A dear friend of mine sought my advice regarding an issue her 17 year old son was facing. He attended a prominent youth academy which placed him at a company to gain work experience (on a non-salaried basis). He worked as a graphic designer, creating some of the publicity needed for the firm’s marketing campaigns and events. A year after his tenure at the academy he was approached by the director of that company and asked if he would design a logo and a brochure. Apart from a promissory gesture by the director to introduce him to his contacts, no payment was offered. The teenager gladly did the work; but things soon became sour when the director became evasive every time the subject of introducing him to his contacts was raised. At the same time he put the boy under scathing pressure to complete the work to a tight deadline.
His mother was understandably concerned that her son was being taken advantage of and prepared a ‘well crafted’ letter to send to the director. However, mindful not to jeopardise potential opportunities for her son, she decided to seek my advice before sending it, due to my years of experience in the creative industry. As she described the case to me I was able to confirm that her son was indeed being taken advantage of. This company usually pays for designers to do their work and the director was using her son to avoid the expense of design fees. She had every right to be upset at how her son was being treated and the company director was deserving of a good ‘ticking’ off. However, I was still apprehensive about her sending the letter (yet) as I too shared her initial concerns about jeopardizing his future. No matter how diplomatic or well crafted her letter was, the fact that it was coming from his mother (seen to be the lioness) could’ve resulted in the director distancing himself and his company from her son and any possible trouble associated with him. Instead I decided to look at the situation from a different perspective and sought to give another meaning to this situation.
Her son was just starting out in his career and oftentimes designers work on a freelance basis where the ability to sell oneself is key. I saw this situation as a golden opportunity for her son to gain some business acumen and negotiate with the director. From the caliber of work her son was commissioned to do, it became obvious that the director had confidence in his abilities and talent. This would serve as leverage for her son to demand design credits (if payment was not forthcoming) for the ongoing tasks and to negotiate suitable payment for future jobs. If the director disagreed, then a letter of complaint was due. She passed on my advice to her son who acted accordingly. Two weeks later I was delighted to hear that he was successful in obtaining what he asked for, birthing the beginning of business relationship with the company.
Opportunities do not always come in attractive packages. The picture that adversity paints is not necessarily as gloomy as it seems. You posses the ability to look at the imagery of dire circumstances and frame it with a meaning that empowers you. No circumstance is set in stone and it’s impact on you is subject only to the definition you give to it. There are situations beyond our control; but the meaning we give to them is key, as it is responsible for how we feel about it. How we feel determines our actions, and all actions have a consequence. Therefore, meaning controls outcome! The good thing is that you can choose or even create the meaning you want to give to any circumstance you face. Debt problems can serve as a lesson in financial management. Divorce can serve as a powerful medium for re-evaluation and self discovery. No matter how ugly the situation, its impact on you is subject only to the meaning you give to it.
Your mind will always seek to find a meaning to any given situation. Unfortunately, by default, the mind leans toward pessimism, hence the initial tendency of thinking the worst in any given situation. We must make a conscious effort to train our minds to think on things that will empower rather than discourage us. A well trained mind that seeks to find the good in any given situation is a mind that can steer you to a life of success.
The most powerful way of training your mind to explore and find meanings that will empower you is to see things from a ‘winning’ perspective. A winning perspective is where you see yourself in a position where you have the advantage. It is where you see yourself as the head and not the tail, above and not beneath. When you see yourself as always having the advantage, your only dilemma is deciding how you want to win.
In conclusion, never let an offense cloud your judgment. Always keep your eye on the big picture and the end goal. When faced with situations that seek to dis-empower you, look for or create an alternative meaning that puts power back in your hands. When you do this, a raft of opportunities will be revealed to you that you would not have otherwise seen.