The value of challenge and misfortune

In my previous post this week I shared some thoughts on dealing with challenges in life and in the workplace.  While many of us may see challenge as a pain and a problem, I also see that challenge and misfortune are great learning opportunities.  I can share many such situations in my life and I am sure many of you can too.  Let me start with one that is very near and dear to my heart.

I graduated with my BS degree in 1981 and spent my first two years in a small manufacturing facility in Paris, TN.  Nothing exciting about this other than the fact that I quickly became the supervisor of the inspection department and had several union committee members and the chief steward working for me.  I will not use this post to comment further on that issue, but that will come in a future post.

My wife and I started making plans to move to the Nashville area and I decided to go in and give my notice to let the company know about my plans.  It came as a great shock to me that they also had plans for a layoff and I was going to be part of the group affected.  As a young, mobile college graduate they saw me as capable of finding another role quickly and they said I would be RIF’d in one week.

During this same period of time my father was in the final stages of lung cancer and I had not had the opportunity to spend much time with him.  I went north to spend what happened to be his final week of the year by his side and I also was present when he took his final breath.  In the course of two weeks I had lost my job and my father.  On one hand this was quite a blow, but on the other this ended up being a pivotal part of my life.  Let me explain why the RIF was a blessing in disguise:

  1. I was able to spend such quality time with my dad
  2. My wife and I moved to the Nashville area later that year and this moved opened many doors for both of us
  3. I learned to always have a backup plan in case things don’t work out well
  4. My faith in God increased because I realized that I was not the one in control of my life.

This occurred in 1983, 30 years ago this week, and my father will have been gone from this world for 30 years on April 8.  It seems just like yesterday.

Our move would have not happened at that point had I not been freed of the role I had in Paris and my wife would not have begun her career in education if we had stayed in the small surroundings we were in at that time.

Challenge and misfortune can be painful.  No one wants to lose a family member, but none of us will leave this world alive.  There was a growing and maturation process that occurred for me during that time and our family and our path were certainly altered and directed by the events that occurred during this period just 30 years ago.

So too it will be for many of  you.  Misfortune and challenge will rear its head and you will wonder which way to turn.  You will learn, quickly or not, that none of us will solve our issues alone and that having a faith is tantamount to success and peace in this world.

I learned many things by losing my first job.

What must you lose to learn something important in your life?