Breathe … that’s what I tell myself as I take in the fresh Adirondack air as I do my yoga stretches on the dock to the sound of the loons and the quiet rustle of leaves. It’s the perfect July morning, and a day that will be filled with the smells of grilled burgers and exploding fireworks. Happy 4th. I truly appreciate our independence and freedom.
Have you ever had a moment when you wake up to complete clarity?
Ever carried the weight of something on your shoulders for years, and suddenly found it released?
The true purpose of life is about lessons that strengthen us, make us better, make us more well rounded and experienced. But sometimes those lessons knock us on our butts.
Living a Dream
A few years ago I was telling a story to a friend about my experience with a company I had founded in Silicon Valley. When I started the company, I was living the dream. I was mingling with superstars in the midst of the dot-com boom, people who today are household names. I was in the middle of the action, living the dream.
So what could possibly go wrong? As I was telling the story, I caught myself telling another story I had been telling myself, to soothe my personal pain. It was a story of blame, of circumstances that were caused by other things, like 9/11. But suddenly, I was thinking of the story in a new way. I had told this story of failure time and again, yet this time it was different. And this time the story ended differently. I finally admitted to myself that I screwed up, that I owned the failure, that it was not someone else’s fault, it was mine.
Later the same day, I had a huge moment of clarity. I had been telling this story to myself for two decades, and I had stopped trying big things, taking big risks, because I did not want to relive that pain.
Twenty years of opportunity wasted.
My friend Michelle Abraham recently shared a powerful quote from her dad, the great Jay Abraham.
“Defeat is not permanent.” — Jay Abraham
How would my life have changed if I had not cowered in the corner, if I had jumped right back in?
In our conversation Michelle said, “It doesn’t matter if you fail. But if you give up, your life is over.”
Though I moved on to other things, other ideas and dreams, I realized I had not accomplished one big dream because I had become gun shy. I was telling myself I would never again subject myself to harsh, sometimes mean investors, or to overly aggressive boards of directors.
I was throwing myself a pity party, no longer taking chances on big ideas. And for years I had blamed others. But I was the problem. My perception was the problem. My fear got in my way.
What about you?
What are you telling yourself that isn’t really true?
What are you avoiding because it was painful? Would it be painful again? Would a change of perspective make a difference?
Looking back, I think I’d be completely different today, able to deal with any adversity thrown my way. Even if I had jumped back in soon after, I’d have figured it out, as long as I was willing to stop blaming others.
Hit Me Again!
Accepting the blame for your own failures is one of the most empowering things you can do.
Like a fighter who has been wounded, you know what to expect and are willing to take more hits. The key is knowing there will be hits, knowing they will be painful, but having the tenacity and courage to remain standing.
And … if you do fail, it’s not permanent.
I have a friend who had a bad marriage that ended. So, instead of getting back out there, he never dated again. Though there is a normal grieving period or recovery time, “never again” is too long. And the marriage’s failure was 50 percent his own fault. Accept it and move on so you don’t destroy what’s left of your life.
I look back on my life of failures, of things I thought I’d love, and realize my fear got in my way.
I got thrown off a horse, slammed into the wall of an inside ring during a competition. I stopped riding. I crashed an airplane. I stopped flying.
Fear of repeating failures was dominating my life — yet, having failed, I’d be more experienced and less likely to fail.
How much time have you and I wasted because of our fear of hurt or failure?
It’s not permanent.
I wish I had learned this as a kid. And I remembered “try, try again” from my parents, but somewhere in the midst of life, I lost my courage. Thankfully, I regained it by admitting that I was the problem.
Next time, I’ll heal faster, and get up and take another hit, and another, and another.
Ridicule Can Be Good?
I was watching a documentary about David Icke, a controversial subject. He had reached a point in his career where he was ridiculed on national TV, leading to a decade of ridicule for him and his family. And though it was a miserable and difficult period of his life, he looked back and realized it was the most important thing that ever happened to him because he no longer had to be worried about being ridiculed. He had already experienced it. Now nothing could stop him.
What’s stopping you?
Pain makes your muscles stronger. Fire makes steel stronger. The most empowering thing you can do is admit your mistakes, your failures, and realize where you’re avoiding pain. Then, with that clarity, you no longer have to avoid the pain.