I stare at the evidence every day.
My office has a huge picture window on one wall. Truthfully, this room was set up as a bedroom by the previous homeowners. They had a smaller room as their office.
When we moved in, I claimed the room with the window as my office. My oldest son set up shop in the small room.
Because of this window.
It faces east, so I get the morning sunshine. I can look out over the driveway and see who is coming and going. And I just love natural light and want as much of it as possible.
But we also have birds.
Lots of ‘em.
All different kinds.
They swarm the back yard. They flock to the front and the driveway. We have plenty of trees and bushes for them to live in.
I’m notorious for my fear/hatred of birds, but I’ve come to appreciate the little jerks. After all, they eat a lot of bugs and pests. As long as they leave me alone, I’m good with them now.
Lately, though, I’ve been dealing with a problem.
See, this picture window is a magnet for birds. And not in a “they fly over and hang out by the window” way.
More of a “they don’t see the window so they fly head-first into it and die a horrible death” way.
Multiple times, I’ve had to start off my day by stepping outside with a shovel and scooping up a dead bird lying under the window, his neck no doubt broken from blunt force trauma.
And that doesn’t include all the birds that smash into the window and get away. It’s a problem.
Right now, I can count the impressions of FIVE different birds who crashed into my window, as they left grease spots on the glass.
None are more defined than the one pictured here. This happened weeks ago, and yet the couple tiny feathers still stick to the grease.
(Before we get too far, yes, I know there are ways to deter this from happening. But we are in the process of repairing this window, so I am waiting until that is taken care of before cleaning it up and addressing the bird issue.)
That near-perfect outline of the bird is a great reminder to me.
The unexpected happens to everybody
What makes a picture window so dangerous to a bird?
They can’t see it.
Look at that outline above: this bird was swooping confidently, wings fully stretched out, thinking he was going out to hunt or just enjoy a little flight.
With zero warning or expectation, he flew full-force into glass, smashing his head.
I happen to know that this bird did not fall down and die immediately. But it’s entirely possible that he flew off a little bit and collapsed after from trauma to the head.
He didn’t do anything to deserve it. He didn’t do anything to make it happen.
It just… happened to him.
And this, my dear reader, can happen to any of us.
You don’t see it coming
I’ve watched each of my three brothers lose their jobs at one point or another – either due to downsizing, the economy, or mistakes that they made.
They never expected it.
One day they wake up thinking it’s a normal day, and by the end of the day they are scrambling to figure out what they are going to do next.
Heck, I’ve been there.
In 2014, I was wrapping up my second year with my retainer client. My copy was selling like gangbusters for them. Royalty checks were flowing into my bank account. They literally made more than $2 million from me.
Yet, on a random Thursday in November, they terminated our agreement. No warning. No signs. No explanation.
These things are so painful because you are cruising along like nothing will ever change… until it does.
Having urgency thrust upon you
I’m not a fan of Stephen Colbert, but at one time I thought he was pretty funny.
He used to be on The Dana Carvey Show, an ill-fated sketch comedy show on ABC in the mid-nineties. The story of this show is fascinating, and Hulu made a documentary about it that I watched a couple years ago.
At the time of the show, Colbert was a struggling actor and comedian. Getting a prime-time comedy show with a huge name attached to it on a major network was mind-boggling success for him.
And then, after a handful of episodes, the show was cancelled.
In the documentary, he discusses this turn of events with the perfect line that I think about regularly: “When you’re not working, you feel like you’ll never work again. And when you’re working, you feel like you’ll never be out of a job again.”
We all get used to our situations. And when things are “okay”, that’s when you’re most vulnerable.
All it takes is one unexpected swing of bad luck and you’re in major trouble.
And by then, it’s too late.
Instead of waiting to have urgency thrust upon you, NOW is the time to take a few steps to protect yourself and avoid that discomfort from happening.
4 ways to prepare for the unexpected
- Recognize that it could happen at any time. The first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one. I famously told my wife in 2013, “Man, it feels good to know we’ll never be struggling for money again!” What a moron that guy was! Only 5 years later, I’d be in the worst financial situation of my life. Just understanding that you have to live life with your head on a swivel will keep you in the right mindset to prepare for disaster.
- Craft your ideal backup plan. Many people aren’t doing what they really want to be doing. So you might as well make your backup plan be what you really want to do, right? If you want to be a freelance copywriter full-time, then your backup plan should be to build a copy business. Craft the right game plan that you will be motivated to pursue.
- Set up your ripcords. Once you know what you really want to do, you need an emergency plan to draw from when you need it. For me, I have a cold outreach system in my back pocket ready to go at all times. This way, when the unexpected happens, I don’t have to panic and try to figure out what I’m going to do next.
- BUILD NOW. A lot of you like to wait around for the “right” or “best” time to start. I ask you about wanting to build or scale your copywriting business and I hear, “Well, maybe in a month or two.” My friend, a lot can happen in a month or two. Start building NOW before you need it.
Look, we’re all guilty of it.
We’re no smarter than the birds that fly face-first into my picture window.
We glide along in our lives, oblivious to the pending disasters.
You may think that’s negative. I think it’s realistic.
The only way to truly be optimistic is to accept the hardships of life and prepare for them as best you can.
Are you prepared for an unexpected rash of bad luck?
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