How to let go

by Nick on January 19, 2012

Two weeks ago I offered five random thoughts, which included that while there are a lot of things you can control, some things you just can’t.  When you can’t – actually can’t – control something, you just need to let go, emotionally and literally.  Easier said than done, right?  Here’s a little trick that works for me, best told through a story.

Coincidentally, the very day I wrote that post was a rough day.  I’m almost always pretty “chipper” but I was having a really rough day.  Long story short I really ticked someone off that day.

I mean, I really ticked someone off.  Why isn’t really relevant to my point, but in case you’re wondering, I wasn’t spending enough time with a mentor of mine.  If it seems crazy that he would be really ticked off by that, it’s because he really cares about seeing me succeed.  Seriously.  So he called me and really let me have it.  He wouldn’t let me apologize, explain, etc.  He was ticked off and I was hearing it.

There was nothing I could say.  Boy was my blood boiling.  I really upset someone who I respected quite a bit.  More specifically, I made him feel like I didn’t value him or his time because I hadn’t reached out to him for too long.  I felt like crap.

I felt like my night was ruined.  I had two days to see my family before they were leaving to visit family while I continued to work around the clock and this was going to be on my mind all night!  Then it clicked.

There was nothing I could do to make things better that night.  I was convinced my night was ruined, but desperately wanted to just “be” with my wife and kids that night. 

So I got home, shut off my phone, left the TV off and asked my son if he wanted to color (he always wants to color…).  Ten minutes later it hit me.  I needed to let go – and it was working! 

I started thinking to myself:  I work tirelessly for one reason – to make a better life for my wife and kids.  When they look at me they don’t see grad school.  They don’t see promotions or raises.  They don’t see a 401(k).  They don’t see mutual funds or ETFs.  And while all of that stuff is important to me and indirectly related to my definition of how to make a better life for my family, it’s not what they care about.

They care about Nick.  And they care about Daddy.  That’s it.

And then the stress was gone.  I was with the most important people in the world.   Three people smiling, unconditionally. 

I stayed up late that night, but not because I was upset.  I stayed up late because I let go and the ended up a turning point for me.  Until then I had never been able to completely disconnect – leave stress behind.  But that night, all of the stress was gone.  (In case you’re wondering, the next day he called me, apologized and everything’s OK – but not because I did anything.  It was out of my control.)

So next time you’re stuck in a rut – next time you just need to let go – force yourself to surround yourself with what really matters to you.  Do whatever really makes you feel alive.  Exercise.  Color with your kids, like me.  Go hiking.  Whatever it is (unless, perhaps, it involves spending all of your money at the mall…).  Ten minutes later, if you truly commit to it, my guess is you’ll have let go.

Until next time, put your credit card down and slowly step away from the mall!

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Image: David Castillo Dominici /

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