Tuesday Tales: The value of a new perspective – Donna Thistlethwaite

We’ve all had them right? Those moments where we’re kicking ourselves for doing or not doing something …

Recently I had one, big time. Brisbane’s Lord Mayor was offering grants last month for women in business. The thought of injecting $5 000 into my business had me super excited.

My business partner and I were challenged to identify our top priority knowing that the business could do with investment in a few different areas to move us towards our vision.

We landed on some strategic and operational marketing through a consultant I had got to know and trust through many years of networking together. The thought of helping that business was also uplifting.

I’d written a couple of successful grants before so figured I’d be okay to pull it together rather quickly given that I was experiencing a peak in workshop delivery at the time.

On the Wednesday before the application was due I travelled to Mackay and subsequently on to a mine site to facilitate Mental Health First Aid to a group of field workers. I’ve always loved working with blue collar workers, having spent much of my career engaging with them.

The session went wonderfully well. I’d even go as far as to say we all had lots of fun. I spoke animatedly to my client the entire 2.5 hour journey back to my Mackay accommodation.

After checking into my hotel, I made my way up to my room. It was tastefully decorated and obviously furnished for the business traveller with a study nook looking out over a paddock and some sheds. I pulled my laptop out of its bag and quickly bashed out a follow up email for the participants I’d trained that day.

After pressing “send” I leant back to think about what I wanted to do next. I still felt pumped from the day. I realised that I didn’t want to sit in a hotel room on my own. Maybe I could have dinner in the restaurant and have a chat down there I thought.

Minutes later my eyes scanned the patrons in the hotel restaurant. I noticed a family, some couples and a table occupied by three men who I assumed were travelling for work. At that stage I felt most drawn to them as potential companions.

I thought I’d get the meal underway first and then decide which table to approach.

“I’ll have the salmon” I said to the young cashier. After entering my order she asked “What’s your table number?”

“I’m not sure … I’ll find a table and come back to you”, I said.

“No you can’t do that … I can’t put your order through without a table number”, she replied a little tersely.

“Oh, okay, then table 16”.

“You’re going to sit with them?” she said, gesturing towards the three men I’d noticed earlier.

“Yeah, are they okay?” I asked.

“I don’t know”, she replied.

“Okay … how about I give it a go and if it doesn’t work out I’ll come and let you know my new table number” I said with a smile.

I walked up to the table and confidently said “Hi, I’m Donna … I feel like some company tonight and I’m wondering if I could sit with you guys. All good if not … if you’d prefer to keep it as it is … no offence”.

A smooth headed guy, with tanned skin and a large frame, smiled and invited me to sit down.

They were a little surprised by my boldness when they realised I had ordered my food to be delivered to their table before even speaking to them. To be honest I was too but attributed it to my good mood and the confidence my recent sales and marketing course had instilled in me.

We enjoyed some great conversation and even a few laughs together before they excused themselves for the evening. Before leaving the table I quickly connected on LinkedIn with one of them in case we could ever be of assistance to each other.

That night I returned to my room and chose sleep over work.

The next day, Thursday, I returned to Brisbane and the backlog of work that seemed to be building.

That night I took a moment to plan for the grant application that was due the next day. My eyes stared at the website page. What stared back at me was a message saying that the grant applications had closed at 5pm the day before. I couldn’t believe it. “How could I have been so silly?” “Who closes a grant round on a Thursday … is that a tactic to reduce application numbers or to rule out those with poor attention to detail like me?” my brain shouted.

After my initial shock, my heart sank. How would I tell my business partner that I had lost $5 000? That we wouldn’t have the much needed injection to boost us along? And what about my marketing consultant? I’d have to admit that her time in preparing a plan and proposal had been pointless. And then there was my mentor. What would she think of me when I told her that I hadn’t followed through with my plan? I felt like my integrity was at stake.

Thankfully for me, I’m now at a stage that I can fairly quickly shift my perspective on situations. My mind went to “Well someone must have needed those funds more than us … in fact, my business has some real momentum at the moment”. I also recognised that If I’d realised the grant application was due that day I would have spent that night in my hotel room instead of meeting the lovely gentlemen that I did. I thought “Imagine if meeting those guys one day leads to a piece of work that is far in excess of the grant?”

I found myself feeling much better and with enough energy to reach out to each of the people I’d been worried about that I let down. I also called my mentor as a way of helping me to process the disappointment, frustration and sadness that had come up for me.

After I explained what had happened my mentor helped me to lock everything into perspective, suggesting it wasn’t a matter of letting anyone down because the primary person who had been impacted was me and we all do make mistakes. We discussed whether there were other grants available and how I could get some support so I’m not juggling everything myself.

Life will undoubtedly test us. Things will sometimes go wrong. We will definitely find ourselves disappointed from time to time. When it happens … I truly hope that you’ll recognise that there will always be a chance to shift perspective and move on to the next opportunity that will inevitably present itself.

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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