When a person gets knocked down, it's easy to see why they would feel abandoned. Others don't want the association. Still others might feel let down or embarrassed either for you or because of you. Other people are simply not sure how to respond, so they often avoid contact. These are understandable. They hurt, but they are understandable.
But when your best friends abandon you, things cut a lot deeper. When the people you socialize with the most all of a sudden avoid you or act distantly, it's at the very time you need them most.
It's important to realize, however, that most of these people were not close friends. They were lifestyle friends. They liked you and the activities you shared more than necessarily you as a person. We all have of friends like this. You might have tennis friends who wouldn't be friends if it wasn't for tennis. Work friends, who wouldn't be friends if you didn't work together.
True friends are ones that share your values, who know your family, who you trust deeply, who are thoughtful, and who don't judge you like most.
There are three types of friends: Season friends, reason friends, and close friends. The first two are lifestyle friends.
Lifestyle friends will be back when your lifestyle returns. In the meantime, you can't feel hurt that they're not there right now. Your close friends are. Get back in touch with them and let them be close.
In the first six months after being blindsided, I ordered at least a couple dozen books. The plan was to mark them up, circle the great passages, write notes in the margin, and distill all of the ideas and quote to help me move to a next chapter. That didn't work as great as I hoped.
• The books I read on resilience were decent perspective builders,
but it seemed pretty obvious that resilience is a good thing.
• The books I read on job loss were tactically solid and well-meaning,
but tips on how to "sparkle up my resume" couldn't inspire me to do so
• One book I found on internet shaming and professional humiliation looked relevant,
but seemed ramble and be inconclusive, or at least not useful.
• The books I read on grieving were a little helpful,
but they often focused on death and not on crushed dreams or humiliation.
Many of these books are still worth getting and reading, but you might want to adjust your expectations.
One book that I did find useful and reread about 2-3 times was one that interviewed CEOs who had been fired ("Firing Back" by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld). It doesn't sound overly relevant since most of us probably aren't fired CEOs, it has some cool insights. Still, it has some actionable insights and some observations that can build important perspective. For example.
1. Who Rebounds? Most CEOs never really rebound (about ⅓ do, but most never reach where they were). So what distinguishes those that do? While it's not clear, it seems that they have this huge need to leave a burning legacy and to make a difference. Having this drive -- beyond ego and beyond money -- seems to be one possible key.
2. Fight Back. Most people try to mask the stress -- they exercise, relax, spend more time with family, "just forget about it," and so on -- but this doesn't work for everyone. For other people, it's more important to directly fight back proactively against the stress. The book is really thin on how exactly this can be done, and the experience that CEOs have (lawsuits, personal attacks, etc.) is not that instructive to the rest of us. Still, reminding ourselves to keep thinking of ways we can fight back -- for fight forward -- has been useful to me in helping avoid resignation.
3. Enlist Others. It's easy to feel abandoned and avoid people. It's important to remember that there are probably a lot of people who would really like to help you either get back on your feed or to fight back. Instead of saying, "How in the world would John ever be able to help me?" It might be better to think creatively about it or ask John himself?
The last line of the book is a nice one "Nobody can take away our destiny unless we believe we don't have a new one that's worth moving toward." Having a few of something in the future provides a lighthouse in the storm.
What books have helped you?
Ten years from now, from a 30,000 foot level, your recovery might look similar to some other recoveries. But the day-by-day actions you will have taken to get there will have been unique.
There are probably dozens of successful formulas for recovery. We just don't know which one will work for us. But even if we knew the perfect 30,000 foot formula for our specific situation, it wouldn't be able give us much guidance on what exactly we should do today. Each of our situations, our personalities, and our dreams are wildly unique.
But let's start here: Rather than thinking you're the only person who's facing these trials, please realize you're not alone.
On the day when the news of my crisis spread to my country, I received a surprising email with this subject line: "Confidential (friendly) note."
I called the person, who explained that he had gone through something a little bit similar, and he shared how it had impacted him. He also assured me that others had gone through these things and that I wasn't alone. The full impact of the crisis hadn't yet registered on me, but this conversation became increasingly valuable in making me feel less isolated in later weeks.
How you will recover from your crisis isn't yet clear.
An important place to start is to realize that you're not alone. There are a lot of people silently cheering for you to get back on your feet.
Let us help too.
Questions & Ideas
Here are some common questions. Please share any ideas or experiences you might have had by clicking on the Comment link right after the question (to the right of the posting date).