Whether we are professional baseball players or professional business leaders, managers, educators or health care providers, we all experience breakdowns. Breakdowns hurt our pride and disappoint us. They cause us to question our direction, purpose and sometimes our very existence.
No matter how hard we try, things just do not turn out the way we had planned, dreamed, hoped and schemed. It just comes apart — literally or figuratively — and we may feel broken as well. We can experience a broken spirit or heart. When we have cash flow challenges, we often say we are broke. It's not fun and it's easy to lose our way.
I found myself chatting about breakdowns recently over tea with a dear friend and Rotary colleague. We were catching up and sharing our respective wins and accomplishments. But we also acknowledged that preceding some of our more significant accomplishments were some good sized challenges, leading to a couple of minor breakdowns. Breakdowns can come in all sizes, shapes and forms. They often seem to come out of nowhere and catch us by surprise.
As we processed both the professional and personal happenings of our lives, we were able to connect specific breakdowns to breakthroughs. Breakthroughs are the opposite of breakdowns. We experience clarity where there was confusion. Challenges and issues seem to resolve themselves. We know what actions need to be taken and we take them with ease. We feel inspired and full of energy. Good things come to us effortlessly and we realize that we have grown somehow as a result of all of this.
And magically from the vantage point that 20/20 hindsight provides, we are able to see that the breakdown was indeed the first step of the breakthrough.
Take as an example, the 2011 World Series winners, The St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals were definitely in breakdown in late August at 10.5 games out of first place. Even the most dedicated fans could not see a happy ending for this season. And yet the Cardinals somehow worked through it all as a team and ultimately prevailed to win their 11th World Series.
We can learn some amazing lessons from the St. Louis Cardinals about transforming breakdowns into breakthroughs.
We can be experiencing an individual breakdown, a team breakdown, an organizational breakdown or even a systems breakdown. We may not see a lot of options during a time like this, but we do have an option as to how to view what's taking place. We can let the breakdown take on a life of its own and be completely at the effect of it. Or we can choose to view the breakdown as a first step toward an improved situation for all concerned, triggered by the actions we take to address the breakdown. That choice alone may very well accelerate the big break we are looking for.