Your House is on Fire

I mentioned this tragic event in a previous post and this story is an excellent illustration of the What Next attitude toward life. Julie and I were dating for six months when she got the following text on her pager “Your House is on Fire.” She wasn’t home because I had to go to work that day, Sunday, and we decided to stay at my house so Julie could drop me at the train station on her way home. What would you think if you got that message?

Thinking it was a sick joke or a minor incident she went to check and nothing was ever the same again. The house was completely destroyed and everything in it was gone including the parrot and the dog.

How do you answer the question What Next when something so devastating occurs? The outcome of this tragedy depends on whether you ask what’s next (with the apostrophe) or what next (without the apostrophe). Why does it matter? I’ll let a twitter friend explain it:

I was excited to see that Mark understood that asking “what’s next” is passive, it’s wondering what will happen, it’s based in fear, dread, and confusion, it’s sitting back and waiting, it’s being given an order. Asking what next is active and exciting, it’s taking action to manage the situation, it’s based in confidence and power, it’s creating your future. What next has the ability to turn a bad situation into a good one. Julie asked what next and prevented one tragedy, the fire, from becoming another tragedy, being taken advantage of by the insurance company.

Rising from the ashes!

If we could be proactive after such a devastating loss, in an emotionally fragile state, then it should be easy to be proactive when things are going well. Most people, however, take that opportunity to coast, waiting for a reason to react, putting themselves at a disadvantage when trouble arrives.

If you wait for the next opportunity (asking what’s next) then you won’t necessarily find an ideal situation. If you create your next opportunity (ask What Next) then you have more control.

Have you, or someone you know, overcome a difficult situation by asking what next, being proactive and taking control of the situation? Please share and let’s all celebrate the difference between what’s next and what next.