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The Value of A Crisis

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I woke up at 3:30 am this morning.  

It happens sometimes, and I’ve learned to roll with it.  Ah…the joy of retirement.

After laying in bed in a futile quest for a bit more sleep, I conceded defeat.

I decided to start my day.

Waking up at 3:30 am is far from a crisis, but it serves as a decent metaphor.  The mindset I applied to my early wake-up is one that you may find useful if you’re facing a real crisis. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself…  

I learned something very early this morning. The value of a crisis. It all started with a Tweet... Click To Tweet

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The Value Of A Crisis

Since I was awake, I decided to put the time to good use.   As a result, I learned an interesting lesson, and that lesson led to the writing of today’s post.

Rather than stumble around in our living room and risk waking my sleeping wife, I headed out to my writing studio, turned on my heater to chase the morning chill from the air, and woke my computer from its slumber.  It didn’t seem right for her to be sleeping while I was wide awake.   

I decided to check in with Twitter before starting to write and was rewarded with a serendipitous journey down a rabbit hole that ultimately resulted in this post.

It all started when I read the following tweet:

Christine’s tweet pointed to a great post in Forbes titled Making The Most of Midlife Crises, by Tim Maurer.  I was drawn in by the quality of the piece, and responded to Christine’s tweet with one of my own, citing another great quote from the article:


By 5:00 a.m. my Twitter work was complete and I started writing the words you’re currently reading.  Words that captured my thoughts, inspired by the article referenced above.  


The Definition of A Crisis

In Tim Maurer’s article, he focuses on the value of dealing with a mid-life crisis.  It’s an appropriate focus for his article, but I’d like to encourage you to expand the lessons to other types of crises folks face.  The lessons are valuable, and I encourage you to consider how you can apply them to whatever crisis you may be facing, or will face in the future.

While we often struggle to find value in a true crisis, I think it’s worth the effort. 

My wife and I struggled with a multi-year crisis several decades ago, and we learned some lessons from the experience.  One of the best things we did was write James 1:2-4 on an index card and tape it to our bathroom mirror.  It’s interesting to note how the lessons raised in Tim Maurer’s article are so well aligned with that verse.  BTW, that verse cites “trials of many kinds”, which is my basis for suggesting the lessons can be applied regardless of the type of crisis you may be facing.


 

how to find the value of a crisis

The Value of a Crisis – Examples

As I read through the article, I captured the following examples of how we can achieve value in spite of troubling times.  I’ve included quotes from the article under each of the headings below, followed by the thoughts I had as I read them.


1. They Can Lead To Finding A Deeper Source of Purpose

“In the second half of life,” he continues, “we discover that it is no longer sufficient to find meaning in being successful or healthy. We need a deeper source of purpose.”

I’ve known many folks who question the purpose of their life when experiencing a crisis.  I remember when my Mom died, and how it caused me to reflect on the brevity of life and the limited time we have to make an impact in this world.  Capture those thoughts as you endure your crisis.  In time, your life will likely return to some state of normalcy, and it’s important to retain the lessons you learned in the dark times.  


2. They Can Lead to Personal Growth

We grow “much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.”

Abraham Lincoln is a great example of how we should face our failures (which, I would argue, could be viewed as a crisis).  As I looked through this list, I counted 11 major failures that he endured prior to being elected as President.  Remember that most crises you endure will be temporary, and try to focus on the things you can learn from your situation.


3. They Can Lead to Wisdom and Peace

While some never submit to life’s lessons, only hardening and embittering through old age, some of us experience more pain, sooner, and through it are gifted a hard-won wisdom and its uncommon accompanying peace.

I remember talking to a guy whose company had been bought and sold many times, while my company remained stable.  I asked him about it, and he mentioned that, in time, you gain peace through the process.  You realize that life moves on and you adjust to your new reality.  I’d say he also gained some wisdom in the process.

I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I’ve found I have more Peace as I age.  Perhaps it’s the recognition that situations continually change, and if you’re in a dark period you can have some Peace in knowing that brighter days are likely ahead.  If things are great, I’m enough of a realist to know that there are likely more crises I’ll deal with before I leave this world. 

