The Broken Places

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger at the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway

I wish I could remember where I first heard the above quote but it is one that I remind myself of and have shared with countless friends and clients over the years.

As I thought about the year 2020 has been, I was reminded of it again.

It resonates with me because if you have lived a while (I am a few weeks away from my 54th year on this planet — Yikes!), the world will kick you in the teeth, or much further south, and try to break you.

Over my 30+ year career, I have owned businesses that teetered on the brink of bankruptcy for years, have had relationships fail, felt the stress that comes when your child endures pain and have felt the deep sorrow from the loss of loved ones.

Over five years ago (within the span of six months) my marriage ended, my income plummeted and I lost someone close to me after a long battle with Cancer.

It broke me. In a lot of places.

By the end of it all, I had unintentionally lost over 30 pounds and vividly remember sitting, collapsed, and thoroughly defeated, on my couch just staring out of the window. Frozen in a fog of fear and sadness.

I have always considered myself a resilient person and had been knocked down before but this was a lot all at once. How was I going to bounce back?

Then I remembered the Hemingway quote.

The answer was that I found a way to turn those hard times into lessons learned. New wisdom, learned only by going through the toughest of times, would become part of my superpowers. These experiences would create guardrails so I could create a future that would be strengthened from my past, not burdened by it (SO much easier to say now than it was to do).

We can choose to feel we are broken or less than because of what has happened to us OR that we are stronger because we have been broken.

As the saying goes, “what a beautiful thing it is, to be able to stand tall and say… I fell apart, and I survived.”

Five years later, I coach/advise a very select group of business owners that are going through tough times and have some exciting creative endeavors set to launch in 2021. I am closer to friends that have always been there for me and, most of all, my son is thriving.

The broken man (or Mann, in this case) on the couch was not actually broken. I was just looking at it all the wrong way.

How are you looking at the moments that could break you?

Time and again friends and clients explain to me the ways the world has broken them. How they would never trust again or could not believe their business could succeed. That the cracks, or wounds life had dealt them, would never heal. That these wounds would forever make them unable to love, be loved or to succeed.

That they would be seen as a broken person or a bad business person.

Every new failed relationship would be used as further proof.

Every bad event in their business would be an example that they were cursed.

This is when I read or send them the quote.

Then we discuss it. For as long and as often as it takes until they believe it.

Kintsugi is a centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with tree sap that has been infused with gold, silver or platinum powder. The end result is a repaired piece that highlights the broken cracks and creates an object that is even more beautiful and brilliant than the original.

Let me repeat that… What is broken and put back together is even more beautiful than the original.

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This year has been a non-stop barrage of shattering events. Maybe your business has been crushed, your relationships tested by being stuck inside, maybe you have endured the fear of you, or those close to you, catching COVID or have lost someone to this horrible disease.

Where you go from here depends on how you decide to view the cracks this year has created and the ones you have been carrying from all the years before this one.

Will they define you or will you see them as your strength and beauty?

Life is hard.

I remember an old card my Father got me as a teenager that read “Life is tough, life is hard…. Here’s your fucking Christmas card.” (My Father has a warped sense of humor, and the apple fell right next to that tree).

Life IS tough. Life IS hard. But you are stronger as a result.

I hope you will use this strength to rebuild, do more and make 2021 a year of growth, renewal and happiness for you and your family.

Thank you for joining me as I have shared my thoughts on business and life this past year. I am truly grateful.

I wish you the happiest of holidays, moments of true peace and extra helpings of joy in the year ahead.