Mr. Rogers was a baller
Let me just start out by saying that I think Mr. Rogers was a baller. Straight up. His ideas of explaining everyday things and how to handle strong feelings were probably the beginning of my coaching journey. And don’t even get me started on his testimony to congress that saved PBS funding.
I’ve worked with a lot of clients this year that are overwhelmed by what’s going on in their world. They’ve had a job change, relationship change, or they are freaked out by events happening in our nation.
If you too are feeling frustrated, angry or overwhelmed, I’d like to offer some words of advice from Mr. Roger’s Mom and then offer a story.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Mr. Rogers
Sandy Hook example
The Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting happened back in December of 2013. I was working at Merrill Lynch at the time. My daughter was in middle school and my son was at St. Peter’s Prep, a 45-minute train ride away. When the news broke I had the strongest feeling of vulnerability that I’d ever experienced. If my kids had needed me there was no way I could get to both of them in time to protect them.
I just kept thinking “how can I live in a world where it isn’t safe to send my kids to school?”. I had no idea how I was going to be able to go to work the next day knowing that if my kids were in danger, I would be too far away to protect them.
I grabbed my coat and fled outside for a walk around the office park to get some fresh air and clear my head. It was a gorgeous day, and the office park was pretty big so I’d been walking for about 10 minutes when I noticed a guy getting out of his car. On his dashboard was this lovely hula girl:
The beautiful day and silly dashboard statue were in such sharp contrast to my internal storm that it caught me completely off guard.
I laughed out loud, and the driver and I started talking. His daughter was selling these for a school project. “Take it,” he offered as he ripped it off his dashboard and handed it to me. “I’ve got a whole box of them in my garage.” It was a simple act of kindness but that day, it was enough to snap me out of my fear. I still felt sad, but then panic was gone and I started noticing other acts of kindness. Other helpers.
I drove around with the hula dancer on my dashboard until we sold the car last week. She served as a reminder to always look for the helpers. Even on your darkest day, there will be people that go out of their way to help. And if we train our brain to look for the helpers, we will always find them.
Looking for Evidence
Our brains are wired to look for evidence that supports our thinking. If we think that people suck and that our country is going downhill fast, there is plenty of evidence to support that. And if you think people are generally kind and that we live in an amazing time, I promise you will find evidence for that too.
What are you choosing to notice? Next time you are tempted to believe something terrible, see if you can find evidence that the opposite is true. If you train yourself to look for the helpers, you will feel much better. And when you take action from that better feeling place you will be much more effective.
This is a practical way to live. Look for the helpers, because they are always there. Always.