Getting Good at Saying “Goodbye”


Getting Good at Saying “Goodbye”

I hated change when I was a little boy. When you meet my mom and you ask her about me, I guarantee one of the first things she’ll say is that when the sun went down, no matter where we were, I told her it was time to go home and sleep in my own bed.

I wouldn’t say it got much better during my early professional career. I remember anxiety about change and the unknown plaguing me into my mid-20s. But then, something changed. I learned the transformative power of taking charge of my own path forward and creating something from nothing. In my mid–20s, I went to work for Johnson & Johnson as a pharmaceutical rep.

It was there that I learned the only person who was going to make me successful was me. I also learned that with real effort, came real results. I was learning to create something from nothing. As my career progressed, I came to appreciate that you don’t have to just rely on yourself to create something from nothing. You can enlist like-minded people to take up a common cause and make something great.

At each step, I also discovered that in order to move ahead, you had to leave something behind. Sometimes it was a job, sometimes it was a habit and sometimes it was a person or a group of people. Much the same way a butterfly leaves a cocoon, beautiful things can come from leaving the old behind and starting anew.

As we get older, the brutal truth is that sometimes, leaving people behind is not our choice. We start to lose loved ones to Father Time. It’s been a year since it happened to me with my dad. Wonderful things happened in his last days; I forged new and different relationships with my siblings and close relatives whom I hadn’t been around for a long time. New was created from old (and death).

When my dad died, I had this awful realization that this trend was not going to reverse itself. It was then that I steeled myself against the harsh reality that the only way to flourish in an environment of loss was to get good at saying goodbye and facing each new day with an eye toward creating something new from the nothing that loss creates.

During this past year, I’ve enjoyed the fruits of those renewed relationships and it has brought joy. The year has also brought more loss as I’ve lost many aunts, uncles, and my parents’ close friends. We’re all getting good at saying goodbye. 

As I’ve done many times on these pages, I’ve always tried to find a parallel in the work we do parking cars. It’s not a difficult task, frankly. The industry is evolving, and things are changing more quickly now than they ever have. We’re being forced to face the truth that, as with time and old age, we can’t go back to the way things were; we must move forward.

Forward means taking stock of those relationships that are most vibrant and embracing them. Forward is looking for new ways to get our jobs done through technology, acquisition, or both. Forward is trying new things and challenging each other to continue to create something where there was nothing yesterday. 

We owe it to ourselves and to our industry to take an optimistic view of the future to create possibilities that weren’t obvious even days or weeks before. With the infusion of capital and talent, this industry is changing the way customers park their cars. It is also making life easier, despite the loss of the comfortable way we parked cars yesterday. Of course, there’s fear, too. 

Fear of the unknown, fear of more loss or fear of failure. Sometimes that fear is real, but sometimes it’s imagined. Either way, we’ve got to work through the loss and fear the same way. 

My anecdote for coping with fear and loss is simple – it’s focus. With fear and loss, I find I’m trying too hard to see too far into the future, therefore when fear and loss show up, I look down. I shorten my horizon and look for steps that are the most obvious in the moment. In most cases, I know what needs to be done now and I take that next incremental step toward success and rebirth. Most times that focus creates positive momentum and positive distraction from unwarranted fears and loss. 

They say the longest journey begins with the first step. Getting good at goodbyes is all about taking steps away from the loss and moving definitively toward creating something new from nothing. This past year was eventful, and given where I am in my life, I don’t see the loss abating. This might be why those who know me best know I have a catchphrase specifically for this situation. I’ll encourage all of you to stay positive, be determined about turning fear and loss into something different and better, and “Just keep going!”

Article contributed by:
Brian Wolff
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