That’s life, and it’s most enjoyed if you embrace the reality that it will continually change.


4. They Allow You To See What’s Truly Important

But I’ve thankfully seen more people accept and acknowledge life’s challenges, allowing those moments and seasons to soften their responses to disappointment and refine their approaches to life, work, and money.

I love the concept of allowing your challenges to soften your response to disappointment, and using them to refine your approach.  Take advantage of those dark times to reflect on the things that really matter in your life, and refine your approach to reflect your true priorities.  Having a family member pass, for example, may make you realize you’ve neglected dedicating time to those you love.  Don’t just recognize the fact, but commit to making a change and spending more time with those you love.


4. They Can Make You Realize You’ve Been Chasing The Wrong Goals

“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”

I’ve known people who have been very successful in their careers but have destroyed the things that really bring happiness in life.  I think of how they must feel when they ultimately leave the workplace and all of their secular success, only to be left with a gut-wrenching emptiness.  Take time during your journey to reflect on the goals you’re chasing.  Are they the ones that truly make your life better? 

If not, make a change. 

You won’t be working forever, and the things you once thought important during your working years will become significantly less important when you retire.  Pursue the things that endure beyond your working years. 

Pursue the right goals.


Conclusion

When I woke at 3:30 am this morning, I could have gotten upset about how the lack of sleep would negatively impact my day. Instead, I chose to focus on the positive and do something of value with the extra hours I gained in my day.  In retirement, I’m trying to be intentional in maintaining a positive mindset regardless of the situations I’m facing. 

I realize an early wake-up is FAR from a crisis, and my thoughts and prayers go out to those of you who are facing a real crisis in your life.  I think of my friend, Jimmy, and worry that this post could appear insensitive to those who are going through the gut-wrenching loss of a loved one.   There’s nothing further from the truth.  The reality is that none of us can get through life without facing crises of various sorts, and I’m sharing these lessons simply because they resonated with me this morning.  I hope they resonate with you, and perhaps help in whatever situation you’re facing.

If/when you face a real crisis in your life, I encourage you to try to find something positive you can glean from your difficult situation.  I know it’s easier said than done, but I strongly believe it’s worth the effort.  Hopefully, the list above will provide a starting point in your thinking.

Just like my early morning wake-up, we can’t always control our situations.

We can, however, control how we respond to them.


P.S.  As I was writing this conclusion I received the following comment from Eduardo on my latest post, Retirement Is Nothing Like I Thought It’d Be.  I found it a perfect summary of what I’ve been trying to say throughout this post, so I’ve included it here:

“I take to heart a great quote from Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist,

“The purpose of life, as far as I can tell… is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.” 


Your Turn:  Looking back at some of the crises you’ve endured, have you found any benefits gained from the experience with the passage of time? Are there any other tips you’d suggest for those dealing with a crisis? 

22 comments

  1. Wonderful blog Fritz. For me, as well as most of us, a most relevant topic. I greatly admire your ability to discuss the state of mind in retirement which is equally as important as the financial aspect. I highly recommend the book The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness
    by Emily Esfahani Smith. She cites studies where having purpose in life reduces the effect of life’s stressors and actually leads to better health. She also cites an Australian hospice nurse, Bronnie Ware, who interviewed numerous patients on their deathbed asking what they regretted most and to no surprise number one was working too long and too hard, number two losing family and friend connections, and lastly, not following their true aspirations and purposes.

    I appreciate the citation as well.

    1. Thanks for the recommended book, Eduardo. Adding it to my “To Read” list! Happy also to see you leave the first comment today, appropriate with your citation in the post. Finally, ironic that you mention Bronnie Ware, I wrote a post about her findings in the early days of this blog, powerful stuff.

  2. Thank you for another great post. All I can offer is my own experiences with crisis, my failures, and what I learned through it all.

    For some reason, when a crisis hits I have this overwhelming desire to quickly fix or avoid the crisis. There have been multiple times in my life where a crisis at work led me to quickly find a new position with a new company only to find the solution worse than the actual pain I would have gone through. You would think I would have learned my lesson after the first time, but you would be wrong. Similar situations have played out in different scenarios throughout my life and I’ve realized a part of my issue is an overinflated perception of self reliance and that I can most effectively direct change.

