There’s a lot that can rot your soul.
We’re surrounded by things that are bad for us. From phones, to Netflix, to too much hanky-panky, to sugary foods, to writing that destroys our mental health. If I had a bowl of popcorn for everybody who said “that’s bad for you,” I’d have a lifetime supply to eat while watching Hollywood movies staring Matt Lame-on.
What if bad things are ridiculously good for us? Here are a few examples.
A jock for a boss
A jock in college is harmless. But jocks who play football can grow up to work in businesses. They are born and raised to worship sport and treat life like a competition. It seems harmless.
I worked for a football-loving boss. It started out like a romantic match made for the Bachelor tv show. Things quickly turned bad. I knew things were bad when we were all asked to sit a google marketing exam as part of our job. The test was multiple-choice and no businesses were at risk of bankruptcy if we failed. The plan was to ace the test as a team to make life easier. Bossman had another idea. He turned the test into the Hunger Games.
My colleagues started sabotaging each other and doing anything they could to win his love. The test became the first step in your eventual firing if you did poorly. When it was all over we desperately stuck our certificates up on the whiteboard of survival. One poor fellow was away when the games began. He didn’t get the memo. He quickly tried to catch up and keep his spot.
Bossman saw his victim and grinned, showing his banana-colored teeth. “You’re lazy. You should have been paying more attention. Being sick isn’t an excuse.” I felt like I was watching a cute puppy be slow-cooked alive in front of me. As you can guess, I didn’t thrive — or survive — in all the competition. I don’t like segregating humans into the category of either winner or loser (feels a little holocaust to me). Why? I’m a winner and a loser on a daily basis. Because nobody is winning every day.
A terrible boss is generally considered a bad thing. All you have to do is go on LinkedIn and you’ll be whiplashed by all the posts about experiences with bad bosses. Bad bosses on LinkedIn are a religion.
A bad boss can be a good thing, though.
After working with Saddam Hussein’s Australian brother from another mother, I became a leader myself. All the bad lessons that boss taught me helped shape the leader I became. Before meeting him, I had elements of a toxic competitive nature too. After meeting him, I decided to build people up rather than tear them down. That bad boss helped me excel in my career by treating my team right.
A deadline you’ll never be ready for
Ever had a deadline you knew couldn’t be met? Of course you have. Me too.
I got booked to do a speech as part of a local Toastmasters Club. I forgot about it. The day came and all of a sudden my name was listed on the agenda for the event. Canceling a speech was an act of war at this public speaking club. So, I had to make something up on the spot.
Normally I’d over-practice the speech to the point of misery. The final speech would come off sounding lifeless and staged. Not this time.
The imperfect speech I made up on the spot forced me to have a conversation. The topic had to be something I was passionate about otherwise it wouldn’t work. For the first time, I realized speaking in front of lots of people about what you love is effortless — you don’t need a piece of paper to remember lines from a Hollywood script you wrote three months in advance.
Missing a deadline is typically thought of as a bad thing. It’s supposedly a sign of disrespect or laziness. But missing a deadline can help you discover what you’re good at, too, when you drop all the pre-performance rehearsals and simply show up as yourself.
Imperfection is a helluva party to attend.
A giant health scare
I always believed no good came from my mental illness. My multi-decade battle seemed like a tragedy. If only I knew what this noise in my broken head was earlier, I’d say.
Those days were dark. I wish I’d got help sooner, but the embarrassment of taking the mask off and going “this is who I am, a crazy person” seemed too hard. So I lived with the illness.
The illness turned into multiple health scares later on. I couldn’t eat food in front of people and had no idea why. At one point, sitting in a meeting room with another person made me nauseous. When you can’t trust your body to perform basic human functions, you really lose hope.
Those years of my life weren’t a lot of fun. It explains why I have very few photos of me as a twenty-something with goldilocks hair. How do you have a photo taken of yourself when you’re always miserable? Most of my free time was spent in the blackness of basement of nightclubs, where camera phones hadn’t evolved to take photos of people in the dark. So I remained invisible from life and from photos.
It’s hard to imagine multiple health scares that led to so much darkness could be anything but bad. I’ve learned a health scare can actually be good. You come out the other side better for it. You stop wasting time on dumb stuff, and you make up for the time you lost living in sickness.
Healing is glorious looking back.
A nightmare romance
We’ve all had at least one. A bad lover who used and abused us emotionally because, often, they weren’t raised properly by their parents. I lived most of my life in bad romances. I stayed in these relationships too long because starting again seemed like too much effort.
Bad romance is good when you don’t have to sign up for the hell that is Tinder. Tinder is especially hard if your face/body (like mine) isn’t of the supermodel variety. Remember, users are swiping photos … mostly.
When you do get through to a human theirs a lot of frustration. They’ve either been overwhelmed with impolite, random, hookup messages, or been looking for love on “the apps” for years and only found borderline serial killers.
So our Tinder fear can keep us from dating. When you finally do meet a partner you’re happy with, all the nightmare romances can seem like a waste. The thing is, you don’t know what good romance is until you’ve endured many shitty ones.
Bad relationships prime you for real love.
Getting thrown to the gutter by a corporation
This one really hurts. During the last recession, millions of innocent people learned just how much their corporation really loved them. Layoffs were the first thing to occur. CEO bonuses went up, not down.
I got fired once. I thought of it as a criminal record I’d have to explain to every future employer. When I got the balls to go back out into the job market, it was hell. The topic of my execution-like firing kept coming up. I had to keep reliving the firing on a daily basis. Naturally, incorrect judgments were made. I had to beg for forgiveness for a crime I didn’t commit. It hurt like hell.
I wiped away the tears.
Somehow, one night, I went on LinkedIn and told everybody I was a giant failure and got fired. Many of the people considering me for a job saw it. I got messages saying “this is career suicide.” Millions of people felt the pain of my bad situation.
What followed is something that still makes me emotional to write. Strangers came from everywhere to tell me, “This isn’t the end. This is the start of a new beginning.” I eventually got another job thanks to a lot of kind people. I rediscovered my confidence. Then I worked away for a little longer while I silently built my own career after hours that didn’t require a corporation.
If I hadn’t been fired I would have kept bowing down to corporations, which frankly, couldn’t give a f*ck about us — 2020 showed us that. But now my only financial goal is to make sure I never have my food and shelter be determined by another person ever again.
Getting fired is a blessing. It shows you that you’re disposable. And you get to witness the kindness of humanity as a bonus.
When good things can be bad for us
So far you’ve heard about how bad things can become good things. But the opposite is true too.
A few of my high school friends worshipped a fitness icon named Greg Plitt. He filmed workout videos and had a zest for life. You couldn’t feel sad or demotivated around him. One day, Greg made my friends’ dreams come true and did a tour of Australia. They got selfies with him. They bro-hugged.
Greg returned to the US after his Aussie trip. One of his trademark videos was filming a workout on train tracks. One afternoon he went to a train station to film his exercise routine.
He got hit by a train while holding his camera and lost his life.
“It’s like a blind turn,” the police said. “When the train came, you might not be able to tell which set the train is on.”
Creating videos and photos for social media can seem like a good thing. But when you get so distracted by an electronic device, a good thing can risk your life. Just take a look at the people who tried to take the perfect selfie and fell off buildings and cliffs to their deaths.
Capturing a moment in time is a good thing. Your phone on a selfie stick can be a bad thing.