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We have a choice: freak out or flow.

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I came downstairs to make my Bulletproof Coffee (only decaf these days), my new morning ritual, and Mike looked up at me in his adorable scruffiness as he said, “Want to hear the super exciting news now or later?”

“Now!” I replied enthusiastically.

“All 21 days of the Money Love Challenge emails went out this morning!”

Oy vey. Really? There’d been an unsaved sequence glitch in our system that triggered the whole freaking thing all at once on the first day.

We sent over 8,000 people 21 emails each, all within a few-minute period. Not exactly how we were intending the challenge to start out.

Side note: As I write this, “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine came on. (I always thought it was “Shake It Off” until this very moment. I prefer that title and will continue to sing it that way when I’m dancing alone in my living room. I like the symbolism better.)

“And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back,” she sings. Ain’t it the truth.

So how do we get that devil off our backs?

Here’s the deal: pretty much every day for the rest of our lives things are going to happen which we wish would not have. Especially if we’re out there doing things that stretch us or someone else.

We have a choice: freak out or flow.

An initial freak-out is normal. Perhaps even necessary.

But how long your freak-out lasts is really a personal choice.

Pretty quickly after my “Oh shit” moment, when I started spinning out about our looking like complete internet marketing neophytes, I realized something:

True emergencies are rare.

Separating true emergencies from mere hiccups is freedom. (Tweet it!)

This was not an emergency.

Mike shot a quick video apologizing for the error. I wrote a quick email doing the same. We cleaned it up to the best of our ability and moved on with our day.

Freak Out Or Flow

Next time something happens that you aren’t super psyched about, check in with yourself and ask:

  1. Is this an emergency or a hiccup? (Hint: 9 times out of 10 it’s a hiccup. When you identify it as such your entire physiology will shift. Your stress hormones will decrease. Your breathing will deepen. The rest-and-restore system will be triggered. And you’ll be much better equipped, emotionally and mentally, to make a smart decision about what to do next.)
  2. What can I do to fix, or at least improve, the situation? (Hint: 9 times out of 10 a sincere, “Pardon me,” combined with a brief explanation of how you’re working to fix the problem will do the job quite nicely.)
  3. Do that thing as soon as possible with a lot of love and as little frantic energy as possible.

When you identify a problem as a hiccup rather than an emergency, you deal with it like the sane, gracious human being you are. That’s a gift to everyone.

I got quite a few messages from sweet friends reminding me that all is well, that tech mess-ups are part of being adorably human, and that the crazy numbers of emails were simply a manifestation of rampant abundance. I love the people I’m blessed to get to love.

As I wrote out my apology email I remembered this:

Mistakes are part of the business of creation. If you’re not making them, you’re not making much. (Tweet it!)

Next time there’s a problem and you note that it’s a hiccup, not an emergency, congratulate yourself. Likely you’re out there making shit happen. And no matter what happens, that’s a good thing.

Over to you:

How do you most effectively turn your freak-outs into flow? Have you ever felt like something was an emergency but then realized it was just a hiccup? How did the switch in how you perceived it help you or not? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

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  • Celeste

    Oh Kate, I just want you to know the reality for me was that it was no big deal all the emails came at once. I learned years ago as a mother of eight children, if you’re not hurt, bleeding or dying, it’s ok. Mistakes happen. It keeps humor and humbleness in our lives.
    Enjoy your day and know you and Mike are loved for the great job you are doing!!

  • Willo

    This email came as I was emailing my husband that I wanted to flow more. I started a new job this week in computer software management and immediately my server and computer started to freak out. I had to go to my boss (a computer whiz) and explain that as I am sorry & I will do my best as try to fix this. Then the hard part…accept I had done all that I could. Thank you for sharing. There are no coincidences.

  • Joan Perticone

    I love my dear friend’s saying: “If it’s not life & death and it’s not nuclear physics, don’t treat it as such!”

  • Thanks Kate,

    I really needed to hear this today.

    The pause and reframe to see that most things are just a hiccup is really calming.