    I’ve realized that most of my periods of crisis were compounded by my reactions to them. I also realized that there were predominately three outcomes: They were not long lasting, I would have been better for going through them, or there truly was no way to avoid it. My active maneuvering did not bring the desired result and left me in a place where I was worst off.

    I still struggle with my default actions, but its easier for me to catch myself and have learned to sit back and let life happen. For me, Jer 29:11 is what gives me comfort.

    1. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

      Great addition to the discussion, thanks for sharing. I have a bit of the same tendency, have been learning that “I can’t fix everything.” Sometimes it is, indeed, best to “sit back and let life happen.”

  3. Another inspiring and thought provoking post Fritz! Thank you for that.

    Our crisis was one of unemployment. Back in the mid 80’s, I became unemployed and my wife was working in a parochial school barely making enough to pay her college loans. In those days you had to go to the unemployment office and suffer the indignity of standing in line to file your claim for that week. As I stood in a line down the sidewalk for a couple hours on a very hot summer afternoon, I remember saying to myself… “I will never do this again”. I came home that evening and said to my wife that we have to find a better way, and it might mean leaving where we grew up and planned to stay for the rest of our lives.

    Much to my surprise she said, “Let’s go for it!, what do we have to lose?” So we set out to find better jobs in a different part of the country (and ended up staying there for 30 years). Suffice to say that the trigger of that crisis set us on a path that we might never have otherwise embarked on. We ended up being successful beyond our expectations, raised a family and retired early at 57 and 55.

    So yes, you can let a crisis knock you down, or you can use it to inspire you to action. We’re blessed and thankful that we pursued the latter.

    1. DEC1, great story and a powerful example. I think the value of a crisis is almost impossible to see when you’re in the midst of it, it often takes years after before things become clear. Thanks for sharing a story that demonstrates that reality. Congrats on crossing “The Starting Line” early, and to think it may have never happened had you not lost that job.

  4. I appreciate the post. My wife passed away unexpectedly in May and it is by far the most impactful crisis I ever faced. What has helped deal with her death is the fact I have faced other challenges in my life and learned to navigate through them. What I have learned the most is to be more empathetic to other people’s challenges. So while my loss has been difficult, there are others in worse situations. Thank you for your early morning “discovery”.

    1. Dom, I can’t imagine going through the loss of a spouse, and I sincerely feel for you. I appreciate you leaving your comment, I was concered it may come across as too “Pollyanna” for those readers who are going through very serious crises in their lives. Your “Thank you” in your final sentence means a lot to me. Good luck “navigating” the choppy waters, especially during this holiday season. I’ll say a prayer for you tonight.

  5. I’m so happy I found your blog. I’m newly retired and, while I have plenty to do, I’m searching for my purpose. The wisdom in your articles is helping.

    I will say I have been fortunate not to have suffered a devastating crisis in my life and my heart goes out to those that have. Most of my problems have been self-inflicted.

    One saying that has always stayed with me is “In life you take the test and then learn the lesson. If you don’t learn it, you get to take the test again.” In every challenge, I’ve always tried to ask, “What is the lesson?” I will admit to taking some tests several times.

    I intend to share this article with my children. I think your point number 4 is particularly relevant to the younger generations and we need to do everything we can to ensure the ladder they choose to climb is leaning against the correct (for them) wall.

    Thank you again for sharing your wisdom. I, for one, am thankful you woke up at 3:30 am.

  6. The kindest and most able-to-live in the moment people I know are those that nearly died from a serious injury or disease in late adolescence/early adulthood. It‘s as if they learned the lesson that life is precious and should not be taken for granted much earlier than the rest of us. They act as if they‘ve been given a second chance at life and so must make the most of it, by finding joy in even simple pleasures and doing what they can to reduce the suffering of others. They almost seem to glow, radiating with an inner light, like angels walking among us.

    1. Interesting observation, Sabine. It brings to mind a guy I once know, Bruce, who lost his leg to cancer. In spite of hobbling around on one leg while continuing to battle cancer, he was truly a ray of sunshine up until the day cancer finally won the battle. An amazing guy, and someone who made a big impact on me with the attitude with which he lived his life.

