This week, I struggled a little with the title of my column. It could have been “Walking in someone else’s shoes” or “We never really walk alone” or “Walking down parallel paths,” but I decided on “Walking side by side” because although the other titles could have easily worked, I believe that walking side by side truly defines the essence of support, partnerships and love.
I have experienced a lot during the course of my life and many times I tried to “go it alone” — as a matter of fact, I would say most times I let my pride and ego get in the way as I attempted to do something or fix something on my own when help was just a phone call or a hug away.
The past few years have been rough as our family battled a very serious health issue, eventually losing a wife, mother and friend to that battle. And even though there were people willing to help and support us, and counselors and pastors who were available, and friends who did what they could, I initially wanted to fix the pains for me and my family on my own.
This past week I had an experience that opened my eyes and my heart, and the awakening or awareness is something I should have and could have realized a long time ago. You see, I was traveling in Europe on business and was attending meetings with a colleague for two days. He shared his condolences with me and then shared that he had actually gone through the exact same situation four years earlier. And as we talked, it became very apparent that he had walked in my shoes and he could share so much more and teach me so much more if I chose to walk side by side with him.
The parallels in our lives and personal situation were unbelievable. The more we talked and the more we shared our stories, the clearer things became for me, especially about my path moving forward. I didn’t have to “go it alone” any longer, not in my personal life or my business life. There are others out there who have had personal and professional experiences that I could benefit from and learn from. And there are things that I have accomplished or have gone through that could very well help others if we chose to walk side by side instead of “going it alone.”
For me, it was always a stubbornness factor or my own arrogance that prevented me from seeking advice and learning from others who may have walked in my shoes. In some cases that were not so personal, it was easy to ask for tips or guidance, like taking golf lessons, or talking with someone about a business situation, or how to handle a small project or repair something in the house. Those are the easy things to talk about or seek help on. But when it comes down to something incredibly personal, for me anyway, I tend to try incredibly hard to figure things out on my own.
As a family we are facing all the “firsts” now, the first Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s, anniversary and Valentine’s Day without a wife, mom and friend. And I am sure many of you reading this may also be struggling or experiencing feelings of sadness for those who are not with you. Maybe you are like us and experiencing moments of joy mixed with that sadness as we remember all of the fun, loving and amazing times we shared together. Just remember that there are others out there who have walked in your shoes, maybe even walking in them right now. It’s when you find those people in a similar walk, whether through a support group or just out of coincidence, and you can share stories and support one another, walking side by side that you will learn from one another and find some level of comfort in talking through your individual experiences.
I have been blessed with a special someone in my life who has had their own challenging experiences and who has supported me through friendship, love, listening, talking, crying and hugging. She made the choice to walk side by side with me and my family, and because she walked in similar shoes many years ago, she is strong enough, loving enough and caring enough to walk with us through our journey now, and together we will learn and share so much from one another.
Are you walking side by side with anyone these days? Especially during the holidays? Have you shared your story or learned from someone else? Have you found some level of comfort in talking through any mutual life experiences? I would love to hear all about it at firstname.lastname@example.org because as I have learned this week, when we do walk side by side through life’s toughest challenges, it will be a better than good minute, hour, day, week, month and year.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of www.candogo.com. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.