Bouncing Back From Adversity

One of my biggest challenges growing up was learning to own the life I’d been given. That may sound like a no-brainer to those of you that have heard my story. After all, I had no choice in all the experiences of those early years. But the truth is that everybody experiences things they didn’t choose.

Many people spend the rest of their lives protesting and rebelling against the injustices of their past. They fill their minds with a long list of excuses for not chasing their dreams.

Others choose to own their lives and rise above their circumstances regardless of what happened.

One of the keys to bouncing back from adversity is accepting responsibility for your future, in thick and thin. That doesn’t mean you remain where you are. And it doesn’t mean you downplay negative circumstances or act like you enjoyed every moment you’ve been alive. What it does mean is that you reach a point where you admit, “Nobody but me can make something of my life.” It’s ultimately an admission that you have no excuses for not giving your all to be successful.

I know because I’ve been there. There were so many days that I had every excuse to strive for nothing but survival. I could make a compelling argument that life was out to get me. Yet, instead of finding excuses for not succeeding I realized that I had to find a way around them and do whatever it took to be successful.

We all have reasons – some of them very legitimate reasons – to stop pursuing our dreams. I must have had a couple thousand before I reached middle school. You might too. But you can’t let your reasons for quitting dictate what you do. Instead of spending time wallowing in your past, you have to spend your time finding a way to a brighter future.

In the end, excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure. It’s OK to acknowledge they are there, but to be successful and achieve your dreams you have to learn to not pick them up. People who succeed do what they say they’re going to do. People who fail make excuses for falling short.

Excuses are a sign of weakness, and they pave the road to failure. Excellence is a sign of strength, and it paves the road to success.

Drop the excuses and embrace excellence at every turn.

 

Adversity Exposed

Unknown-3It is often said that it’s not what happens to us but how we respond to what happens that makes all the difference in the end. When it comes to facing adversity, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

When facing adversity it’s important to acknowledge that we always have the freedom to choose how we respond to people, events and circumstances. We can respond in a very negative or limiting way, or we can choose to respond in a more optimal and productive way that can potentially open doors and windows of opportunity that we weren’t aware of before.

To dig even deeper; all of us have the freedom to choose our own beliefs, words, thoughts, and the attitude we bring into every situation. In fact, we also have freedom to choose the level of effort and determination we bring into every moment.

When you have a thought, this immediately triggers feelings. In fact, the internal dialogue you have with yourself manufactures your emotional experiences. Therefore if you think/talk negatively about a situation then this will typically cause you to feel stressed, fearful or overwhelmed. And this certainly has nothing to do with the situation, but rather everything to do with how you have interpreted the situation.

Given all this, it’s clear to see that how we handle adversity has nothing to do with what happens to us, but rather everything to do with the “kind of person” we bring into each situation. As such, it’s absolutely paramount that we accept full responsibility for the role we play in each moment. You are after all in the driver’s seat of your life, however it’s easy to forget the power you have when you respond emotionally to our circumstances.

With that in mind, it’s important to acknowledge that the only thing that matters is:

             How I see the obstacle I face…

             How I respond to this adversity…

             How I maintain my composure when facing adversity…

             The story I tell myself about what is going on…

It essentially always comes down to the story you tell yourself. In fact, it is the story that will either empower you or deflate you emotionally; it is the story that will either help you move forward or hold you back; it is the story that will either open the doors to opportunity or send you into the pits of despair. Adversity has absolutely everything to do with the story! The story you tell yourself is what effectively determines your next steps moving forward.

Paying the Price

Paying the PriceI once heard about a young man who, in his eagerness to make it to the top, went to a well-known millionaire for advice about how to get there.

“What is the first reason for your success?” he asked.

“Hard work,” the millionaire replied.

Disappointed, the inexperienced fellow responded, “What is the second reason?”

We laugh at this young man’s desire for a quick-and-easy formula, but his response brings up a much more serious question for people who aren’t doing what they know they’d like to do: Are you willing to pay the price to get there?

You’ll never live the life you’ve always dreamed of at a bargain-basement price. In fact, the cost is often much higher than most people are willing to pay. I’ve seen more examples of this than I can count. People start chasing their dreams with energy and enthusiasm, only to fizzle out when they realize how much effort is involved. If they had counted the cost first; if they had seriously investigated what it would take to make them successful in that area, they may have gone another direction. Instead, they’re right back where they started, dissatisfied and unfulfilled.

The way to avoid this scenario, of course, is to count the cost of doing what you’d like to do before you begin. So what does the price tag include? Here are just a few items:

1. Hard work
There’s no way around this.  You can’t fulfill your dream without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. You also will have to spend time, large quantities of time, working diligently and doing things you don’t particularly like in order to prepare yourself for the future you want.

