The Art of Surrender and Taking the L
It’s become apparent to me that where there is friction, there is a need for surrender (or acceptance). Surrender isn’t a popular subject. We are taught to “never give up” and doused with triumphant war imagery in popular movies throughout our lives. However, in real life, sometimes you have to know when to take the L. Sometimes the L is the key to getting to the ultimate W.
Surrender can be a good thing. Nobody tells you that. On Thursday of this week (7/1/21), it will be 13 years since I surrendered to sobriety. My life at age 30 wasn’t going the way I thought it would. I had read every book on the planet, did all the yoga, all the meditation, all the therapy, all the self help Olympics one human could possibly muster and came to the conclusion that I simply had to stop drinking. Lame. I was really hoping I could just chalk all my problems up to childhood trauma but, no. The truth was I was the problem and I was powerless. My life had become unmanageable.
The biggest thing standing in the way of that surrender was my intellect, however. I can tell you it’s often the biggest thing standing in my way on a regular basis as it relates to other problems too. As a veteran people manager, I can also tell you it’s 1000% the thing standing in the way of every employee who doesn’t get a promotion who is mystified as to why not.
We are our own worst enemies. The “it has to be this way”-ness of our intellect is the square peg of our will trying to ram itself into the triangle-shaped hole of life. It ain’t gonna work, my guy.
I have begun to get very curious as it relates to myself. Standing outside myself almost like a cultural anthropologist wondering, “Oh, I wonder why the 21st Century Gen Xer does this bizarre thing that doesn’t work over and over again…” *Takes notes* *Keeps observing*
My observations have led me to believe that said simply, where there is friction — there is an opportunity for surrender. It can be friction within myself or friction with another person, place or thing. It can be a boundary that needs to be drawn or a quiet detachment. It can be simply listening and saying, “OK, that sounds good.” When in fact, I know it’s wrong and going to fail, but have concluded that pursuing peace over right-ness is often more effective.
I spoke about this last part in a TedX speech I gave about my father. My father and I argued — a lot. There were never any winners in our arguments. Yet, we argued over and over and over again. We’ve all heard the old quotation (attributed to Einstein), “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”
My father and I finally made a truce and repaired our relationship — but you know how that happened? I surrendered. I accepted reality. There was never going to be a world where he saw my POV on a lot of things. (Just like, there’s never going to be a world where cruising your ex’s Instagram profile leads to seeing posts about how much they miss you.) I had to change for our relationship to change. Then something weird happened… he changed. He began to show up differently… but he changed, because I did.
Friends, I hate that life works like this. I hate that we have power over one person — and it’s us! I hate that other people are insane sometimes and we have to navigate through all their drama and baggage while trying to keep our trauma travel-sized. That said,
You have only one person you can influence and control and it’s you.
No amount of self-help books, brujeria, astrology, reiki, prayer requests, gossip, therapy or fill-in-the-blank, will ever change that. Trust me, from 1997–2008 I tried. So, I lovingly invite you to look at your life today and ask yourself, “Where do I need to take the L? Where do I need to be the one to change? Where would I make my life easier if I just stopped fighting so hard?”
You’ll see a whole new line of thinking rush in as you do this. Also, you might have to do this ten times in a week. It happens. Smart people are stubborn (so are dumb people — but we all secretly think we’re in the former group — so I’ll just roll with that).
Explore surrender. Explore quietly observing your life and see where you’ve been trying so hard for so long for so little. Maybe it’s time to give up.
On the other side, you might just find:
A new way of living
The thing you’ve been seeking all along