At age 52, I felt like a complete failure. My marriage was dissolving, I sucked at my sales job, and every financial opportunity seemed to slip away. Then I spoke at a fundraiser for suicide prevention, because I lost two brothers to suicide eleven years apart. It hurts to type that sentence. It was even more painful to speak about it. But people responded well to my talk, and invitations started arriving for me to do it again. Delivering this talk seemed to be the only thing I was good at. So, against my will, I became a keynote speaker on a really tough topic.
The talk drove me to start a foundation dedicated to suicide prevention, called the Half a Sorrow Foundation, which I now run. The name comes from the old Swedish proverb, “A shared joy is a double joy, a shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” We are all our own harshest critics and I often have days where the toll of the work I do has me thinking of packing it all in and returning to a “normal” job if there is such a thing.
It is during these time that I reach for the purple file.
The purple file is where I keep feedback from my talk. I speak to many, hoping to reach one, and judging by this feedback, some folks were listening. They often reach out to me via social media, sometimes years after they hear me talk, and I am always touched. I print their messages out and stuff them in this file. Heck, some of these people made me cry. The one that really hit home was, “After hearing you speak, I feel normal again.”
Whenever I think about quitting, I grab the file and come back with a renewed determination. Do you have a similar file? Somewhere you could put a cherished testimonial, comment, feedback, or kind note from a coworker. Something to lift your spirits and remind you why you so what you do? I recommend it.
I would have quit this suicide prevention gig years ago if not for this file and the cherished feedback it contains. What I do (and what you do) is not easy, but the purple file keeps me going — because it is the people behind those comments that keep me going. As it turns out, I do not suck at sales. I just needed an excellent product to sell, and that product is hope.