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The 20-Minute Fix for Really, Truly Bad Days. Guaranteed.

I’ve had some really, truly bad days at work.

There was the day a critical contract I needed to launch a major project fell through, one of my most trusted employees announced she was leaving and my husband learned that he was going to be working nights (i.e. 3pm to 2am so I’d never see him), indefinitely.

There was the day I misunderstood the politics in the meeting room and walked right into a trap set by my boss’s main rival, only to be shamed by several colleagues afterward.

There was the day the venture capitalist who’d been dangling $8 million in front of me for months sent an email stating that he wasn’t going to invest after all and I had to face my team knowing my company’s chances of survival were next to nil.

Those were bad, bad, terrible days.

I’ve also had a lot of regular-old bad days, the kind where you’re so frustrated by a project, a client, a boss, that you just want to set your hair on fire and run screaming down the street – such as the stormy, snowy February day when I wandered up and down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn going from shop to shop, making cold sales calls and getting what were (to this Canadian) some very rude, Brooklyn “No’s”.

That was a bad day. If you’re having such a day, I have only two words of advice for you.


I don’t mean quit your job and run off to the beach. I mean, take 20 minutes and leave the building. Just get out.

And once you’re out, you only have to do one thing. Look for beauty in the world. Stay with me now, this isn’t some silly new-agey thing. It’s perfectly logical in fact, because it’s about focus. Or as we like to say in my tradition of coaching – where focus goes, energy flows.

So for 20 minutes, focus on nice things. More specifically, focus on beauty.

Yeah, yeah, there’re flowers and trees. They’re nice. But that’s not what I mean. I mean the people. And not beautiful people. Again, they’re fine and looking at a picture of Brad Pitt can cheer me up for a while. I mean look for the beauty IN people.

Go to a coffee shop, a park, or just wander down the street. And look. And listen.

Look for the friends supporting each other or making each other laugh. Look for the nervous smiles on people meeting for the first time. Look for the person who’s extra sweet to the barista. Look for couples who are obviously newly in love. Look for the content silence between a couple who have been together a long time. Look for coworkers sharing a drink and a laugh after a hard day. Look for giggling teenagers bouncing and bounding down the street as they experiment with their budding independence. Look for the person reviewing their notes before a pitch meeting. Look for the person sitting quietly, lost in thought, looking out the window. Notice their hair, their shoes, their glasses and know that they consciously chose those things to show the world who they are.

Marvel at all of these amazing people. Honour them. Honour their choices. Honour their humanness.

Yup, you’ll see bad stuff too.

But your job for these 20 minutes is to focus on the good stuff.

And take a deep breath. And then look some more.

After 20 minutes, I guarantee, you’ll feel better. You’ll be filled with gratitude for the life you’ve been given. For the opportunities. For the things you’ve seen and done. For the people you know and love. You’ll remember how much beauty there is in your life. You'll be renewed and re-energized. You'll feel stronger. You'll feel calmer. You'll feel ready.

Then, go back in the office and kick some butt.

P.S. If you really, really can’t leave the building, put your headphones on and watch this video. It’ll do the trick too.

The Unstuck Leader book is now available.
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