Read time: 4 minutes
Sometimes, life really craps on you. But no matter the situation, the only thing we have control of is our reactions. I would like to share with you the law of the garbage truck.
How often do you let other people’s nonsense change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day? Unless you’re the Terminator, for an instant you’re probably set back on your heels. However, the mark of a successful person is how quickly that person can get back their focus on what’s important. Sixteen years ago I learned this lesson. I learned it in the back of a New York City taxi cab. Here’s what happened:
I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his breaks, skidded, and missed the other car’s back end by just inches! The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and he started yelling bad words at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly. So, I said, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!”And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck.”
Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it. If you let them, they’ll dump it on you. When someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. You just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. You’ll be happy you did. So this was it: The “Law of the Garbage Truck.”
I started thinking, how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people: at work, at home, on the streets? It was that day I said, “I’m not going to do it anymore.”I began to see garbage trucks. Like in the movie “The Sixth Sense,” the little boy said, “I see Dead People.” Well, now “I see Garbage Trucks.” I see the load they’re carrying. I see them coming to drop it off. And like my Taxi Driver, I don’t make it a personal thing; I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.
One of my favorite football players of all time, Walter Payton, did this every day on the football field. He would jump up as quickly as he hit the ground after being tackled. He never dwelled on a hit. Payton was ready to make the next play his best. Good leaders know they have to be ready for their next meeting. Good parents know that they have to welcome their children home from school with hugs and kisses. Leaders and parents know that they have to be fully present, and at their best for the people they care about. The bottom line is that successful people do not let Garbage Trucks take over their day. What about you? What would happen in your life, starting today, if you let more garbage trucks pass you by? Here’s my bet.
You’ll be happier.
I often refer to the example of two people getting in an accident and both becoming paraplegic. One becomes bitter at the world; hates himself, life, and his situation; this person becomes a shut in and loses a lot of friends and family simply because of his new take on life. He lives out the rest of his life cursing his bad luck and in a miserable state.
The other person decides to make the best of the situation. He realizes that his life is not over and that he can still find meaning and do great things. This person starts a non-profit organization for spinal cord research and goes on to become a well-known motivational speaker. He lives a rich and fulfilling life and finds meaning in helping others.
This situation is not that far-fetched and can easily apply to things not as drastic as a medical injury. Are you bitter at the world and blaming anyone or anything for your current situation? Or are you taking charge of your life and determined to make things happen for the better? The choice is yours.
I recently fell off a roof and landed on my face on some concrete steps. Lost two teeth, had 5 staples in my head, broke my elbow and wrist. Despite my injuries, I realize things could have been much worse, and am thankful I am alive and (mostly) well. This picture was taken just minutes after my accident and just before I went to the hospital.
Make the most of every situation. Take control of the only thing you have control of: your reactions and attitude towards life. When you start to see the garbage trucks in your life (or maybe you are one?) hopefully it will inspire you find the good in all situations.
Take Action Now: Right now, think of someone in your life who is a garbage truck. Seriously, stop reading and think of someone. Maybe you don’t even like this person very much. But if you think about it, those negative feelings towards that person should turn to pity and then to compassion. This person is acting the way they are because they feel they have no control, when, in actuality, they have complete control. The next time you feel like dumping on someone due to a situation out of your “control,” take a step back and manage your emotions and reactions. A phrase I like to use is “this too, shall pass.” If you can control your emotions and reactions, I guarantee you will have a much happier and fulfilling life.