Guest Post by David Grossman

My year started with a bang, and a reminder of the need to find joy and contentment in the smallest moments.

By 3 pm, I was in the emergency room. By midnight, it was confirmed — my appendix needed to come out. Surgery was scheduled for very early the next morning.

It turns out, my appendix had burst, which made a routine surgery less routine, and my discomfort after surgery all the more intense.

Balancing Health and Work

health and workDespite the rupture, for some reason, I thought that because I was in good health and in pretty good shape, I would be back to my regular schedule in no time! The reality was my recovery was tougher and rougher than I expected. Even so, while I knew I needed to pace myself, I wanted desperately to feel like myself again. I also felt a responsibility to my family, colleagues and clients to return as soon as possible.

My body had other plans. So, I was forced to take it day to day. It was frustrating, but I figured – what else could I do?

Finally, I felt ready to go back to work, yet woke up the next day realizing that I was not ready to go back to work. One step forward, two steps back.

Once again, I vowed that the following day was going to be it! I got up early and set my mindset. Gentle and kind were going to be the words of the day. Plus, celebrate every step forward.

1. Shower. Small celebration.
2. Get dressed. Small victory dance.
3. Make it to work. Small victory song, Kool & the Gang’s “Celebrate.”
4. Prioritize emails. Celebrate!

You get the idea.

A month earlier, I would have blown through all those steps and more without a blink of an eye. And what a shame, in hindsight. So much opportunity for celebration and joy, and silly songs missed!

Lessons My Appendix Taught Me

Maybe there really was a purpose for the appendix crisis. Some lessons I will take forward:

  1. When life gets big, take a step back. When you’re approaching a mountain and are miles out, it seems really small. Yet when you get to the bottom of the mountain and look up, it feels huge. So, when life gets too big, back up a little bit. Sometimes when you’re too close to something, it can feel overwhelming. You feel incapacitated and can’t take the first step.
  2. Be kind and gentle. In the workplace and life, the first person we need to lead is ourselves. Yet in times of stress, we are often hard on ourselves (and others), instead of knowing that it’s time to go easy. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have high standards or expectations. We can have both and still have compassion for ourselves (and then others). Using my self-talk to remind myself of those two concepts was hugely helpful.
  3. Celebrate the little things, especially during challenging times and/or tougher days. When Steve and I took our daughter, Avi — then three months old — on her first trip, we knew it would be a challenging trek. We were headed to Hawaii! To ease the stress, we agreed that we were going to celebrate each and every step forward. Family in the cab. Celebrate. Family through security. High five. Family finds the gate. Dance. Family boards plane. Eureka, we can do this!! And so on. There’s such a rush of emotion that comes from taking a moment to savor accomplishing something small. In reality, all those small steps are really part of something much bigger.
  4. Sip Matzo Ball soup. Comfort foods help. When I’m sick, it’s Matzo Ball soup. It was a staple at our holiday dinners growing up, and my Mom swore by it as a remedy for just about anything. A hearty bowl can go a long way!

For me, getting back to success at work and in life after a painful ruptured appendix was really about remembering what it takes to navigate through any of life’s stresses.

Sometimes, it’s simply about taking a breath and easing your way through, one day at a time. Or, it’s about celebrating the small wins. I’ve seen companies, great teams, and individuals do the same.

Whatever your preferred strategy to handle stress might be (or celebrating the lack of stress!), how do you do more of it in 2018, and be kinder and gentler to yourself?

Guest Post

david grossmanWhen he’s not recovering from an emergency appendectomy, David helps leaders drive productivity and get the results they want through authentic and courageous leadership communication. He’s a sought-after speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 leaders. A three-time author, David is CEO of The Grossman Group, an award-winning Chicago-based strategic leadership development and internal communication consultancy; clients include: Astellas, Health Quest, Hill-Rom, Lockheed Martin, McDonald’s, Microsoft, NYU Langone Health, Tenneco and Wyndham, to name a few. David also teaches the graduate-level Building Internal Engagement course at Columbia University. Click these links to follow him on Twitter @ThoughtPartner and Facebook and to connect on LinkedIn.

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


Sometimes it takes an unexpected emergency to get us to refocus. David Grossman shares how he's reconsidering balancing health and work this year.