Brilliant sunsets, scenes of the African bush, and experiences with elephants and lions should be part of my Sunday Coffee this morning, as I was due to leave from New York to meet up with my Publisher’s Invitational trip to South Africa.
A Childhood Dream
I was about to live a dream I’ve had since leafing through issues of National Geographic as a child, about to go on a game drive. (I just learned the word safari is no longer considered correct because it has connotations of a time of oppression and the killing of beautiful animals.) About to see animals in their natural habitat, not a zoo. I’d get to paint Africa and create painted jewels for my necklace of memories, and spend time with old and new friends who came along.
Packed and Ready
I spent months getting ready for Africa, studying which lenses I should get for my camera to capture distant game, what kinds of paint I should take along — knowing I might not get my normal solvent through the airlines — and what I should take to accommodate the weight restrictions on luggage. I spent my spare time last week picking up some adventure clothes, and packing my painting gear, clothes, and cameras.
A Last-Minute Change of Plans
I think I mentioned that I had not been feeling well the week before, and as a precaution, I scheduled a visit to my doctor to find out why. Knowing I had very little time, he got me in to see a specialist, who put me through a battery of tests to be done in time for my trip. When we met for the results, he told me he was not confident that I would feel better and he felt I needed even more tests, and he wanted to give me some meds that had to be monitored for a week or so to make sure I did not have a bad reaction.
Then, the words I feared. “I’m afraid, Eric, I’m going to recommend you not go to Africa and that you spend the next couple of weeks getting better so you can go on the rest of your trips.”
(I’ll be going to our Fall Color Week in the Canadian Rockies, Banff, and Lake Louise, and then to Rome and Florence for our Italian Art Trip, then our FACE convention, and then our Radio Forecast conference.)
A Week of Crashing
In the midst of getting packed, having two kids home sick with a virus, and having a deal I had been working on for three years suddenly fall apart, plus trying to get our new soundstage video studio fully decorated and operational before leaving (including getting a floor laid), plus my normal workload and trying to get things done so I could be gone, and then the doctor putting an end to my going on the trip, I was stressed, disappointed, and feeling pretty blue.
Why is this happening to me?
Because I was not feeling well, because I was not sleeping well, because a major deal had fallen through, and because I had to cancel going on my trip, my first reaction was “Why is this happening TO me?” Though it’s unlike me to be negative, it’s easy to get that way when you’re not feeling well.
Once I got some rest and was feeling better, I realized that something wasn’t happening to me, it was happening for me.
What We Want May Not Be Right
Think about this for a second. People always say things like, “If God loves me, why would he let this happen to me?” Yet how many times in our lives has our not getting the things we hoped for ended up leading us to better things? Just because we think something will be good for us does not mean it will be.
I’ve come to realize that I need to be more trusting that all things are being done for me — even the things that don’t go my way, even the things that happen that I don’t understand.
I’ve also learned to pay attention when doors close and stop trying to force them back open.
And sometimes doors keep getting opened that I ignore, and I need to be trusting and go through them.
No, Not One More Thing
For instance, this week, in the midst of all this chaos, I kept seeing a peek of light through a door that has kept opening for me for years. I had resisted it, not because it was not inviting, but because I kept telling myself an old story and had a thousand reasons I should not pursue it. When I stopped to think about it while all this other stuff was going on, I realized it was something I wanted, that I needed, and that I was resisting because of fear and because of being worried about what others would think. I was also so busy, so stressed, that I almost walked away from it because I could not handle one more thing.
A Different View
When you trust that doors will open and close FOR you, when you trust that things happen FOR you and not TO you, it opens your eyes to a different way of looking at life. So I held my breath, held my nose, and jumped through this open door that was about to close forever. And I trust that it was the right thing, and that if it is not, the door will eventually close.
Changing one little word, from TO to FOR, impacts the way we process everything. Suddenly you’re not the victim, you’re the beneficiary.
Remarkably, you see the world differently.
- What am I supposed to learn?
- Why do I have to go through this?
- Why do I or others have to suffer?
- What am I supposed to see that I’m not seeing?
- Am I being self-centered instead of selfless?
Though I know what I want, what I want isn’t as important as the grand plan for my life.
The Gift of DNA
Like it or not, the DNA you were given at the moment of conception is the same DNA that determines how your body responds over time. Some believe that same DNA carries a divine plan for your life. If that is true, shouldn’t we embrace it rather than fight it?
A Talk with My Girlfriend’s Dad
When I was about 17, I was dating a girl who I thought at the time was the love of my life. I dated her on and off till I was about 20. With the girl came a great family, who I adored, and one day her dad sat down with me for a talk. He said, “I’ve noticed something about you — would it be OK if I pointed it out? You’re an amazing young man, you’re bright, you’re intelligent, you’ve got lots of ideas, and you’ve got a promising future. But my daughter has told me you’ve become very negative. You’ve got to manage your self-talk. You’ve got to look at life as the glass half-full, not half-empty. And if you don’t turn this negativity around, your life isn’t going to go well. You’re going to look for problems, you’re going to hurt your success, you’re going to hurt your health, and you’re going to die young and unhappy.”
