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There are some situations in life that just need to be dealt with. They require action. There are other things in life that we simply need to wait out. This can be excruciatingly difficult. It's much easier to do something, anything, than it is to patiently do nothing. Knowing when to act and when to wait something out begins simply by being aware that there are two options. Our instinct is to act. We have a bias toward action. This bias blinds us to every other possibility. We often don't even consider doing nothing as an option. Bold action is beautiful when action is what is needed. Any action is clumsy when what is needed is inaction. Learning to wait things out is one of life's greatest lessons and it can be learned only by waiting things out. Sometimes the wisest thing to do is nothing. It is also often the hardest thing to do.
One of the worst nights of my life was in my 20s in San Francisco. At the time I was travelling and speaking all the time. 250 days a year began in an airport, sometimes more. Sometimes we don't realize how insane something is until we stop doing it. In the past few days I had crossed more than 40 times zones and that morning my girlfriend had broken up with me. Closing the curtains in my hotel room, I blacked out the room and I was so tired I couldn't sleep. I was beyond exhausted. And that place is a dangerous place for the heart, the mind, and the soul. It felt like I was going mad. I was in pain. I had jetlag. I didn't know where it hurt. It wasn't physical pain. It was existential pain. There were moments that night when I wished I was dead. I didn't think about hurting myself. I just wanted that pain to stop. I needed to sleep, but sleep refused to come.
There are some moments in our lives that are so pivotal that we never stop drawing on them for wisdom, for courage, for direction. That night was one of those nights for me. I don't know what I was in the grips of that night, but I do know it taught me one of lives most powerful lessons. Sometimes all you can do is wait it out. Looking back across the years, I'm glad for that experience. There have been many more unpleasant experiences I have had to endure some considerably worse than what I experienced that night. I often find myself reflecting on that night in San Francisco. I hear myself saying, "All you have to do is wait it out." I say to myself, "You don't have to do anything. Just wait patiently and let it pass." Somewhere right now, somebody is having their worst day ever. When you lay your head on your pillow tonight, whisper a prayer because as you lay your head on your pillow tonight for a restful nights sleep, somebody is just beginning the worst night of their lives.