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What Do You Do When There's Nothing You Can Do?

Leaders love making things happen. We love to challenge existing boundaries and attack the status quo. We make our living creating the future. What happens when you encounter a situation in which there’s nothing you can do?

This out of control feeling comes in all shapes and sizes – maybe you’ve been blind-sided by a competitor, or new government regulations have impacted your business. If you work in a non-profit organization, you may feel helpless when your largest donor walks away. There are many things we can control and others we can influence, but there are situations we cannot control.
My youngest son is disabled. Physically, David is 24 years old – cognitively, he’s about 18 months old. He has a full range of emotions, even if he doesn’t always know how to express them in socially acceptable ways. His physical health has been good his entire life. We had behavioral issues to deal with in his teens, but medication helped tremendously.
We’ve been blessed to have David in outstanding schools his entire life. Currently, he’s enrolled in the perfect program for adults with disabilities. Okay, perfect is a little strong, the school is about 70 miles from our home. No problem though, we’re moving. We’ve always seemed to have a response to the challenges we’ve faced with David… until recently.
David has begun to have seizures. I don’t know how many of you have been with someone during one of these episodes. It’s been one of the most challenging situations my wife and I have ever faced. We’ve adjusted his medication – more than once, yet the problem persists – it’s actually getting worse. We not only feel helpless; we are.
What do you and I do as leaders when we encounter a situation we can’t fix? I’ve been reflecting a lot on that over the last few months. Here are a few ideas I’m grappling with myself.
Remember your values. One of the most famous examples of this from the corporate world was the Tylenol incident of 1982. Seven people died when someone poisoned their product. The response from leadership was immediate and unequivocal – pull all 31 million bottles off the shelves. Although their leaders were helpless to restore the lives lost, the decision was clear because of their values.
Learn what you can. Our experiences shape us. Good times and bad impact our worldview and our leadership. I believe our struggles and difficulties mark us in profound ways – if we’re open to the lessons they have for us. Don’t waste the pain and disappointment in life – learn from it. Think about a circumstance in your sphere of influence in which you have this sense of helplessness. What can you learn from the experience?
If you have faith, use it. When my friend Ken Blanchard’s home burned down, someone asked him if the experience tried his faith. “On the contrary,” he said. “It put my faith to work.” If you believe God is sovereign and loves you, you can trust him even when you don’t understand.
Hang on. You may have heard it said, “Everyone is either experiencing a crisis, coming out of a crisis, or about to be in crisis.” Life is like that. When David is having a seizure, all I can do is hold him. When you and I encounter a situation in which we have little or no control, hang on tight. Hang on to your values, your family, your friends and your faith.
Even in the direst situations, there’s always something you can do. Hang on![GLS_Shield]

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Timothy Lynn Burchfield

6 years ago

I am so proud to call you my friend. I will continue to pray for David’s health. I will most pray that you will receive wisdom through this crisis.

Randy

6 years ago

Thank you. Powerful use of story & truth.

mark

6 years ago

Thanks, Randy. Mark

Bill Treasurer

6 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing this story about David, Mark. Life’s most important lessons are rarely pain free. Our souls enter us through our wounds. I too have a disabled child (cerebral palsy and deafness). My daughter has been my greatest teacher. Some lessons have been joyful, some painful. But all the lessons have made me a better person. Love and prayers to you, Mark

mark

6 years ago

Thanks, Bill. I appreciate your example of how to respond to life’s challenges well. Mark

Ruben Avalos Jr

6 years ago

Mark,
You truly inspire us daily with your heart! David is a blessing to all of us; he will change lives after others read about his life and the giant love his parents display for him daily. I can’t help but think about the story Tony Dungy tells about his three sons. Long story short he explains how our body has healing agents that it sends to help us heal after we receive injury in any area. He says that we go through pain in our lives for many reasons which he spoke of and there are two that stood out for me. One, pain is sometimes the only way we will turn to our heavenly father, and two when we feel pain inside it lets us know we are not quite right and need to be healed and God will send those healing agents to the right spot.
You are a true blessing too many and we feel your pain. I will keep your family in my prayers daily to help the healing agents arrive. Thanks for all you do for us sir!! God bless!

Kimunya Mugo

6 years ago

Mark, many times we are tried and tested. Most times we may not fully know why. Your son is a blessing that only God chose to bring into your family. ‘Remember your values’ is my take-away. When all is stripped away, what remains will be values. If I don’t have any, I am in big trouble. Will pray for your son and family. Thank you for the inspiration you have been to me.

Linda Cowen

6 years ago

Yes, and yes. We are in the same shoes, although I would love to know about the place you have found for David. We will have to find such a place in a few years for our son. I would add to your list, if I may, patience. I am the person who wants things solved right away, but my husband is so patient. His patience and resolve have helped us cope over many years of the uncontrolled life we live, too. Take care. Linda

mark

6 years ago

Thanks for your comments. Patience has been the natural, or unnatural, byproduct of life with David. He’s never in a hurry. So, as a consequence, we move on David’s time. It’s been good for me. David’s school is called Next Steps. It is located in Woodstock, GA. Please let me know if you need more information. Mark

Steve Rice

6 years ago

This is such a heartfelt and encouraging post. Thanks for sharing the reality and reminder that it’s okay just to hold on–especially when that’s all you can do.
(Becky at Weaving Influence passed this along tonight and it was a huge encouragement to me)
Prayers for your son and your wife and you as you walk this valley together — that you’ll hold on, and hold on to each other.

mark

6 years ago

Thanks, Steve. Thanks for your comments and your prayers. We’re optimistic about the future! Mark

Kevin Carr

6 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing. I can completely relate. Our son, Owen, has had horrible bouts with health since he was born. There’s nothing as difficult as watching your child suffer. But I have found, as you have so eloquently stated, that faith, values and perseverance are enough. Thank you for being so transparent. There’s one more person who will be praying for your son and your family.

mark

6 years ago

Thanks for your comments and your prayers! Mark

Dan Glaze

6 years ago

Mark, thank you so much for sharing. Your thoughts were very powerful and inspiring for me.

mark

6 years ago

Thanks, Dan!

Randy Gravitt

6 years ago

Great blog, Mark. Thanks for demonstrating courage and vulnerability. We are praying for you and your family!

Laura

6 years ago

So blessed to know your family. Your lives inspire so many. I’m a raving fan of the Millers.

mark

6 years ago

We’re raving fans of the Gravitts! Thanks for your friendship and your prayers. Mark

Kevin Scott

6 years ago

Thanks for sharing this. As will all of your content, it’s compelling and challenging. However, this one seems particularly poignant.

mark

6 years ago

Thanks, Kevin! I appreciate all you do! Let me know how I can serve you and your team going forward. Mark

Terry Barber

6 years ago

Mark, though we’ve never met, your writing touches my heart and your example inspires me to be a better person. Thank you for allowing your pain to be my tutor. Keep Inspiring!

mark

6 years ago

Terry, thanks for your encouraging words! I’ll keep writing… you keep leading! Mark

Great Leaders Serve | By Mark Miller | Top Ten Posts from 2014

6 years ago

[…] What Do You Do When There’s Nothing You Can Do? – In this post I share a few of the leadership lessons I continue to learn as the parent of a child with special needs. […]

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