Wow. Did he just say that?
He went on to coach me about how to change my mindset.
Now, it was nothing I had not heard before. In fact, my own father had coached us on this very thing repeatedly, but because my girlfriend’s dad had seen it and wanted to point it out, he changed my life — because I was not even aware I was doing it. My self-image was that I was a positive person, but my actions didn’t reflect that. His talk made such an impact in my life, I dedicated my first book to him.
About a year ago my wife attended an event called Date with Destiny, put on by Tony Robbins. During the event he gave several days of training about how to get your life together, how to think, and how to manifest things in your life. Though she went through the process, I’m not sure she believed any of it. Yet yesterday she said to me, “I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’ve been manifesting my goals every day by seeing myself in them. Do you know that every single goal I set for myself has come true this year?”
Being Negative About Being Positive
Negative people say that positive thinking doesn’t work, that it’s all nonsense. They will come up with excuses for why good things happen to others, things like “they had advantages” or “their family had money” or “they had a better education.” I know people who had every advantage in the world who had crummy lives, and I know people who had no advantages, who had horrific upbringings and experiences, who are living amazing lives.
Mindset is everything. I’ve seen it manifested in my life, and when it gets out of tune, I see bad things happen. It is why I have to constantly remind myself, check myself, and get away from negativity. It is why we need sleep, we need something to distract us from our stress, we need laughter and fun, and time away, and whatever else recharges our batteries, because sometimes we have to go for long stretches of time dealing with difficult things.
Today, I’d like you to consider how you’re processing this message. What are you finding wrong with it? Why?
I’d also like you to consider the times in your life when closed doors resulted in good things.
And what would happen, if just this week, for one week, you looked at what was happening FOR you instead of TO you?
A Big Negative Snowball
Last week things were happening TO me. I was not feeling well, things I’d been working on were falling apart, I was grumpy, I was making others around me unhappy, I felt as though everything was crashing down on me, and I was not able to go on my own trip to Africa. It was very out of character for me, but things started to snowball. Yet the minute I caught myself, I embraced the closed doors and realized it was all FOR me. As my attitude changed, the negatives became positive.
I don’t know if this is a vibe I was putting out, a change in the universe, or God getting my attention, or what, but the moment I changed my attitude back, even though a lot of things were crashing down, everything corrected itself. And some of the biggest and best things I have been working on for years, months, or weeks suddenly came together, when three days earlier it had been clear they were all not going to happen.
Attention Needed, Please
I also realized one other thing. I spend more time in prayer when things are not going well, and I need to spend more time in prayer when things are going well. It’s almost as though God is saying, “I’ll do what it takes to get his attention and get him into prayer.” By the way, all my prayers were answered. All prayers are always answered. Though it may not be the answer I want, they are all answered, and I have to trust more that I can’t always see things clearly and what I want today may not be what I need today.
I hope you have a great week, and I hope you’ll consider FOR instead of TO.
PS: This past week we remembered the anniversary of 9/11. I was due to be in the South Tower on the morning of September 11. My RadioCentral team was on a fundraising tour, and we were to meet at the towers at 8:30 for breakfast, then wait in the lobby of the SEC while one of our members, Mark, had a meeting there. Then we were going across the street to meet with the Wall Street Journal people who were going to invest. Then that night, we had a flight to Minneapolis to meet with Ginny Morris of Hubbard Broadcasting the following morning. But at the last minute on the Friday before we left, Ginny called and asked to reschedule the meeting for a week later. We would either have to do two trips or cancel the one trip and reschedule everything for a week later. We decided to reschedule and not go to New York.
The man Mark was meeting with died that fateful morning, and we would have been in the waiting room of his office at that time.
I have to admit I was miffed when Ginny called, because I was eager to meet with her and because we had to change our plans. Yet that call to reschedule saved my life and the lives of five of my team members. This is a great example of something that happened for me when I was thinking it happened to me. Since then I’ve learned to accept closed doors.
Though I was pretty frustrated that I could not attend my own trip to Africa, my tests revealed the need to be on some meds, and who knows what would have happened if I’d gotten ill in the middle of nowhere? I have to assume this happened for me. And the good news is I’ll be feeling 1000 percent by my upcoming trip to Banff and Lake Louise and won’t have to disappoint the people going on that trip. I’m so grateful I’ve been placed in a role that allows me to help people live their dreams with trips like that one. If painting in exotic places sounds fun, we probably have a couple of seats left for the Canada trip, and if you love art but don’t paint (or do), there are two seats left for the Italy trip.