I hopped up in bed and silenced my alarm. Taking an exaggerated stretch, I eyed the hazy blue and pink clouds as the sun rose against the Brooklyn skyline. I smiled to myself. This would be another amazing day in the life I had created for myself. There would be no commute, no boss, no sales quotas to chase. I had a few client calls in the afternoon and a new potential client I was to speak with this morning.
I checked the time and saw I had two hours before the call. It was just enough time to get in my full morning routine and prep for an hour before showtime. I closed my eyes and began to slip into a visualization of how the call would go. I pictured the opening small talk, the complimentary coaching session, and then the potential client asking the magic question “how can I pay you?“
Things in my coaching business had been swimming along and I couldn’t see how today would be any different. About an hour before the scheduled call, I sent out a confirmation email and then shut down my Gmail. Despite my recent streak of success, I wasn’t going to take any chances. I wanted to prepare fully and give this individual my all. I was thrilled to give him a taste of what it would be like to work with me.
Five minutes before 9:00 I stood up from my laptop and looked out at the sky one last time. The late winter morning was slowly turning into day as the sun finally peaked its way out from behind the low clouds. Much like the sun which was shedding light on the city after a long winter, I hoped to shed light on how this would-be client could overcome his challenges and create his dream business.
I returned to my chair with two minutes to spare. I popped open my email to make sure I didn’t have anything urgent to attend to. I clicked refresh and saw an email from the prospective client pop up. I opened it and my heart sank deep in my chest. I gulped and felt my face flash from white to red. It read “Sorry, something came up. Need to reschedule.” It was timestamped at 8:46, just 14 minutes before our scheduled call.
I stood up, blinking incessantly, as my emotions flipped from surprise to rage. The sun had emerged fully from behind the clouds but I couldn’t see it. I could only see the angry thoughts that swirled through my head. How could he cancel just minutes before our call? Was my time worth nothing to him? I walked around my apartment trying to blow off steam.
As a salesperson, I was used to being stood up and canceled on, but for some reason, it felt different now. I was no longer selling a SaaS technology or a mutual fund. Now, I was selling me. I closed my eyes as I tried to reason through it but no immediate answers popped up. I collapsed onto my couch and stared up at the ceiling. The whole day seemed to darken around me.
Two hours later, I had gone back to work and was prepping for the afternoon’s calls but I still couldn’t shake the cancelation. It danced in the back of my mind as I tried to bury myself in my work. Every minute a new poisonous thought emerged. I can’t believe he’d do that to me. Then the next minute, how can I ever trust him again? The canceled call had occurred hours before but I couldn’t let it go.
Looking for a change of pace, I escaped to my balcony to eat lunch. The temperature had just hit 50 degrees and a hint of spring teased the air. But with each bite, my negative thought pattern continued. Frustrated with myself, I slammed down my fork and leaned back in my chair.
Taking a deep breath, I looked to the sky once more and saw a few finches circling the chimney of a building nearby. Each bird flapped its wings rapidly and darted up and down chirping to one another. It was then that I remembered Eckhart Tolle’s story of “The Duck with a Human Mind.”
The story went something like this:
When two ducks get into a fight, it never lasts long. They soon fly off in opposite directions and flap their wings vigorously several times to release the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they fly away peacefully as if nothing had ever happened.
But if the duck had a human mind this would be a very different story. The duck may fly away peacefully for a moment but he wouldn’t leave the fight behind him.
He would keep the fight alive in his mind through thinking and story-making. The duck’s story would sound something like this: “I can’t believe he just did that to me. How dare he. He thinks this is his pond. How will I ever trust him again? I’m not going to stand for it. I’ll teach him a lesson.”
And in this way, the duck creates this angry tale that sticks with him hours, days or months after the initial incident. The incident is in the past, yet the duck continues to carry it with him and spin it into a gruesome tale that drains his energy and creates animosity.
You can see how painful the duck’s life would be if he had a human mind. But this is how most of us live all the time. The duck has an important lesson to teach us. Which is, “flap your wings” and let the story go. Live your real life – here and now, in the present moment.
I sat up straight in my chair and felt the weight of my mind lift for the first time since this morning. The finches flew away but they had delivered their message. I had to flap my wings and let this go.
I was living in an event that happened hours ago and spinning a small setback in my business into a personal insult. How much longer would I let these insidious thoughts cloud my mind? I had to let the story go and readjust my focus to where I was now. This was the only way out.
I stood up and felt the cool breeze rub against my beard. I flapped the wings of my mind and went inside. I was free again.