Control, Letting Go and other life lessons from the Cincinnati Zoo Incident

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Sometimes you can be doing everything right and your kid still falls into the gorilla exhibit.  This incident, which made national news this past week, is a brilliant metaphor for life and for any of our aspirations/dreams/goals that we are intentionally manifesting, in my ohsohumble opinion.  Stay with me.

My initial reaction in reading the headlines were embarrassingly and sadly typical- ::palm to face:: what is wrong with people these days…  I sighed.  I judged.  I was angry.  I wanted justice.

But today, after watching the actual video footage for the first time, I had a set of very different thoughts and emotions swell from within.  If you have checked out from the internet recently and don’t know what I am talking about, the incident I am referring to is that of a 3-year old boy falling into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati zoo, where the zookeepers had to make the very difficult decision to shoot and kill the gorilla who had gotten hold of the boy after his fall.  The boy’s screams, the mother’s panicked voice as she tried to calm him from above, saying that he would be ok:  These haunt me.  I ugly cried.

As a deliberate creator, I know the ideal thing to do in that moment is to be calm, accept that I am not in control and visualize safety for my son and for the animals in the exhibit.  But who am I kidding?  It would have taken the strength of 6 grown men, pinning me down as I kicked and clawed and cursed like a sailor, to stop me from climbing in after him with more hubris beaming from my chest than a Greek God.  Clearly I have a lot of growth left in me.  I deeply love and accept myself anyways.  (But I digress.)

That 2 minute video brought to the surface one of my most visceral and darkest fears that I think every parent (or entrepreneur or business owner) has: we are not “in control” of how life plays out, and at any given moment in any given day, something terrible could happen despite our efforts otherwise.  This applies to parenting of course, but also life in general as well as failures experienced in business.  You can put the time in, you can have your brilliant idea, execute and a tornado hits your office building.  I was sitting with someone who had a brilliant business idea and they day he was supposed to pitch it (in New York), was on 9/11/2011.  Bad timing or divine intervention?

But back to my point.  Having this deep, dark fear unearthed shook my normally quite positive and intentional perspective about life.  Resistance surfaced that I didn’t really realize existed because I don’t often think about it – but it was there, lurking.  I realized I have this deeply engrained resistance to this notion that shit happens, that despite all your best efforts, tragedy still can occur.  I don’t like it.  As my daughter Mia would say, “is ickies mama. Yuck. Ptuh ptuh.”

This can hit you hard.  Who of us really wants to believe or accept this?!  We all want to be infallible.  Failure is not an option, we tell ourselves.  And yet, it is.  At any given moment, we could “fail.”  That is why, even despite my initial reaction, even amongst the hatred, outcry and judgment you see swirling around the situation, I have the deepest empathy.

No parent (or entrepreneur or business person) wakes up happily exclaiming, “YES! Now let’s see what creative way I can f#ck up again today!”  No parent wishes trauma on their child or themselves.  EVERY parent (and business owner and entrepreneur) is trying as best they know how and wants to protect what matters most to them.  What would happen if we took this sad and tragic incident as an opportunity to express love and support?  What if we chose to use this contrast as a reason to express gratitude for how good we have it right now?  What if we chose to count our blessings instead of burdens?

Bad things happen- that doesn’t mean we can’t derive good from it.  No matter our efforts, at best we are co-creators in this life.  Drop the judgment and pick up your beautiful child.  Be grateful – appreciate your life as much as you possibly can.  That is the lesson you can choose to take from this incident.  God/The Universe does not promise you that you will get through life without failure- instead, there is massive support and rewards given for those of us that can keep the faith, pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and continue pressing forward.

You don’t control life.  You can’t control every second of every day for your loved ones, nor should you try.  Instead of dwelling on your fear of not being in control, rejoice in the fact that you DO have control over some things!  You are 100% in control of how you choose to respond to what life presents to you each and every day- your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions.

It is only with this kind of intentional perspective that we can look back and say we lived our best life.  Choosing to let go and live each day with a sense of joy, wonderment and gratitude is the magical trifecta for a life lived with no regrets.  This will allow you a life filled with love, passion, purpose and achievement.  I saw a shirt once- my favorite shirt ever- and it said, “when life gives you lemons, keep them…because hey, free lemons.”  What are you doing with your free lemons today?

Want to work on this?  Here are some quick tips- start integrating these starting tomorrow:

  1. Once a day (set an alarm), write down 5 things you are grateful for.
  2. Take 3 minutes to watch a funny Youtube or home video clip to intentionally add a dose of joy.
  3. Take another 30-60 seconds to visualize your perfect life.

Every small step matters.

Ask yourself:

  • What is happening in your life right now that you can choose to see with this new, intentional perspective?
  • What judgment and negativity are you allowing to control the trajectory of your life’s path?

Join me today- choose your thoughts more wisely today and change your life forever.  Oh, and also, you are doing a great job.  Be gentle and forgive yourself- you are doing the best you can.  Extra abundance points for forgiving someone else too.




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One Response to Control, Letting Go and other life lessons from the Cincinnati Zoo Incident

  1. Pat duprey says:

    I think these are things I need to be told regularly. Sometimes when I’m too focused I forget to let go some of these things beyond my control. I think I need this lesson to be repeated often tome. Thanks Jamie.

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