Blip or Trend?

At some point in every relationship and along every path to a goal, something goes wrong. A friend disappoints you. A partner is insensitive. You are disillusioned by how a teacher, coach, or church leader handles a situation. You experience a setback. You make a careless mistake. You skip your morning run and choose a double fudge sundae for an afternoon snack. The moment is forever gone; the words cannot be unspoken; and the regret begins.

You cannot undo your choice or rewind your circumstances. Your failed midterm will never magically be given an “A”. In all likelihood, your former boss will not hire you back. However, you have a new choice to make. You get to decide whether this moment in your life remains a blip or becomes a trend.

Choosing Your Future

About five years ago, I learned the concept of the “blip” from a friend who worked as Director of Human Resources for a large bank. He said that a person who loses his job at the bank must decide if this event is a “blip” or the beginning of a career downslide. If the ex-employee is willing to learn the necessary lesson from the unpleasant experience, the event becomes a blip. If the person goes on to the next job with the lesson unlearned, history can repeat itself again, slowly derailing the person’s professional life. Finally, if the person learns his lesson but becomes too demoralized by the experience, the person may never regain his former career trajectory.

Graphing Your Life

A “blip” refers to a point at which a line on a graph makes a sharp change of direction before returning to its original course. A trend is a long-range change in a certain direction. In other words, one argument does not need to create permanent conflict. One double fudge sundae does not necessarily mean the end of a person’s diet. You can lose a battle and go on to win the war.

Marriages that go the distance happen because a husband and wife decide to turn setbacks, disagreements, and stressful events into blips, not trends. People who attend the same church for years do the same within their faith communities. Successful businesses surmount a bad quarter to turn a profit over time. History teaches that individuals who make their mark on society persevere past the quitting point for everyone else.

Clearing the Hurdles

Jonas Salk, the University of Pittsburgh researcher who developed the first safe and effective polio vaccine, had to clear several hurdles before he led his own laboratory. Three institutions turned him down before the dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine offered him a lab. However, when he arrived in Pittsburgh, Salk quickly discovered that the lab was in a cramped basement location of an old building with no laboratory equipment. Yet Salk found funding from the Mellon family, a wealthy and influential family in Pittsburgh.  He turned the cramped basement into a working virology laboratory and went on to develop a vaccine for the worst disease of the postwar era. The rejections became blips and Jonas Salk became a household name.

The next time your faith is shaken through challenging circumstances or frustrating encounters with difficult people, remember Jonas Salk. Choose to make your momentary problem a blip. Even if justified, reject the impulse to wallow in your frustrations, turn away from relationships, and become cynical. Instead, question your doubts, re-engage people productively, and get back in the game.

Key Concepts to Tweet

  • You can lose a battle and go on to win the war.  Buffer
  • Choose to make your momentary problem a blip.  Buffer

10 thoughts on “Blip or Trend?”

  1. Love it! What a great perspective! Thank you for your inspiring and encouraging words. I’ll be forwarding this one!;)

      1. In 1954, the year Dr. Weller, Enders, and Robbins won the Nobel Prize, there were 28,000 cases of polio in the United States. Less than a decade later, that number was 121. Weller and colleagues also were the first to grow varicella (chicken pox virus) in tissue culture, and Weller was also on the team that first isolated rubella (German measles). So Weller participated in instrumental discoveries leading to THREE important vaccines. Wow. Can you imagine having such an amazing impact on the lives of children? Too bad a bunch of Luddites want to erode these amazing accomplishments.

      1. Before the varicella vaccine, chicken pox killed somewhere between 100 & 200 people every year not including varicella-induced miscarriages. It also caused many hospitalizations (tens of thousands annually) and medical office visits (hundreds of thousands annually) not to mention all the lost school days for the kids and lost work days for the parents. There is no truly effective treatment for varicella, although acyclovir and similar anti-virals have some benefit for shingles and disseminated varicella infections.I missed nearly two full weeks of school when I had chicken pox in 1980. My college roommate didn’t get it until he was 21, and he had to be hospitalized for several days and was out of action for nearly a month.No, chicken pox vaccination doesn’t have the major impact that polio and measles vaccination did, but I’d say it’s worthwhile. I’ve seen less than a dozen cases of chicken pox and a half-dozen cases of shingles since I began my medical career, and most of those were very mild cases that broke through vaincce immunity.I see it as a sign of progress that we’re now targeting viruses like varicella and rotavirus that are major causes of morbidity but not necessarily mortality.

  2. Knight -He was an amazing man with a major impcat on child immunization and overall children’s health and life span worldwide. While I can agree that polio (and measles to almost a similar extent) should be immunized against, I haven’t seen any good data to show the health impcat of failure to immunize against chicken pox. In the vast majority of cases, it is a minor annoyance but definately not life threatening or life altering. In that case, I think the individuals right overwhelms any public heath issue.Am I missing something here?

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