“You’ve successfully navigated 100% of your worst days.”
Those words from a mentor struck a chord with me. I have. I’m still here. So what are those days?
When I think of my worst days, one of the first events that springs to mind is back in 2010. Tennessee experienced what has been called the 500-year flood.
During the torrential rains and subsequent flooding, my family lost 30% of our property – which serves both as our family’s home and a training center for leadership residencies in the nonprofit I founded, the Institute for Cultural Communicators. As the water levels continued to rise, our home began filling with standing water. First seeping under the lower bedroom doors, then into our family room where all our electronics and memory albums were stored. Water continued spilling in for the next two days until it reached the top of the stairs to the mid-level of our tri-level home.
This previously inconceivable disaster was now my reality. I feared it could not be repaired in time for the next wave of leaders-in-residence. That so many opportunities would be lost.
Our access road was inaccessible. Four feet of water stayed in the house for 8 days.
Snakes swam through the water. Sewage and gas lines from other homes had leaked into the water, covering our property and now inside our home. No electricity. Putrifying standing water in the heat and humidity of Tennessee. The stench was so terrible our home was uninhabitable.
At first I thought the water would recede and we’d scrub off the mold, repaint, and get back to normal. Oh, no. Every day brought worse news. When the water finally receded, walls, floors, and ceiling had to be stripped to sticks so that the entirety of it could be replaced.
In the middle of the mess, we discovered that our flood insurance packaged had been rejected… two years earlier. We had never been notified due to a filing error.
While the water was still standing in my home, I attended the first residency for my doctorate degree program. Mid-week I received a phone call informing me that our nonprofit was being audited. Of course.
This time, so full of obstacles, was rich with divine opportunities.
We thought we knew how to use this home for empowering leadership residencies. But we learned so much as we rebuilt – and, in the process, intentionally designed – our home and the institute’s training center. We envisioned what could be in ways we hadn’t stopped to think about before the flood.
Now, when we give tours of the ICC Training Center, we tell this as part of our story. Better still, young, emerging leaders tell the story. They have come to understand that the physical transformation of the house mirrors the transformation of the lives that take up residence here – spiritual, relational, emotional transformations. Eternal results that are priceless.
As I write this, we are in the middle of yet another “worst days” situation. Strategic foresight research predicted a “VUCA” world long before this global pandemic: one full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Global citizens are reeling with fear, anxiety, and grief.
As for me, I have never been more grateful. The VUCA world is real. Yet, I am blessed to work alongside a remarkable team of leaders committed to finding opportunity in the crisis. Together, we are looking for places to “trade up.” Our leadership has resolved we aren’t going to just wait it out and bide our time. And we’re not settling for “almost, but not quite good enough.” We are intentionally innovating our way through this crisis. We are learning things we will never unlearn. We are doing things we will never undo. Certainly, the day will come when we return to some of the activities and experiences currently suspended. But we will never really go back.
The possibilities spring from a world and a community many of us had never before considered. We know how to love people in new ways. We can meet needs through channels that had not previously occurred to us. I didn’t have the confidence that so much was possible. But now I do.
In the midst of these “worst days,” I am hopeful. Once again I see divine opportunities are boundless.
Dr. Teresa Moon, founding President and CEO of the Institute for Cultural Communicators, is an internationally-recognized seminar speaker, education consultant, author, and leadership coach. Each year, she travels globally equipping students, teachers, and parents to become “cultural communicators,” transforming ordinary students into extraordinary communicators and authentic leaders.