The Power of Helplessness

My restaurant is still closed, and the renovations continue.  Last week, I drove to Wisconsin, picked up the all the pieces needed to construct an 8’ x 8’ walk-in cooler, and drove them back to Illinois in a snowstorm. I called in the staff to help me load them into the kitchen area.  And then it dawned on me. 

I have no clue what the hell I’m doing. 

(It’s an all-too familiar phrase for me; I’ve always jumped into projects before I’m ready.  Damned unearned confidence.) 

But the job needed to get done. So I tore apart the packaging and searched for some written directions. All I found was a single-page diagram with no explanation of what any of the pieces were or how to put them together. I felt powerless. So what did I do? 

I got hot with rage and blamed the person who wrote the diagram. 

Reader, when we feel lost, it’s easy to let our fear spin into a fury.  It feels almost like we’re back in control; it’s even a little empowering. But it doesn’t change anything.  I still had no idea what the hell I was doing. 

After about an hour, I let go of the rage, and leaned into the helplessness.  I made a few phone calls to people who might know what to do. I did some Googling.  I bought a few tools, and I calmly started to tackle the cooler until it was built.   

My restaurant team made a resolution for 2021: when we have a problem that makes us feel lost, we brainstorm a way to fix things before we react.  We don’t run from our feelings, or blame somebody else for them.  Solutions will come from coexisting with helplessness and working through it. 

I leave you with a picture of my brand-new walk-in cooler.  I’m really proud of it.  Whatever you’re working on this week, I hope you’re leaning into it. See you next Monday. -Em 

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