2. Learning
Doing what you love will require you to be teachable, acquire some new skills, and polish your existing abilities. Are you willing to devote the time, effort and energy to making that happen?

3. Discipline
It takes focus and commitment to pursue your dreams without getting sidetracked or giving up. Success doesn’t just happen. You have to be intentional about it, and that takes discipline.

4. Change
At the surface, this might not seem like a significant price. As we all know, change isn’t easy. It can cause stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and a host of other uncomfortable emotions.     However, change almost always produces growth.

5. Emotional Stamina
On your way toward doing what you love, you’re going to stumble and you undoubtedly will take a few hard falls. When that happens, you’ve got to have the intestinal fortitude to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get going again. Do you?

As you think about the price of doing what you want to do, remember that the only way to find out for sure how much you’ll have to pay in each of these areas is to find someone who is living what you’d like to do and ask them about the cost. Ask them what they DID in order to DO what they do.

The young man in our introduction got it partly right, he went to someone for advice about how to be successful. Sadly, his response shows that he was unwilling to pay the price. But it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Now the ball is in your court. If you know what you want to do but aren’t doing it yet, stop making excuses and start taking steps to make it happen. Don’t wait until everything is perfect to begin because everything will never be perfect. Don’t put it off until tomorrow because tomorrow you’ll be tempted to put it off until the next day.

Just start.

And as you begin, remember these three truths about the end result.

1. Doing what you want to do will be different than you imagined it would be.

2. It will be more difficult than you ever imagined.

3. And it will be better than you ever imagined.

I can assure you that when you’re doing what you really want to do, it’s not work. It’s fun because you’re reaching your potential and you’re helping others reach theirs. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Are Successful People Made or Born?

Made Not BornThere is no question in my mind that most successful people are made and not born. It has always amazed me how some of the most successful people of all time have gone through, overcome and survived serious obstacles in life before they succeeded. That is the reason I’ve given my life to reaching this generation of students with a message of character, leadership, and faith. You see, many people today have bought into the stereotype that most teenagers are messed up, beyond reach and headed down a wrong path that cannot be corrected. I completely disagree with this assumption.  Why? Because over the last 15 years I have listened to thousands of stories from young people that have found hope through my personal experiences and have chosen to take responsibility for their own lives and not let excuses keep them from being the success they were created to be.

For example, last month in Michigan after speaking in a high school assembly a young man asked me if he could talk with me in private. He started off by telling me that he came to school so depressed that he didn’t feel like living anymore. I asked him why and he immediately opened up. He told me how his life changed when he was nine years old and his father was sentenced to 6 years in prison for drug trafficking. He shared how his mom was never the same after that – “she was always depressed.”  When he was ten, he walked in the house after school and found his mother in the living room with a gunshot wound to her head. She had decided that the pressure of life was too much and killed herself. He said he had been living with his aunt for the past five years and just figured he would turn out like his mom or dad.

Then, he looked me in my eyes and told me that his life changed that day in my assembly. He said that listening to my story caused him to realize that regardless of how bad things have been, if you have breath in your lungs, there’s still hope.  I’ll never forget the look of strength on his face when he told me that he wasn’t going to give up and that he was going to go to college, earn a degree, and make something of himself. That’s why, I believe successful people are MADE not born.  The fact that this young man is determined not to give up makes him a success!

Stop Letting People…

Stop letting people dump on your dreams. Life will test you to see how serious you are about pursuing your dreams.  And sooner or later you’re going to face negative feedback from others.  When this happens, remember not to let anyone crush your spirit.  If you are passionate about something, pursue it, no matter what anyone else thinks.  That’s how dreams are achieved.

Stop letting naysayers talk you out of putting in the extra effort. Hard times often lead to greatness.  Keep the faith.  It will be worth it in the end.  The beginnings to great things are always the hardest.

Stop letting people bully you. Bullying is not OK.  Period.  There is no freedom on Earth that gives someone the right to assault who you are as a person.  Sadly, some people just won’t be happy until they’ve pushed your ego to the ground and stomped on it.  What you have to do is have the nerve to stand your ground.  Don’t give them any leeway.  Nobody has the power to make you feel small unless you give them that power.

Stop letting friends be untrue to you. What is a true friend?  Someone who loves you no matter what, but still inspires you to be a better person.  Be a true friend to others, and keep only true friends close to you.

Stop letting people keep you bitter. Remember, the first to apologize is the bravest.  The first to forgive is the strongest.  The first to move forward is the happiest.  Always.

Stop letting people use your past to poison your present. Life is too short to tirelessly struggle with old news and those who refuse to let it go.  Some people cannot stand that you’re moving on with your life and so they will try to drag your past to catch up with you.  Do not help them by acknowledging their behavior.  Keep moving forward.  Practice forgiveness.  Letting go of the past is your first step to happiness.