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Letting Go

What was I thinking? My intent for this column was to write under the rather grand sounding title “Of Silence and Butterfles.” You should know that I have to make these titles up at the end of the previous column, before I have given much thought to what I am going to actually say in the next. I sort of wing it as the deadline approaches – procrastination being the modus operandi of most columnists.

Still and all, I had the rough sketch in my head. I was going to marry up the notion of silence and the art of listening, and segue over to the butterfly effect metaphor.

You know about that story, of course you do. Several decades ago mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz posed the now famous question “Can the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil stir up a tornado in Texas?” He was dealing with complex notions of chaos theory and predictions of climate change. Apparently this particular butterfly has been quite a traveler since over time variations of the quote have had it flapping its wings everywhere, causing meteorological chaos in most nations of the world. But I digress.

My intent was to make the metaphor fit our actions and how those actions take on a life of their own…..blah blah blah….well you can see how I hadn’t got very far.

The problem was that I chose the topic without considering that Christmas was coming. A time that is rarely silent, although often chaotic. More so than I could have ever predicted.

Let’s see. In the ten day period from just before Christmas to just after New Year’s Day what transpired? Let me count the ways. My partner and I made some life altering decisions that saw the selling of an apartment and the buying of a house; a close family member came down with a life threatening illness that required immediate surgery; a client needed some ’emergency’ speeches; my car was broken into; and my beloved dog went into a severe allergic reaction to something, looked like he was stung by a thousand bees, and had to be rushed off to the vet. (Note to self – wonder if close family member and significant life partner might observe that I used the adjective “beloved” in reference to the dog and not to them? Second note to self. Wonder if they will see this reference as humorous?)

Long story short. The apartment got sold, the house bought, the speeches written, the car fixed, the family member and the dog are on the road to recovery. And Christmas was a hoot. But it was kind of stressful, and the outcomes almost totally beyond my control.

Ah there’s that word, control.

Almost every freelancer I know is a control freak. They have to know where the next contract is coming from. They have to plan in advance. They have to keep marketing/networking/calling out and so on. None of them bad things at all. But the danger is when you get hooked into the outcome.

Faithful readers will have heard this from me and others before. The trick in marketing- and to not being attached to the outcome – is to have enough marketing balls in the air at any one time (at least twelve, trust me on this, it’s twelve) – that you don’t have time to consider the outcome of any one initiative. In short, once they are up there, you have to let them go. Let control go.

Now I know and practice this. In my business life at least. Most of the time. Well, at least some of the time anyway. But still and all, the events of this Christmas reminded me of the futility of trying to control outcomes.

My partner says it is a matter of giving it over to Spirit; others would call it letting go and letting God; still others say they leave all outcomes up to fate. Whatever you believe, the fact is, those who can’t let go drive themselves crazy and others away. It’s a hard lesson to learn for those of us in business. But if you don’t let go of outcome, you do indeed drive away customers by selling them too hard, by calling them once too often, by making them feel you are trying to control them too. And you know when you have gone too far. You can hear it in the tone of their voices. You have suddenly gone from being a potential supplier to becoming a pain in a butt. And once you have crossed that line with a client, you can never uncross it.

There is another butterfly metaphor that applies here. It is about the futility of chasing happiness, and it applies to chasing business. Like the butterfly, you chase happiness, and chase it and chase it, and it always flies away – just out of reach. But you sit down for a moment by the stream, and cast your imagination to something else; and suddenly in your silent thoughts, you feel a very slight breeze on your cheek. You look down, and there’s that butterfly, sitting quietly on your shoulder. And you look in wonder, and then you fool, you try to catch and control it, and away it goes, out of reach once again.

I guess this column is about silence and butterflies after all.