list.  I hope it helps. 

Note: I’m eager to hear your thoughts. What would you add to the list?

The holidays bring up such mixed emotions – there’s joy and hope…and there’s stress and sadness.

When I taught a class on managing holiday stress, participants gave me a long list of stressors that include worries about budget and creating a “perfect” holiday, and feeling sad when remembering loved ones who won’t be here this year.

Find Balance and Watch your Budget

Class members had plenty of ideas for reducing holiday stress.  They want to set realistic expectations, create a better balance between personal time and social time, and spend more time with supportive people.  Some people talked about reducing financial worries by changing some of their family traditions; instead of buying gifts for everyone in the family, they will have a white elephant exchange or arrange for secret Santa gifts, so that each person only buys one gift.

Stress Reduction Tips

During the holidays, more than at other times, it’s important to manage your stress.  This is the time for deep breathing exercises (breathe in for 3 counts, hold for 2, breathe out for 3 counts).  Progressive muscle relaxation is super helpful. Sit in a chair with your eyes closed.  Tense your right fist; let go.  Tense your whole right arm; let go. Do the same on the left side.  Then scrunch up your face and hold it tight; let go.  Tense your shoulders and your chest; let go.  Tense your stomach muscles; let go.  Tense your thighs and calves; let go.  Tense your toes; let go.

As members of my class completed  the exercise and opened their eyes, the energy in the room became light and peaceful.

Help Yourself to Help Others

So, first take care of yourself during the holidays. Then help others.  If you take time to volunteer or collect toys to donate, you’ll feel the joy of giving.  Plus, when we change the focus from materialism, we reap the benefits of feeling the spirit of the holiday season.

Your Rights

Remember:  You have the right to enjoy the holidays and even buy a gift for yourself.  You are also entitled to feel all your emotions – from happy to sad.  You don’t need to attend every party and eat all the food offered to you.  You can design the holiday you want to enjoy.  Make some new traditions.  What can you do differently this year?

My Philosophy

Lately friends have been asking me about my philosophy.  They want to know if I have a dogma, or if I’m guided by a self-help guru. The answer is I’m a pragmatist.  Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve found a path that works for me.  It includes having a balanced life, getting unstuck, pursuing fun leisure activities, keeping healthy, fulfilling my life purpose, sticking to my personal guiding principles, and achieving goals.

Gratitude

In my workshops and coaching, I share this “path” with others.  And that feels great.  So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I want to talk about how grateful I am to have this opportunity to teach and be a coach.  It truly is fulfilling to help people who are feeling uncertain about what next steps to take, and then see them leave at peace, knowing how they want life to look and what they need to do to achieve it.

This work, plus so much more, makes me feel that my life is balanced and full.  I am thankful for good health which allows me to enjoy hiking, skiing, cycling, sailing, dance, and yoga.  I’m thankful for the amazing friends I’ve made while pursuing these activities.  I’m grateful that as a Marin Master Gardener, I can volunteer for the Dig It, Grow It, Eat It program that teaches children about gardening and nutritious foods.  I’m thankful that I’m able to travel; this year I went to the East Coast and Canada, while next year I’ll visit New Zealand.  And I’m grateful for my small family.

Gratitude Journal

I want to wish you a fulfilling Thanksgiving Holiday.  If you have time, write down some of the things you are grateful for.  Did you know that a 2012 study found that grateful people have fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people?  Spend 10 minutes jotting down a few grateful thoughts before bed, and you may sleep better.

A year after the devastation of the Sonoma County, California fires, friends who have lost their homes and most of their material possessions spoke to me about gratitude – gratitude for the outpouring of gifts and support from both friends and strangers.

It doesn’t erase the pain of the loss, but one friend shared that small events will long be remembered, such as gong to community garage “sales” where you are told to take anything that fits or is useful…maybe a new pair of earrings or a sweater or even a bicycle – for free.

I recently spoke with a Sonoma artist at a local art festival.  He lost most of his paintings when his studio burned in the fire.  I looked at photos of his lost paintings and then felt exhilarated by his fresh, new paintings.  He has worked through the trauma and come out the other side with stunning, gorgeous images.

My friend Annie calls this “getting pruned.”  She says it’s like cutting back a rose bush and being rewarded with even more stunning rose blossoms.

This metaphor reminded me that in the 1980’s I lost my home in a mudslide in Sausalito, California.  I’m grateful I got out alive and was able to rescue some possessions.  I realize now that the loss and trauma was a turning point for me.  It forced me to re-evaluate my life and eventually led to a better romantic partnership, and work in coaching and training that was more aligned with my values.

In fact, one couple I know announced their engagement shortly after she lost her home in one of the fires.  Maybe they would have announced it at that time anyway, but experience tells me that after facing the possibility of losing your life, some decisions become very clear.

Another friend told me that when the fire destroyed her home, she decided to move closer to San Francisco where most of the family works.  The shorter commute has resulted in greater family togetherness, which she loves.

I certainly don’t want to minimize the pain and trauma of major loses; however, as we remember the fires, it’s good to recognize that sometimes life calls for us to reinvent ourselves…and that can be a good thing.