3 Things We Can Learn From Being At Rock Bottom (The Emotion, Not The Restaurant)

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In 2014, things in my life were good. I was principal trumpet of the Indianapolis Symphony. I was engaged. I was at the start of what I believed would be a great career full of wonderful opportunities.

1 out of 3 isn’t bad I guess.

Almost everyone reading this can identify with the place called rock bottom. Some major life events didn’t go the way you thought they would, or you’ve experienced some trauma, and you aren’t sure what’s next. You feel lost, hopeless, and you’re not sure how you’re going to dig yourself out and move forward.

But we do make it out. For some, it’s quick. For others, the experiences of rock bottom can take longer to work through. Time heals all wounds, as they say, and so we’re left with wondering “Why did this happen?” and “What’s the point of all this?”. It’s one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, and there is no right answer.

It may sound like a weird perspective, but I’ve been fortunate enough to experience various levels of rock bottom through out my life. Maybe I experienced only one rock bottom, but suffice to say I’ve had many low points. But within those experiences, I’ve noticed something interesting. I’ve observed that I have grown immensely and quite quickly from those experiences.

I began thinking to myself, “If I grow the most when I’m near or at rock bottom, is there a way I can stay there and continue growing?” I wondered if I could make being at rock bottom my choice, so that I wasn’t resistant to it, but rather I embraced it for the sake of learning.

After spending some time dwelling on this concept, I’ve come to the conclusion that although we shouldn’t actively seek out rock bottom, we can extract the feelings we experience while in that state in order to supercharge our own learning process.



Vulnerability is one of the greatest emotions we feel when we’re at rock bottom. We recognize that things are out of control and we don’t feel like we have stability. Our emotional state is much harder to manage, and it can feel like our thoughts are running a mile a minute.

Vulnerability is also one of the greatest emotions we can take charge of to enhance our connection to others and truly experience a full life. Brene Brown’s research is possibly the best resource out there to see the amazing results of embracing vulnerability. If we are able to own our vulnerability, we can reap the benefits of it without waiting to hit rock bottom to experience it.


A Chance To Start Over

One of the most overpowering feelings I felt while at rock bottom is the sense that I was just lost. I had no idea how to take the next step forward. I had planned out my whole life, and in a few short months, the plans for my life were taken out of my hands. It was crushing, and I wasn’t sure where my life would go.

Eventually, I did take some steps forward though, and those steps led me to the audition with the Alabama Symphony. The rest is history of course. What I’ve realized now is that we shouldn’t need to wait until we hit rock bottom to ask ourselves what is the right path for our lives.

If you have a clear path, that’s wonderful! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But for many of us, we have a nagging feeling in the back of our mind that there might be something more. Something else we are capable of. Learning from my past experiences, it would be smarter for me to take steps in that direction on my own terms, rather than waiting until things are out of my control to ask “What’s next?”.


Humble Yourself

Rock bottom for me, more than anything, was humbling. Realizing that plans I had made for myself were outside of my control made me realize there are a lot of things that really aren’t in my control. One of the greatest things to come out of rock bottom was the strengthening of my faith in God. That’s very important to me now, more than ever.

The thing is..  I was never in control of what happened in my life. Making plans is great, but it’s not up to me. To work to humble myself and see where I am led and where I might be able to serve, that is something I can control. It has made such an impact on my overall happiness as a person.

Religion and spirituality aside, rock bottom is a place where we can understand what’s truly important, and where our priorities lie. When we approach our life as if we have it all figured out, it becomes exponentially more difficult to be humble and open to where our lives might go.

Rock bottom is not a comfortable place to be. If anything, I’ve learned to let go of what I cannot control, and to give everything I have to the things I can control. One of those things I can control is looking for opportunities to learn. If I take the lessons rock bottom can teach me, and apply them all the time, I can reap the life changing benefits of it on my own terms.


“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling


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