  • Hi Kate, I loved your post. Thank you for reminding us to put things into perspective.
    My way of dealing with hiccups? I usually try to reframe everything from a positive perspective. After all, ever when *** happens, we can usually learn something from it. Life is a constant lesson.
    Lots of love,
    Xana xx

  • With a four-year-old and an eight-year-old with disabilities under my care, choosing to freak out or flow is a daily challenge and choice. :) We all have a much better day when we can step back and find the humor in a situation or see it as a moment in our day that we can all learn from. I take a deep breath, wait before reacting, and try to be a good role model for dealing with life’s hiccups. Thanks for sharing your flow to your hiccup, Kate. :)

  • Kristine

    I tend to ignite quickly and then wallow in “Why did I do that!? AGAIN!” Messages like this blog post help and recently I’ve found that when I feel it coming, I try to channel a couple of people in my life that exemplify calm reaction. I’m lucky to have a manager at work who falls into this category so when a work situation starts to escalate I try to think about her and how she reacts and try to do the same. Those occasions that I think quick enough it almost always works! She gets quieter, calmer, listens and responds calmly but directly and with purpose. I hope that this becomes automatic for me eventually.

  • Mary

    hi kate and thanks for today’s post. there is a gauge i’ve used for years,taught to me by a colleague when our landlord gave us ten days notice to move our medical practice out of the building. it goes like this: ask yourself if the problem or incident will still be as dramatic or drastic or awful a year from now. might you even be laughing about it? needless to say, it was rough to move our practice, but we got it done with some glitches, and WERE laughing about it – less than a year later. this ‘tip’was so helpful to me at the time, and has been in many instances since.

  • I’m choosing to flow right now :) Thanks for this post – I found it encouraging. So wedding arrangements were all set, until the hotel called this week to say that they don’t have enough rooms for all our guests! Officially filing this as a hiccup :)

    • Kate Northrup

      Totally! Weddings are full of hiccups. Just remember that as long as you’re there marrying the person you love, all is well :)

  • JA

    Great topic Kate! I practice my technique frequently. If a tangible item is involved, I immediately ask myself if it is a replaceable item. Even if it is pricy, such as the washing machine breaking down, or loosing expensive sunglasses. Even if I can’t financially afford to repair/replace at the current moment, somehow this gives me relief that it isn’t so dramatic.
    If it is a scenario that SNAFU’s, I ask myself if it will be the same big deal in a a year. (Or a few weeks, months from now, etc).
    Hope this helps someone else?

  • I love the need to let it flow. I own a sign shop and one day last year, my whole system crashed. I knew it was bad. The last time it happened, I was down for 2 weeks.

    First, I called my computer guru to get him on it, then I put up my “back in an hour” sign, locked up and went next door to the nail salon and had a pedicure.

    It allowed me time to sort out my next actions in a calm and rational manner. I have used this technique again. It works to remind me that when I am the calmest person in the room, my decisions are clearer and better thought out.

    Thanks for the reminder. -Beth

  • Angela

    as soon as I saw all the emails, I knew it was an error and was like, ugh…poor Kate…what a way to start, but you handled it brilliantly…I’ve deleted all the emails except the ones as they come and all is well…i’ve come to believe and act that it is not what happens, but how we deal with it that matters…breathing is good and also helps when you have a teenage daughter!

  • Alyne

    Actually it was perfect. It brought the group closer before the challenge began which was a blessing.
    Think you.

  • Shannon

    Kate, this blog post really resonated with me. I started doing coaching recently and we talked a lot about the acute stress response of fight vs. flight. As humans, we are wired this way but I think you’re 100% right about 9 times out of 10, it’s just a hiccup that we can gracefully move past. No need to go into hyper stress response and perceive it as an emergency. Thanks for this blog post!