  7. Thank you for the post Fritz, it was worth getting up early just to read that you had gotten up even earlier and were far more productive than I was. I get up just so I can see the sun rise each morning, because I realize that one morning I wont be there, but the sun will still rise I have no doubt.

    I really enjoyed your article this morning, it’s very thought provoking, and timely given all that’s going on in the world this holiday season. Looking back over the crisis that I have endured during my brief 65 years on this planet the biggest lesson I have learned is that I’m still here, while the crisis of various types and severity have faded away over the years. I think, as you have said, that an important aspect of getting through a crisis is remaining positive, truly believing that you will get through the adversity. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ it’s just a matter of ‘when’.

    Keep writing, your efforts make all our lives a little better in so many different ways. Merry Christmas, and I hope you and your family have a wonderful New Year. God please you all.

    1. You get up before the sun rise, then do nothing but watch the sun rise? Man, I could learn a lot from you. Thanks for your continued loyalty to my blog, I appreciate the value you always add with your comments. Sincere best wishes for a Merry Christmas and the New Year!

  8. Very poignant Fritz. And especially important and meaningful as we head into the holiday season, with all its joy, memories and happy chaos.

  9. Great post dude. I’ve used the covid crisis to triple down on my diet, health, and business and it’s payed off handsomely. And I’ve also been able to do some deep reflecting about my next chapter in life that’s been very fruitful.

  10. Hi Fritz, Thanks for keeping your blog going. Although I’m now in my mid 70’s and 17 years into retirement I rarely walk away without something positive to contemplate and apply.
    This time it’s . “4. They Allow You To See What’s Truly Important”
    and to me that is people. Relatives, friends, people on the street.

    Hopefully one day Mary and I will make it up to Blue Ridge. Hey to Jackie.

    Merry Christmas my friend

    M

  11. Great post Fritz! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I have come to find over the years of “crisis” that when a door is closed on a path we are taking, God will open a window of opportunity for us to take if we have the courage and faith to not only see that opportunity but to climb through that window. For me, that proverbial door has closed several times and although I may feel pain and hurt over the path I was on being disrupted, I have found the new path that God presented through that window has been far more rewarding and has been better for me. We are sometimes stubborn in pursuits that are not the path that we are meant to take longer term, and many times, a crisis is what gets us to change paths.

  12. I’m very happy to have found your blog Fritz! I read some previous posts about losing a job. I too experienced being unexpectedly shown the door due to my department’s “elimination”. In my 50s at the time, I NEVER thought this would happen to me (I’m sure that I’m the only person that feels that way…right? :)). At first I became embittered, and was looking for someone to blame. However – having to cope with this humbling experience made me more introspective, and forced me to take a hard look in the mirror to see what I could have done differently. I realized I became quite comfortable, and lost sight of the importance of ensuring that I continually show my VALUE to those that I work with, but also aspire to generally make the world around me better! I realized how critical it is to maintain and GROW my network of folks that I respect and admire, and always work to strengthen my connections with these people. Along the way, I continuously look to see what value I can add to those that are in need, and strive to leave this world a better place than it was when I entered it! As we know, this is not a dress rehearsal! Thanks for your hard work!

  13. A while back, there was a psychology study of money. Its finding was making more than $75,000 per year add no additional happiness to one’s life.

    Using that as the baseline, I am making a general deductive reasoning.

    When the accumulation of wealth is crossed over the 2 millions mile-marker, no additional happiness will add to one’s life; unless, the additional dollars are being used toward something useful.

    USEFUL = PURPOSE

  14. Thanks for sharing another great post Fritz. One of the benefits as we age is the experience gained from working through, or what feels like “surviving”, many crises over the years, some which in hindsight were very small, and others, like the loss of loved one, very painful and difficult. One of your 10 Commandments of Retirement that I’ve made a point of emphasis in my own retirement (coming up on 6 months now!) is being purposeful in practicing gratitude. Each day I take a few minutes in the early morning and late evening to put some thought to what I’m thankful for. It’s remarkable how this practice has helped my daily outlook, my spiritual life, and given me a perspective on challenges.

    Best wishes to you and your family for Christmas and the New Year!

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