When You Collide with Reality and Live to Tell the Tale

I have just come up the hill, two miles into my first-ever, nine-mile run. I turn the corner. There, on a tree trunk, is a fresh cut–an oval about 9.5 inches high and 7 inches wide, where a thick, low-hanging branch had been. Having barely ducked it once before, I noticed it had been removed.

But this morning there is something more. In the raw wood scar where the branch used to be, someone, presumably Scott, has scratched in blue ink, “Once upon a time, I hurt Scott’s head.”

Colliding with Reality but Living to Tell the Tale

That phrase “Once Upon a Time” really spoke to me and made me laugh–for how it signifies colliding with reality but living to tell the tale. It conveys humor and acceptance simultaneously. Scott struck his head, lived to tell that tale and testify to a lesson learned.

If an incident is heavy for you or tinged with bitterness such that you cannot view it as something that happened “once upon a time,” there is unfinished business still to be worked through (Honor Your Dragons [April, 2006] and Essential Mistakes [March, 2006]). Coming to a graceful hindsight and lightness frees you to “live happily ever after.”

I have my own “Once Upon a Time” tales:

  • When I established performance measures for the senior leadership team, and assumed the team would as eagerly embrace them as I did. I was wrong!
  • The decision to move from an organization of more than 100,000 people to founding a small business with no interim step. What on earth was I thinking?
  • My business start-up, where I expected to know how to begin and run a business without ever having done so before. My goodness.

I bet you have your own “Once Upon a Times,” too. So, for a lighter perspective or at least more stories to tell, look back on your career, your leadership, or your life for experiences that might be shared by saying, “Once Upon a Time…”. And be prepared to smile.

U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240

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