Calm Down. It is only a bad day.

bulldog with head on paw

Sometimes I use this blog to journal and put challenging days into perspective. The following is an example from a couple months ago.

Yesterday was a doozy. It felt like one of those days where everyone pointed out everything wrong with Hoffer Plastics, without offering much in terms of solutions. To be fair, I write these words at the end of February after countless days of cold and clouds. While that shouldn’t play into people’s moods, I have come to discover that it does.

More importantly, people are working hard here. Effort is not, and has never been, the issue. In fact, I think one of the reasons people are frustrated is because they recently tasted success with one of the largest revenue months in the history of the company. The feeling since, however, can be characterized by a cloudy February day in Chicago: While it beats a snow storm, enough cloudy days together tempts one to wonder whether the sun and warmth are ever going to return.

As I drove home, my head pounded. I wasn’t scheduled to workout but I probably should have as I use physical exercise as an outlet. It dawned on me that I should have prayed during the day. I write posts about prayer after all. But in the dudgeon of my self-centeredness, praying was not what came to mind. Sulking was.

After mumbling how bad the day was to Sarah, I went upstairs to my closet to change out of my work clothes. Inside our walk-in closet is the chair where I do my morning Bible reading. Seeing it convicted me, and reminded me that I needed to pray.

I think the prayer began something like this: “Lord, I don’t know what I am doing. I feel like a terrible leader. Our team cares deeply, but we are bickering. I pray for your wisdom. Guide me, and the company, in the direction we should go. Help us seek YOUR will, not our own. Help me seek Your will, not my own. And help us be more graceful to one another.”

As I have shared before, prayer is not about getting the words right. It is about being real, surrendering to God, and seeking His will and ways above your own. As John Ortberg says, “prayer is more about changing you than it is about changing your circumstances.”

This prayer reminded me to text my accountability partner, John. I owned up to all the emotions, my negative self-talk, and the frustrations of the day. I then asked for his prayers too. He immediately responded, “I’m on it!” This reminded me that I am not alone in my struggles.

Then, and only then, was I ready to go downstairs and transition into husband/dad Alex. Sadie knew what to do. She immediately made me laugh by saying my name in a way that only two-and-a-half-year-old little girl can do. If there is any better sound, I have not heard it!

Meanwhile, the boys were being their playful selves. All they cared was getting dinner over so we could move to the basement and play hockey. Yet to be sure, playing hockey, or playing ANYTHING with them, always helps improve my spirits because recreation always re-creates.

And then there is Sarah. She was her usual, delightful, tender-hearted, self. I suspect she will just roll her eyes when she edits this, but her ability to give me space, and let me process the day’s events, always brings me back to reality faster than having to explain why I am not in the best of moods. In this regard she has wisdom that I aim to model with direct-reports. For sometimes it is better to just let people have their space.

I once heard Colin Powell say during a Global Leadership Summit speech that “everything looks different in the morning.” And to be sure, by the following morning things looked different back at Hoffer Plastics. But it was nothing I did. Rather, it was the answer to prayers prayed, support from a friend, and the reminder of the blessings of family coupled with their support.

The next time things are spinning out of control for you, calm down. Remember your blessings. It is only one bad day.