  • Kara Foreman

    I can so relate to this. In early December my city in the Pacific Northwest experienced torrential rains and an unprecedented (in my time here) rise in the river, flooding the surrounding areas. I woke up to 3 inches of water throughout my (rental) suite. For the first 2 days I was in shock. How long would it take to fix? Where would I live? Where would I put all my stuff in the interim? Day 3 I was back at work – back to “normal” – and by the end of the day I had an awakening. I realized that these were all just “first world problems” – that seriously there were so many people in the world who had it way worse than me. My sisters who live 45 minutes south of me offered me space and since then all the other issues have been dealt with. I agree, Kate, that at first I needed to have my freak out. My “little one” was in survival. But once I’d calmed her with a day of normal, I was able to pull my adult forward and just deal with the problems. I’ve since found several silver linings and a renewed gratitude for all I have. It’s really all about your “perspectacles.! Thanks, Kate. Love all the great stuff you share. Onward! xo

  • Love this. Love you. It’s perfect. I feel like you’ve really found your voice.

  • Corinne

    I usually try to remember that line from Dirty Dancing where her father says something to the effect of “This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine” because in the reality of things usually what is happening in my life is not so horrible someone will die.

    By the way, there actually is a song “Shake If Off” which is a Taylor Swift song that is popular now. Equally as good to sing in these types of situations.

  • Love the your title!!! And love how you handled the whole techie glitch thing, never mind how awesome the challenge is. Rock on.

  • Omg Kate, you seriously gave me a HUGE gift by sending these emails all at once. It made me realise everyone is human. I thought “well if Kate Northrup makes mistakes sometimes then it’s OK for me to too”. Yup, I beat myself up a lot if I’m not “perfect”, but I’m working on it. Thank you!!!

  • Maria

    If nobody is going to die or be permanantly maimed, it’s not an emergency, it’s a problem. Problems can be solved.

  • thank you kate for the explanation and great piece about he importance of mistakes. I am such a non technical person and worry about my writings beig perfect, and not knowing how to correct tech problems is a reason not to get involved for me.

  • Hi Kate, yay, no one died from this, how Kewl we live in an understanding Universe. You probably know you may need to say an Affirmation that Mercury Retrograde effects be minimised between 21 Jan – Feb 11. Like me, you’re feeling the communication faux par’s early

  • Murray Daines

    Regarding your sending out multiple emails actually I giggled and had more to read with my morning coffee. In reality, if anyone did get upset or digressed their confidence in you than there is the primary reason they are where they are. It is Saturday morning and I was excited to get day four! So I won’t tell you about the “day 3” video repeat!.
    You ARE just like us…. human.
    You cut to the chase and keep it simple. That alone deserves a “Thank you”!
    *Commentator’s Suggestion*
    Get Mike to scare you to get rid of this hiccup!
    Have a great weekend!

  • Couldn’t agree with you more – quite frankly, if it’s not life or death, then it isn’t really a problem. It’s how people handle the problem that counts!

  • Jill

    Thank you for the flowing inspiration.

  • lauren

    Perfect timing for this advice. My flat mate just flew off the handle about something which happened in the past which I apparently did. I could have sat and feeled guilty about it or angry because I wasn’t in the wrong. Instead I went for a walk and “shook it off” xo

  • Hi Kate,

    I love this article, it so beautifully captures the essence of our initial emotional reaction in the face of a challenge. Thank you for your genuine transparency, it’s why we all love you!

    For me this particular topic is relevant as my husband and I spent 3 weeks over the holidays in a hotel with our two cats and dog due to our house’s roof collapsing into our living room.

    From that experience I learned, after the inner panic of course, that each challenge is an opportunity for us to become more of who we’re supposed to be. I knew in my heart it was “just a hiccup” as you say, and that we were lucky that was the worst of it. I definitely can attest to feeling my core soften every time I reminded myself that this was just the work – putting the pedal to the metal :)

    Love & Hugs,

  • Love this! It is so easy to get caught up thinking things are bigger (as in way worse) than they are. The biggest thing that has helped me tone down my freak-outs in general has been my daily meditation practice. Twenty minutes in the morning and I am good to go. I still experience the beginnings of freak-outs from time to time, but I am much more likely to take a step back and realize how ridiculous I am being rather than going into full blown freak-out mode. Go meditation!

  • Semi-hysterical laughter – WOW do I get this! During the last year of budding online, I’ve had my share of glitches – some of them tough to keep breathing through. You are absolutely right – there is alchemy here. Claim the good and flow!

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