Adjusting to change in life – that which is violently sudden, as well as that which is charted out and acted upon – is critical to thrive and should begin as soon as any change is accepted. Becoming complacent in any situation is dangerous to happiness, mental fortitude, and to one’s own individuality.
I often refer to my mother’s unexpected passing in August 2005 as the premiere monumental moment in my life. In an instant, I accepted the major change and immediately began adjusting my entire thought process.
Every conceivable situation that involved a matriarchal presence, the notions of which were simply a routine matter of forward conditioning, immediately melted away and new expectations began to manifest, albeit a bit more pliable than they used to be. I learned a cold lesson in that moment: that nothing should ever be taken for granted.
I will admit, at this time in my life I was both rudderless and directionless after losing my assistant manager job at Sam Goody (my first and only job at that point) a few months prior and effectively dropping out of St. Peter’s College after just a single semester. I was lacking personal means and both the confidence and courage to go get them.
Nevertheless, I was coasting along, blissfully ignorant to my own shortcomings. When the comfortable, almost innocuous, existence my mother had represented for me vanished, thoughts of making money, living on my own, and facing a far less predictable future became prescient.
As life changing as losing a someone close to you may be, the intensity of accepting and adjusting to any change should always remain the same. For something as inconsequential as spilling your drink at dinner or as serious as being laid off, there is no way to move forward without accepting it and adjusting your behavior.
The adjustments I made after my mother’s death took time to yield results, but a little over a year later, I had moved out, started to advance a career in hospitality, and had started to figure out how to successfully navigate through social and professional situations; it was all indeed just as turbulent as I had anticipated.
A year later, through diligence, I had been promoted to Operations Manager at my second hotel and was earning a respectable salary for a 20-year old. But, after a few years in that position, as I was being fired in October 2009, I was already plotting my next move. My budget quickly deteriorated and I knew it would be difficult in that economy to find a similar position. My list of contacts, stopgap measures, and all the bills to be paid began to flood my thoughts.
The adjustments I put into play that day – taking part-time work outside the hospitality field and spending time searching high and low for a comparable management position – came to fruition in the summer of 2010 when I accepted a lower-level management position at another local hotel. The pay was close to what I had been making and it kept me on track to further advance in the field.
As previous examples of change were unforeseen, it was in the fall of 2011 that I decided to bring change upon myself. The new position had me overworked, underpaid, and in a workplace that was fraught with staffing, morale, and even structural issues. I was determined to leave and find better conditions for myself whether I had a new place to shift over to or not. There was no saying where I’d wind up, but I believed it would be an improvement.
For the first time in my life, I simply resigned (giving a generous 3-week notice) to effectually force myself to do better. At this point, I felt that I was adept enough in the art of accepting and adjusting to change to roll some dice. Instead of allowing the change to wash over me, I had already built a dam.
On my final day in the office, I collected my final paycheck (which included pay for unused vacation days and PTO) and did some rough math in my head. This time, my budget didn’t suddenly deteriorate, I had erased it days ago and started over. My measures weren’t emergency measures, they were temporary cuts. I didn’t worry as much about the job market as I had already been working my contacts and doing my research.
I brought this change on myself and was by no means unexpected. Still, with the change inherently accepted and adjustments well-planned, the execution still took time. I found some more part-time work and continued the job hunt.
While I searched for the new job, I was in the process of moving out of an apartment I had been sharing with two roommates (going truly solo for the first time in my life), had learned that my father’s cancer had gotten worse, and upgraded a small habit into an addiction. More changes were coming fast.
It took some time, more varied part-time work, and a lot of interviewing, I found an assistant manager position at another local hotel. Far removed from the mayhem at my last property, it was a major improvement in both salary and work environment, but still far from perfect. Nevertheless, it served me very well.
During my time working at this hotel, I earned decent money, kicked my addiction, had settled nicely into my new apartment and lifestyle, dealt with loss of my father and grandparents, and had gotten in and out of some relationships. My adjustments to adjustments had delivered the desired results on multiple fronts. I had chosen change, and everything that comes with it, over stagnation and despair. I felt emboldened. As well as this job served me, I left for a brief period to take a GM position at another property.
After having been in this GM position for just a year, I was contacted by my previous employers with the offer of a matched salary and a large bonus to return. One beneficial change led into another. As I grew more proficient at adjusting, it dawned on me that the confidence and courage I was once lacking was now playing a larger role in my decision making. Although some changes still arrived uninvited, it was clear to me that the changes were more routinely of my own making and the process was becoming more imitative.
PROACTIVE itself is the result of self-induced change. To improve the overall satisfaction in my life, I decided to leave hospitality, my career and the industry in which I had earned my income for a decade, altogether. The hours had been long, the work mundane, the service selfless and tiresome, the expectations high, and the outcome of the distant completed mission (spending the next 30 years in a hotel back office) dissatisfying and downright scary. I left with the audacious idea of starting something entirely from scratch.
In a way, I’m glad I had that chance to learn a lesson about the fragility of life. This understanding fuels me and makes the idea of jumping into change easier with the unquestionable knowledge that life is fleeting and that you must act while you have the ability and virality to do so. The pain of regret would be for worse than any that hard work or failure could inflict.
Starting PROACTIVE was a big leap and the decision to do so was deeply rooted in my desire to lead a more meaningful life, one that is more autonomous and less defined by the whims of other forces. Even still, within the bounds of my own creation, changes have come in all forms. In some cases, they could have been far more critical if not for my ability to accept and adjust
What we do on the mountains offers plenty of practice in acceptance and adjusting. Whether it be a parking lot filled to capacity, adding mileage by taking a wrong turn on the trail, or realizing that something you’re looking for isn’t in your pack, there’s no choice but to adapt and carry on when you’re already so far out there. You’re given no opportunity to wallow, make excuses, or give up. Accept, adjust your expectations, and move on.
Understand the importance of accepting and adjusting and don’t be scared to face, or even invite, change into your life anywhere you feel it may be necessary. Do it in spite of complacency, self-pity, and fear of the unknown. Embrace the lessons that you’re taught each time your existence is altered. Be deliberate and assertive with yourself. You’ll begin to comprehend the repercussions of your actions as they occur and automatically begin to self-improve, without the unnecessary procrastination. It could be called being proactive.