A friend of mine used to travel with lucky socks. He swore by them.
When he gave presentations for work he would adorn his feet with the magic socks and venture out into the world with a forcefield around him.
One afternoon I called to say hello and asked him how his day was going. He said he was awful. I asked him why, and he told me the airline lost his bag and it wouldn't arrive until tomorrow.
In his bag were the lucky socks.
Reagan - dude - my presentation is doomed, he whispered.
I could smell his fear through the phone.
I've always been an early morning guy.
I am more focused in the pre-dawn hours and do my best work before the sun. Any morning I'm not up early there's a story I tell myself about how much I'm not going to be able to get done. This day is already shot, I'll think again and again.
For a season of life I made excuses for poor performance or not showing up because I could blame it on my morning gone awry. Every day felt like a race to get to work, and if I wasn't able to get to my tasks quickly enough then what was the use of even trying? Might as well regroup and do things right tomorrow, I'd tell myself.
It's become clear over the years when I put conditions on my circumstances I'm going to find myself disappointed and discouraged every time. Creating systems and routines for ourselves to increase the likelihood we remain focused on what matters is a wonderful behavior - but if and when the system fails to boot up, will we still be able to function?
Can we still make a great contribution when our circumstances don't meet our conditions for great performance?
This isn't about hacking your brain by telling yourself a new story so you can get more done - it's about realizing and combatting the limitations we put on ourselves by believing we must have perfect conditions to make our best contributions.
Viktor Frankl reminds us powerfully of the ability of the human spirit to persist with a purpose, regardless of our circumstances:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
I'm always inspired by those who produce fantastic work in the most uninspiring of conditions, because their focus was not on the fairness or stability of their environment, but on the work itself.
Let us remember our greatest contribution comes not in the form of the daily tasks we complete, but in our commitment to the larger calling inside us and how we show up in the world.
We have two choices:
Will we choose do our best to be kind, generous, understanding and full of gratitude - regardless of our external circumstances?
Or will we demand our predetermined conditions are met in an unpredictable world before we'll decide to put in the hard work of being the best version of ourselves and serving others?
Our socks and our wake up time do not determine the direction of our day or influence the quality of our contributions. Fortunately, we can take the reins even in the most unpredictable of circumstances if we're willing to adapt and grow.