There’s no question that we are living in rapidly changing times, but what’s not given much attention in all the emotional conversation is that the outcome will not be the same for everyone. Some people will come through these times bitter while others will end up better. Money has nothing to do with which side we end up on.

Lately I’ve been thinking about something I heard spiritual teacher Terry Cole Whittaker say. When people would come to her for counseling and declare, “My life is falling apart,” Whittaker would ask, “How do you know it’s not falling together?” 

Most of us have had a time–or several–in our own lives when something that seemed tragic turned into something terrific. We humans seem to forget those past turnarounds so allow ourselves to go through all sorts of anxiety–often before our story reaches a happy ending.

The other day I was going through some back issues of Winning Ways when I came across an old AT&T ad which added a little more perspective. Here’s what it said:

I lost a boss.

I found a loan.

I lost a paycheck.

I found a payroll.

I lost an office with a view.

I found perspective.

I lost a title.

I found my own place.

I gave up a position.

I found my future.

Want to come through the turbulence better, not bitter? Try this: Stay calm, breathe, look for the gifts.

The important thing is this: to be able to sacrifice at any moment what you are for what you could become. ~ Cardinal Suenens

When a word or phrase is used too often, it can lose its punch. Consider Joseph Campbell’s oft-quoted, “Follow your bliss,” which seemed breathtaking the first time we heard it. Today’s buzzword is, of course, change. It’s taken a bit of a beating in the past weeks, which is a shame. When an outrageously creative change agent provides positive leadership the impact can be stunning—as the following story shows.

Antanas Mockus had just resigned from the top job of Colombian National University. A mathematician and philosopher, Mockus looked around for another big challenge and found it: to be in charge of, as he describes it, “a 6.5 million person classroom.” 

Mockus, who had no political experience, ran for mayor of Bogotá. With an educator’s inventiveness, Mockus turned Bogotá into a social experiment just as the city was choked with violence, lawless traffic, corruption, and gangs of street children who mugged and stole. It was a city perceived by some to be on the verge of chaos. 

People were desperate for a change, for a moral leader of some sort. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called Supercitizen. People laughed at Mockus’ antics, but the laughter began to break the ice and get people involved in fixing things.

The fact that he was seen as an unusual leader gave the new mayor the opportunity to try extraordinary things, such as hiring 420 mimes to control traffic in Bogotá’s chaotic and dangerous streets.

He launched a Night for Women and asked the city’s men to stay home in the evening and care for the children; 700,000 women went out on the first of three nights that Mockus dedicated to them. 

Another Mockus inspiration was to ask people to call his office if they found a kind and honest taxi driver; 150 people called and the mayor organized a meeting with all those good taxi drivers, who advised him about how to improve the behavior of mean taxi drivers. The good taxi drivers were named Knights of the Zebra, a club supported by the mayor’s office. 

“Knowledge,’” said Mockus, “empowers people. If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change.”

Candidates, take note.