The Push and Pull of Unexpected Blessings
Nothing in life has happened to you. It's happened for you. Every disappointment. Every wrong. Even every closed door has helped make you into who you are.
I think most of us either grew up watching the Cosby Show or have seen it in syndication at some point. Elvin, played by Geoffrey Owens, played the sweet but sometimes clueless son-in-law that occasionally put his foot in his mouth with careless but innocent chauvinistic comments. Even if you didn’t watch the show, you do know that the cast and essence of the show will indelibly be linked to the recent controversy surrounding Bill Cosby. His activities off screen ended up having far reaching implications for the cast including the show going into limited syndication. This subsequently caused the residual checks for the cast to dry up.
To make ends meet, Geoffrey acted in relatively small roles and worked as a cashier at Trader Joe’s. One day, a customer at the store recognized him bagging groceries in a stained t-shirt. She then decided to take a picture of him and post on social media. Things snowballed from there and somehow the picture ended up in the Daily Mail publication. She saw an honest man working and instead of doing what she came to the store to do and leaving, she decided to try to embarrass him. There was no empathy or kindness in her actions which showed perverse glee with shaming someone that appeared to fall from grace. Her behavior had unintended consequences including an outpour of public support for him and acting opportunities from titans in the industry. Most recently, he attended the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) ceremony where he was the recipient of an award. An action anchored in malicious intent ended up being a blessing to Mr. Owens and pushed him to something great.
A few years ago, I was ready for a career change. Years of business travel in a notoriously high stress career had taken a toll on me. I had spent a few years in healthcare consulting and cultivated a moderate interest in the space so when I started to look for opportunities, healthcare was a consideration. At that time, Theranos was still a pretty big deal. For those that don’t know, Theranos was a healthcare company run by Elizabeth Holmes, a blond haired blue-eyed Stanford dropout that claimed to have developed breakthrough technology that would revolutionize the medical space. The premise of her company was that she had devised blood tests that required very small amounts of blood from a prick, versus the typical needle and syringe. She mirrored herself after Steve Jobs in behavior and attire, and won over investors across many industries. She even managed to obtain a partnership with Walgreens, eventually raising almost one billion in venture capitalist funding. She managed to do all of this without ever showing tangible proof that her technology actually worked. The company is now defunct.
I applied to Theranos in early 2015 and didn’t hear back from them until early 2016. By then, I had already accepted a position at another company (which is often touted as one of the most admired places to work) and relocated to another state. I remember being slightly disappointed when I didn’t hear back from them immediately. I also remember laughing pretty hard when I received the rejection letter (see below) a year later. I laughed for a few reasons; one, because of how long it took them to get back to me but secondly, because the shenanigans at Theranos had already become public. Their rejection of me was a major blessing in disguise. If I had received an offer and accepted, I believe it would have been a major career and life misstep.
So, what do those two stories have in common? They were both situations where something that appeared unfortunate in the beginning ended up being a blessing. In one, Geoffrey Owens was pushed towards something great and in the other, I believe that I was pulled from a pretty bad situation.
I try to keep this in mind as I continue to figure out life and apply it to even the smallest occurrences like missing my bus or dealing with an important call that doesn’t get returned. I’m trying to train myself to think that there’s a blessing in everything that happens and understand that many times, things that seem negative can really be a stepping stone for something better around the corner.