How to Bounce Back after a Huge Disappointment

Todd Brison

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It could be as simple as changing your socks

When NBC jerked The Tonight Show away from Conan O’Brien, robbing him of promised fame and glory, Conan reacted in an unusual way.

He grew a beard.

It was the first time anyone had seen the talk show host with so much as a five o’clock shadow. He was asked about it.

“I grew a beard because I hate shaving,” he told reporters.

People often give a good reason before they give the real reason. After pausing for a moment, Conan went on.

“I stopped shaving after the last ‘Tonight Show,’ Conan continued. “I grew a beard because that’s what you do when you go through something…everybody does it who loses a job or goes through something traumatic.”

Conan was dealing with the trauma of his job loss. This was the real reason for his new chin hair. Again, though, it seemed to be an insignificant, personal choice. Before long, it wasn’t.

Conan’s beard became legend. The red mane was a sign of his well-publicized scorn. Tens of thousands organized fan sites around the hairy phenomenon. It earned O’Brien a spot in GQ. One blogger designed a logo for the beard itself.

Not all were fans. Conan’s executive producer said the beard “had to go.” Will Ferrell mounted a public campaign to have the facial fur removed.

Conan kept it. Why? Here’s what he said:

“When you go into broadcasting, you need to shave every day. [Growing the beard] was a feeling of liberation.

The beard was entirely in his control. NBC could push him out. Jay Leno could sneak around to get the job back. But he was going to keep the damned beard, damn it. The beard made him feel rebellious. It was a real comfort in time of need.

Which brings me to sock choice.

I got laid off recently. Immediately, I started wearing red socks every day. There was no conscious reason for this. I just “needed more red in my life.”

Those were my exact thoughts.

For context, I am not an intuition-driven person. My logic-full, color-free brain couldn’t explain the desperate need to wear the bold color. So I went in search of the answer.

As it turns out, the choice mirrored Conan’s.

My layoff happened largely because I was too friendly to keep myself out of harm’s way. Before the termination, I willingly downgraded my both my role and my title because “I just cared about doing good work!” and “I didn’t want anyone’s feelings to get hurt!”

These are blue feelings. I don’t mean that metaphorically.

Color theory says that blue is the hue of safety. Blue is loyal and friendly. Even though it’s the color of the ocean, blue doesn’t want to rock the boat.

Red, on the other hand, doesn’t care about any of that. Red is bold and loud. Red is power and war. Red doesn’t assume the world is a happy place where everyone has your back.

As a passive person, I always saw “seeing red” as a big problem. Had I embraced the color earlier, though, I might not have found myself on the bad end of a miserable phone call.

I subconsciously knew something was missing, and my brain pointed toward the color red. The same phenomenon likely happened to Conan. He grew a beard because beards are a symbol of toughness and strength — two qualities Conan desperately needed in the face of global shame and humiliation.

What does all of this mean? It means that when your world goes to crap, pay close attention to what your pain tells you to do.

After a messy divorce you may think “I should have listened more.” After over-exercising, your body will say “I should have warmed up better.”

Those aren’t regrets. They are instructions.

Every present pain gives a solution for avoiding future struggle. Unlike physical pain, mental and emotional pain don’t leave scars. This is why most people suppress the pain, wait for a while, and then forget the lesson.

Next time you get hurt, don’t stick your head in the sand. Instead, maybe sticking the razor in the trash. Maybe stick some new socks on your feet. Do whatever is necessary to lock in the lesson and remind yourself:

“I will never let this happen again.”

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