For those who are perhaps not regular readers of my column, you may not know that just over two years ago I underwent surgery to have a brain tumour removed.
The procedure – which saw doctors remove a tumour the size of a golf ball – left me with a ‘diminished capacity’ for the following six-months. My attitude, analytical abilities, my ability to rationally communicate, and my ability to deal with stress, were all heavily impeded. The challenge is that when it is your brain that is injured, you have no way of knowing!
Fast forward to the summer of 2017.
I had just arrived in Kelowna to speak at the annual conference put on by Brain Trust Canada; a brain injury prevention, education and support organization. The organizers had heard me speak at another conference the previous fall and invited me to come share my story.
As is typical anytime I travel on business, the first thing I do as soon as I check-in to my hotel is hang-up my garment bag and pull-out my suits and dress-shirts to determine if they managed to survive the trip, or if I need to send-them-out to get pressed.
Given that I was opening the event the next morning and then immediately returning back to Vancouver for a friend’s wedding, I had only packed one suit – or so I had thought. As I opened my garment bag I took out my jacket… my shirt… my belt and tie which I had hung around the head of the coat-hanger… but where were my pants?
I immediately looked at the bottom of my garment bag hoping they had simply fallen off the coat-hanger, only to realize that such was not the case – apparently, I had not packed my dress pants. How on earth was I supposed to get in front of hundreds of peoples – including doctors, scientists, and other notable professionals – with no dress pants?
The next morning, I arrived at the conference centre wearing my jeans. While I would have looked fine had I been having drinks with a client on a Friday afternoon, I was most certainly underdressed in relation to the other speakers at the conference! It was in the moment that I told myself that I need to turn this challenge in to an opportunity, and adjusted my game-plan.
After a gracious introduction by the conference emcee, I took the stage. After making my opening remarks, I said to the audience…. “before I share my story with you, I would like to apologize. As you can see, I’m wearing jeans. Normally, I would be wearing a suit but as I was unpacking my clothes in my hotel room last night I realized I forgot my pants! But if there’s ever an audience that can relate to something like that and not hold it against me, it figured it would be this group.”
Well from that moment on, life was good. The audience roared – those with brain injuries having laughed the hardest as they could very much relate – and I had managed to turn this challenge in to an opportunity that set the stage for a successful speaking engagement.
For The Record…
The older I get the more I have come to really and truly appreciate the value of turning challenges in to opportunities. In fact, when looking back on my life, there have been challenges that – over time – turned in to opportunities; even when I had no way of knowing that in the moment.
As an adolescent I had to deal with a biological father who regularly reduced me to feeling completely worthless. That, however, taught me resiliency – a resiliency I would require later in life in order to deal with two major health challenges and living life with chronic pain after a motor vehicle accident.
In my twenties I was fired as an advertising consultant from a publishing company I had worked for (and thought I was going to build a career with). That, however, taught me two things. First, that no pay-cheque was worth the bullying I endured by my manager. Second, that I had it in me to be my own boss – the end result, having established my own consulting firm the very next day and using the associated time freedom to complete two undergraduate degrees and a masters law degree.
In my thirties was the brain tumour. That, however, taught me that I needed to make a change in my professional life. Today, I now have a new consulting firm with a business partner whose integrity, intellect and work ethic have led to an entirely new chapter in my professional journey – one that includes continued growth and success while being able to do what I love and making a positive difference along the way.
So, what’s my point?
Whether it’s making a decision in the moment to turn a challenge in to an opportunity, or whether it’s taking note of the times in your life where things didn’t go as planned but still appreciating some of the positive outcomes that may have presented themselves over time, it all comes down to making choices. To that end, when things are tough, if nothing else choose resiliency – you owe it to yourself!
Justin P. Goodrich is the Managing Partner of Alliance Public & Government Relations.
Previous editions of ‘For The Record’ can be found online at: www.patrika.ca/for-the-record.