The Attitude That Has Helped Me Find More Freelancing Success Than I Deserve
“Why did this happen to me?”
I was wallowing in self-pity because a week or so earlier, I had broken my leg during football practice.
During a scrimmage the other cornerback, Will, and I were subbing in and out, while the offense ran different plays. Before the last play, he forgot to sub in, and so I had no choice but to stay in.
The center snapped the ball, and the quarterback ran to my side. It was a sweep. The quarterback would fake a hand-off to the halfback, who would then block me.
My job was to get two steps of the halfback and take down the fullback who did have the ball.
Later, I realized that I had run the play perfectly.
I know I was a couple steps ahead of the halfback, Chris, because my left leg was extended behind me as I darted forward.
The problem was, his cleat came down on my calf muscle, and something about how my leg was extended and my momentum and his weight and his momentum created the perfect vulnerability.
I heard not a splintering crack but a POP! I went down and missed the tackle.
I didn’t feel anything right away, and so I stood back up. My body was smarter than my brain at that moment because I put no weight on my left leg and used only my right.
My leg dangled.
“Hmm…” my brain said.
I sat back down and pulled up my football pants. That’s when I noticed that though my knee was straight up, my foot was flopped over on its side. The angle was wrong.
That sweep had been the last play of practice, and a seventh grader named Chip strolled by on his way to the locker room.
He looked at my leg and said, “Eeewwwww!” He kept walking.
Down below my knee, I felt not solid flesh and bone but jelly.
My brain produced one word, “Crap.”
Soon enough, Chris and Will and coaches and interns surrounded me in a tight circle several bodies deep, and of course, they talked more to each other than to me.
Someone called my parents. Someone else called an ambulance. The EMT asked if I were in any pain, and I told him no.
He said, “You must have a high tolerance for pain!”
That made my little eighth grade heart swell with pride!
Thankfully, the bone hadn’t come through the skin, but my tibia and fibula had both snapped like twigs.
After several hours in the ER and enough codeine that my dad had to pull over and let me vomit on the way home, I had a cast that came above my knee, and the football team had one less cornerback.
Eighth grade was supposed to be my year. The girl I liked, Rachel, was a cheerleader, and while I was sitting up in the bleachers, she would be watching all the other guys get the glory.
That Saturday at my grandparents’ house, I was more than a little grumpy.
I had a right to be upset, right?
“Why did this happen to me?” I moaned. “Why did I have to be the one to break my leg?” After all, Will was supposed to sub in. He should have been the cornerback running the play!
“Why not you?” my grandma snapped.
She had grumpiness in spades, and throughout my childhood, I remember her telling my sisters, my cousins, and me that she wouldn’t be around much longer. She faithfully maintained that fatalistic attitude for over twenty years.
Maybe my grumpiness threatened her own.
Regardless, her lack of empathy jarred me out of my ugly reverie, and despite my age and relative immaturity, I really considered the import of her words.
Why not me?
She had a point.
Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people.
Are we victims? Sometimes. And sometimes things just happen.
Will was lallygagging around when he should have relieved me. That day, he started crying because he thought my broken leg was his fault.
He made a mistake, but his mistake didn’t break my leg. And Chris certainly didn’t intend to step on my leg.
I drank tons of milk, so a calcium deficiency wasn’t to blame. I hadn’t broken a bone before, and I haven’t broken one since.
The moral of the story is this: My leg broke in a freak accident.
The second moral of the story is this: Why not me?
I’m not talking about expecting more freak accidents but about expecting good things to happen.
- The girl is going to say yes to someone. Why should I ask her to prom?
- The client is going to hire someone for that freelance project. Why shouldn’t she hire me?
- Bryan Harris is going to give someone a free iPad Pro. Why should I win the contest?
Bad things happen. Good things happen too.
The irony is that many of the bad things I thought would happen never did, and many more good things, things I never anticipated, did happen.
Now, I expect good things to happen, and I have come to believe that our expectancy is attractive.
Would you rather surround yourself with optimistic people or pessimistic people?
There you have it. We like optimism for many reasons.
Here are two:
- Many good things happen that we didn’t make happen. You can call this phenomenon “serendipity.” You can chalk it up to “good karma.” Or you can attribute it, as I do, to a loving God who takes pleasure in giving good gifts to his children. Regardless, this world contains more than brokenness, and optimism is a valid attitude.
- Optimism is infectious.
It’s hard to stay Eeyore when you keep company with Poohs and Tiggers.
I’m thankful that I broke my leg. That experience taught me to snap out of the inertia of self-pity and instead look for the positive.
The next time you walk into a client meeting, say to yourself, “Why not me?”
Keep your chin up. Square your shoulders. Expect good things to happen.
As often as not, our mindset determines outcomes.
- Expect for the girl to reject you, and she probably will.
- Expect for the dream client to go with another freelancer, and she probably will.
- Expect to miss the free throw, and you probably will.
- Expect to be excluded, and you probably will.
- Expect to blow the freeze up and embarrass yourself on stage, and you probably will.
On the other hand, why not you?
Expect good in others and yourself.
I recognize that “expect good” may sound glib, even offensive, right now. God knows, we don’t have to look far to find evil and brokenness. Our social feeds remind us just how deep the disease goes.
I’m not asking you to be oblivious.
I do invite you to expect good from others and from yourself. Why? We usually get what we expect.
Good can come even from pain and brokenness. Broken legs heal, and grumpy boys start believing, “Why not me?”
That attitude has helped me find more success as a freelancer than I deserve.
Are you as successful as you want to be?
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