How Do You Know What to Do Next?

Seneca wrote, “do not be unhappy before the crisis comes…” Avoid imagined sorrows and anticipated anxieties. Be present. See the big picture. Understand how things work. Control what you can.

Thanks for the fortune cookies, Brooks.

Yeah, I hear you. But I also hear you expecting the worst from the news, medical tests, and return policies. I hear you project stress about returning unwanted calls, choosing from new menus, and hosting in-laws. We seem to have an addiction to expressing our overwhelm and finding reasons to feel flustered.

When untethered, I find relief by intentionally owning my responses and focusing on what I control. In any situation, we rarely have a lot of options, especially if clear about our goals. [If you really want to sleep/exercise/read more, then stop talking to me and go sleep/exercise/read… 🙂 ]

Some practices, such as journaling, help tidy our thoughts and rekindle motivations. We benefit from anything that provides perspective or reinforces a good process for moving forward. 


Seeing others perform well can help us appreciate our own strengths and clarify next moves. As a teenager, I heard a story after the 1986 Major League Baseball All-Star game that stuck. Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets and Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox were the starting pitchers. In that game in Houston, pitchers hit for themselves. Playing in the American League day-to-day, Clemens normally had a “designated hitter,” so this was one of his only at-bats since high school.  

Clemons stepped to the plate. He watched a Gooden fastball blaze by. Shocked by the power of the pitch, Clemons turned to home plate umpire Bruce Froemming and asked, “Do I throw that hard?”

Froemming responded, “Yes, Roger. At least that hard.”

Clemens’ at-bat against Gooden offered invaluable perspective about what batters saw when facing him. It gave him tremendous confidence about what to do next and how to approach his work. Clemens went out and pitched three perfect innings, throwing 21 strikes in 25 pitches, and earned the All-Star MVP. That season, Clemens also won the American League Cy Young and MVP awards.


Context and perspective, in turn, enable us to focus on what we can control. Tennis great Serena Williams, who spent a collective 319 weeks (six years!) ranked as the #1 women’s singles player in the world, has a real-time process, brief checklists, for correcting parts of her game. 

With groundstrokes, forehands and backhands, Williams knows that if hitting too long, she needs to “cover the ball” by getting under it to add top spin. If hitting balls into the net, she knows she’s “hitting too flat” and finishes higher when following-through, getting her elbow up. If making mistakes, Williams employs her technical and intuitive understanding of how things need to be to systematically self-correct.


Instead of worrying about bad outcomes, about things that may never come to pass, embrace a process for staying on track. Remember and enjoy your strengths. Understand how things work. Develop a plan with context. Focus on what you control.

1 Comment

  1. Lawrence B Schiamberg

    April 29, 2022 at 12:01 pm

    A wonderful and ever so timely bit of advice on an issue that confronts all of us at some time in our professional careers and life “careers.” Well done!