Welcome to Stuff I Learned Yesterday. My name is Darrell Darnell, Tootie was my favorite character on The Facts of Life, and I believe that if you aren’t learning, you aren’t living.

Did you watch The Facts of Life back in the day? I don’t think we watched every season, but we watched it enough for me to still be able to name every one of the main characters and sing most of the words to the theme song. I won’t sing them here, but the opening words were, “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.” I don’t know if Alan Thicke intended those words to stick in my mind for over 40 years and serve as a regular reminder of the ebb and flow of life, but that’s what they’ve done.

I suppose I could just end today’s episode right there. I think those lyrics say all that needs to be said, but let me wrap this lesson into an illustrative story for you.

For those of you who don’t know my background or may have forgotten, I worked at a regional bookstore chain from 1994 until 2013. I started out as a part time cashier and I left as the director of ecommerce. When I left in 2013, I had my next job already lined up. I started my own company specializing in editing and launching podcasts. Over the last decade that company, Pro Podcast Solutions, has helped launch several hundred podcasts and we’ve edited tens of thousands of podcast episodes. When I quit my job I had two clients, and now I serve over 150 clients. The path from two to 150 has not been straight nor easy. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur like me or your employment situation has a different dynamic, one thing is certain: there are peaks and valleys along the way. Some days are good, other days are bad.  Perhaps, if you’re like me, it’s easy to forget about the inverse of each day when you’re experiencing one or the other. That is, I don’t often celebrate a good day by telling myself, “don’t worry, bad days are coming.” Having said that, I do try to remind myself that good days are coming when I’m in the throes of a bad day. However, whether I remind myself or not, it is, as they say, the fact of life that you’ll get both kinds.

Last year I started working with a client who we’ll call Fred. Fred was great to work with. We coached Fred through the process of launching his podcast and edited all of his first season. After his first season ended, Fred went radio silent. Unfortunately, so did we. After about 7 weeks of silence, Fred reached out to me. Fred expressed concern and frustration that our team had not reached out to him while he’d been on break. After all, he had not told us how long he would be taking a break, or that he would be taking a break at all. So he thought it odd and unprofessional that we had not reached out to him to make sure he didn’t need anything or make sure anything was wrong.

Bear in mind that he did not need anything and nothing was wrong. He just thought we should have checked in with him. On the one hand, it seems odd to be upset about that sort of thing. It’s sort of like Fred was looking for something to be upset about. On the other hand, he was exactly right. We SHOULD have reached out to him and checked to make sure everything was okay.  In fact, after my conversation with him I met with my leadership team and we implemented changes so that wouldn’t happen again. A week or two later we even reached out to Fred again just to make sure he was okay and see if he needed help with anything.  We got no further reply from him by the way.

A couple of months later I heard from Fred again. This time Fred was moving on from my company and wanted to know the proper procedure. He was still upset that no one had reached out to him, and when I asked him about our previous communication, he seemed to indicate that he had never heard from us. We exchanged a couple of emails, but it was clear that he just wanted to move on and not have a conversation with me.

I’ve lost clients before, but this one hit me hard. Fred and I had some really good conversations during the launch process and he’d had a great experience working with our launch team. We’d also had some great conversations during the production of his first season, and he seemed to really enjoy working with our production team. But once he became dissatisfied with our lack of communication, it seemed the relationship was broken. Even though he and I had talked through that situation and we reached out to him afterward, it seems that it was too little too late. Either that, or he never saw our communication. To be honest, that part is still unclear to me and he never answered my clarifying questions about it.  We’d lost Fred as a client and it sucked. He was a great guy with a great podcast and he was gone over something that seemed so preventable and something that seemed to me like we should have been able to work through.

But that was it. Queue Alan Thicke reminding me that I have to take the bad.

A few years prior I’d lost a client named Patrick because he was moving his podcast to high-end video, and we did not support that type of production. We’d also had a wonderful working relationship with him, but his needs had outgrown our services.  That was a bad day too.

However, things changed last fall. Patrick emailed me one day and told me he was moving away from video and back to only doing audio. He’d enjoyed working with my team so much before, that he wanted to work together again. We set up a Zoom call and talked over the details. A few weeks later we were once again working with Patrick.

The very next day after Fred left, Patrick sent me an email that said, “Just a note to say that I really enjoy being back already! It’s such a joy to work with a team that is professional, responsive and so courteous. It’s refreshing and it’s rejuvenating my love of being a podcaster. Honestly. I feel more excited to produce the podcast and create amazing content than I have in awhile. I’m so grateful and I want to thank you because it’s definitely top down.”

What was that lyric? Oh yeah. You take the good.

Here’s what I learned.

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.  I told you this episode could have been super short. In my experience it’s pretty rare to get such clear examples of the peaks and valleys so close together. Oftentimes it seems like the valleys are low, long, arduous, and never ending. It seems like the peaks are short lived and hard to come by.

However, I don’t think those points of view reflect reality. Oh sure, they CAN reflect reality. That is certainly reality some of the time. But I don’t think they reflect the typical reality. I think the typical reality is valleys don’t last as long as we think they do. The difficulty is that we can’t see that. We often don’t realize we’re coming up out of a valley until we’ve risen out of it by a wide margin. We haven’t observed the small, sometimes miniscule changes that happen moment by moment, day by day, that lift us out of those bad days. Coming out of the valleys is often a slow climb, but climbing is still climbing after all.

Here’s my advice. Look for markers you can use to gauge your progress. I’ll talk more about these in future episodes, but they’re important. Without roadmarkers, it’s often impossible to realize how far you’ve come.

Also, create a system to track the good days. Messages like the one I got from Patrick are like an adrenaline shot to the heart. I shared his message with the team, and I keep it handy as a reminder for days that are tough.  

Always keep the attitude that each situation, good or bad, is an opportunity to learn and grow. I probably learned more from my “bad” experience with Fred than I did from my “good” experience with Patrick.  As long as we’re learning, we’re growing. As long as we’re growing, we’re having good days.  And in that way, we take the good, we take the growth, we take them both and there we have lots of good days.

I’m Darrell Darnell, and this has been Stuff I Learned Yesterday.

I want you to be a part of the next Monday Mailbag on April 29th! Monday Mailbag is your opportunity to Share what YOU’VE learned, so that other listeners and I can learn from YOU.  It can be a message as short as 30 seconds or several minutes long.  It really doesn’t matter just as long as it’s something that will benefit others.  You can send in questions or responses to my SILY episodes, and I’ll respond to them via Monday Mailbag episodes. You can participate in Monday Mailbags by visiting the Golden Spiral Media listener feedback page at goldenspirlamedia.com/feedback.