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Planet Janet: The secret of life

Janet Combs

About a month ago, my workplace was hacked. And in the digital age, this presents serious complications — in the short term, it halted email communications, blocked access to historical project files and thwarted our use of business software tools.

Once I realized the situation wouldn’t be remedied in 24 hours, I made some changes to my office set-up to make things more, well, tolerable. I took down my defunct and potentially corrupted PC and replaced it with a temporary laptop; I got myself a new interim Gmail account and I shifted back to a paper filing system. But I still experienced extreme frustration, in that a simple task such as copying and disseminating a document now took several steps. Work piled up because I just couldn’t get to it. My overwhelming feeling on the commute to and from my office could be summed up in three letters: UGH.

Suddenly, I was reminded of that period in my life when I abruptly began to need reading glasses. One day, I was in a supermarket, trying to read a label—later that afternoon, a department store, checking a price tag. I couldn’t read either one and I became agitated, which is a mild word for how I really felt. I spent the next 24 hours in an unproductive state of anger about my obvious, unavoidable state of aging. Then, I went out and bought two five-packs of reading glasses and scattered them throughout my world — one in my car, one on the nightstand, one in the kitchen drawer, one in the garage, and so on. I basically created a lifelong Easter-egg hunt for grown-ups — reading glasses were tucked everywhere. In the process, I accepted the loss and moved on.

This recollection helped me realize the biggest side effect of the workplace hacking wasn’t the stymied work flow, the lack of connectivity, the productivity loss. It was my own negative, downtrodden attitude. And while I certainly couldn’t control the obvious, business-oriented consequences of the hacking, I could easily make a significant difference in my own disposition.

The ability to adapt is the secret of life.

Many of you thought you already knew the secret of life — moreover you didn’t think it would be discovered here, in the back pages of a minor publication, penned by a marginal writer! But here you have it, and I hope you will read on about the importance of navigating change, because I have more to say on the subject. Approximately 239 words more.

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You may have mistakenly believed that the secret of life was true love, a happy family, a meaningful career, and a rescue dog that doesn’t spitefully urinate on your bath mat whenever you leave the house for a couple of hours. I know I did.

But it is really how we handle what we are handed — specifically our disposition when disrupted — that makes our lives advance in a smoother fashion.

If anyone under the age of 25 is reading this column, here is a special message for you: life is senselessly brutal. I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you. If you’re lucky, you can look forward to years of disappointment, unexpected illness, unanticipated losses, possibly betrayal! Thank goodness you can enjoy the uplifting Planet Janet column once a month.

But when you are in the throes of these inevitable times of hardship, you can and you should dig deep into the wellspring of your character and work the one thing you have power to work—your attitude.

Over time, you will experience firsthand examples of the lasting, positive effects of a good attitude in your associations with certain heroic friends and family members and colleagues—people who have suffered unspeakable losses and yet carry on without complaint.

And if you’re lucky, like me, you might someday experience a timely reminder in the form of a faceless, nameless cyberattack at work.

Reach Nick Masuda at 843-607-0912. Follow him on Twitter at @nickmasudaphoto. 

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