How to Handle a Plot Twist: The Key to Navigating Change

They’ve said that the only thing that is sure about life is death and taxes, but I would also say that another sure thing is that no matter how life is going, there will be a series of plot twists that affect you in significant ways, both good and bad.

People who make a big impact are the people who navigate the waters of the plot twists that take place in our lives. There are all sorts of plot twists that take place. Cancer, bankruptcy, divorce, losing your job, and many others. People who can navigate those plot twists come back better and stronger.

Plot twists don’t have to be negative. Some are very positive. Positive plot twists will catapult you to greater success and impact while negative plot twists need to be overcome and redirected and refocused into furthering you along in your impact journey.

For example, I had a tremendously positive series of plot twists in the early 2000s. I was asked to write for John Maxwell, the best-selling leadership author. That was a tremendous opportunity and plot twist for me. After a couple of years, plot twist number two happened when I received a phone call from Kyle Wilson, the president of Jim Rohn International, asking me to write and co-author with Jim. And then shortly after that, the third positive plot twist in just a number of years happened when I was asked to co-host Zig Ziglar’s television show, True Performance. Prior to working with John, I had a relatively successful speaking business and was making ground. But with those three plot twists, my career catapulted.

Most of the time though, the real battle is with the seemingly negative plot twist. And I say seemingly, very purposefully because I believe that things may seem to be negative but in fact eventually lead to something very positive.

One example of navigating the plot twist is the life of my friend Andre Wadsworth. Andre played High School football and had some accolades but wasn’t recruited much and had to walk on to the Florida State football team. He barely made it as a freshman but by the time he graduated he was one of the best football players his university had produced.

In the 1998 NFL draft, Andre was taken 3rd overall, just behind Peyton Manning at number one in Ryan Leaf at number two. Andre signed a six-year, 42 million dollar contract. Everything seemed incredible for Andre and his future was as bright as it possibly could be.

Then all the injuries started. After 3 years of playing in the NFL and after many surgeries on his knees, Andre was out of football. 

Andre found himself asking the question that so many people do when they get hit with a negative plot twist: Now what do I do? 

For many, it is to quit. They become so fearful and despondent and discouraged that they decide that they won’t pursue their big dreams anymore. They become victims rather than victors. People who make a great impact in their lives and businesses handle negative plot twists differently.

But it is what Andre is doing now, which was another plot twist in and of itself, this is really making an impact. Andre was running a Bible study in the Phoenix area for professional athletes from the four major Phoenix area sports teams, the Cardinals, the Coyotes, the Suns, and the Diamondbacks. Soon, with over a hundred people attending, they hired a preaching pastor and Andre became the administrative pastor. That church is now one of the 10 fastest growing churches in America, Impact Church. And every Sunday morning you will be greeted by a gentle giant, the six-foot-five, 280 lb former third pick in the NFL turned Pastor, Andre Wadsworth. He’ll give you a great big smile and hand you a bottle of water and welcome you to church. What seems like a negative plot twist for him, has turned into something impacting thousands of people every week.

What does it take to navigate a plot twist? Well, it depends on whether it is positive or negative, so let’s take a look.

Positive plot twists

Be thankful. The first thing we should always do is show gratitude. When life takes a turn for the better, we have to be purposeful about our thankfulness and gratitude. If something were to go negatively, many would naturally grumble and complain so when something goes well, why isn’t it that we are naturally thankful and filled with gratitude?

Don’t fight it. When a positive plot twist happens, it’s a little bit like riding a wave. Sometimes you don’t know where it’s going to take you because life has a funny way of taking us to places we didn’t know we were going. So when things are going well, yes be looking ahead and making sure you’re not headed towards danger, but enjoy the ride.

Plot your strategy from your new landing place. Your new plot twist is going to take you to another level. Now that you’ve leveled up, how do you go further? What will be your strategy? Understanding this will be the key to making sure that you don’t lose momentum and making your impact.

Negative plot twists

Stop the plot twist if at all possible. For example, if your spouse gets sick, that’s a plot twist, but it doesn’t mean that you have to accept the finality of it. You can fight it. And you should.

Limit the damage. If the situation cannot be turned back, then it is time to limit the damage. What can you do to keep this going from being a negative plot twist to a fatal plot twist?

Ask yourself what you can learn from the situation. Every negative situation provides learning opportunities. The worst situations in the world can turn into powerful opportunities when we are willing to look in the mirror and ask ourselves questions about what we are learning from the situation. How will this make us stronger? How will this make me smarter?

Look for the buried treasure. The stories of people who have had negative things happen to them who have turned them into positive successes and impact, are in the millions. The buried treasure for my friend Andre what’s that now he’s helping thousands of people every week grow spiritually.

Use the power of brokenness that comes from negative plot twists. One of the things that you find from people who have gone through negative plot twists is that they are much more transparent, authentic, and human. This is one of the things that makes them so powerful. All of the peripheral falls away. Their focus can become lightning tight.

The man who didn’t spend enough time with his wife before she got sick changes and he becomes a better man by being more devoted to his wife.

The woman whose parents are trapped by Alzheimer’s learns to become a servant and get back to her parents who gave so much to her when she was a child.

The man who is let go from his job of 20 years because of downsizing it’s finally forced to become an entrepreneur like he has always dreamed of.

You were made to make an impact. The journey is amazing. There are twists and turns and hills and valleys to go through. There will be plot twists all along the way. Successful people understand this before they start the journey to prepare in advance so they are able to make the changes they need to make when all of the sudden life or business is going in a different direction than they thought it would go.

About Chris Widener 2 Articles
Chris Widener delivers about 40 speeches a year on influence, sales, and leadership because of his passion for helping people achieve their Peak Performance. He is a NY Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of numerous books including “The Art of Influence” and “Leadership Rules."

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