Today I’m not on the back porch of my property in the deep Texas heat, nor am I on the dock in the Adirondacks experiencing the call of loons and the cool air. Instead I’m sitting in a slightly cramped airline seat, high above the clouds, en route to the closest airport to home.
I’m not only physically above the clouds, I’m mentally above the clouds — yet drained, exhausted, and spent from the effort to create this high-level accomplishment. This, it turns out, has been one of the toughest, most challenging weeks of my life. And though it was not fighting off some disease or horrific trauma, which is about as tough as it gets, it was a high-level game of stress chess.
My goal is to be as transparent with you as possible. I’ve shared some things others would never share. But in this case, I need to protect the privacy of those involved, so I can’t tell you what happened. But I’ll tell you the story around it.
As I was quietly sitting on the porch, painting a watercolor, my wife burst in, frantic with news she had just learned about a family member. “You need to drop everything and get on an airplane now!”
Though she was right, and I eventually came to the same conclusion, I needed to process it first. (Her processor is state of the art, mine takes a little longer.)
A Big Effort
It was 8 o’clock in the evening and there were no flights to be found, but a quick search had me on a flight out first thing the next morning. So I took the boat across the lake, drove to the ferry, took the ferry across Lake Champlain, and drove to Burlington, Vermont, to catch a flight. That was the easy part.
The hard part was some tough love, which involved about five days of mental and emotional wrangling.
Though I never want to leave the lake in the summer, this took priority. It was true “adulting.” And after three days of emotional discussions, I was spent, exhausted, and discouraged.
We Are Behind You
A couple of close friends knew what was going on and kept sending encouraging texts saying, “We’ve got your back.” No advice, just, “We’re praying for you.” My wife was incredibly encouraging, but also let me know that I needed to win this battle between good and evil and that she was counting on me.
Sitting on the couch after a tough day, I was ready to give up and go home. I was getting nowhere. I remember thinking that I can run a big company with lots of employees, I can negotiate major deals with top companies, I can speak comfortably on a stage in front of thousands, yet I was failing at this effort. “I’m done. Time to let the chips fall and move on. I tried my best and it’s not helping.” So I gave up.
Keep in mind I’m praying feverishly for guidance, for help, for positive results. And others were praying. Nothing was working.
A New Perspective
Then something happened. I asked myself, “What would I want if I were on the other side of this battle?” Then it hit me. I’d want me to never give up no matter what, no matter how long it took, no matter what sacrifice was required. I suddenly realized it: Instead of giving up, I needed to envision no other option than a positive outcome. I was ready to give up my summer to solve this problem. Game on.
Once I developed a different attitude, determined to win, it changed my thinking, my actions, and my approach. And it changed the outcome.
On the fifth day, I saw a glimmer of hope, and by the sixth day, I had accomplished my goal and solved the problem. All the tough discussions, heated emotional moments, doubts, defeat, and tears became worth it.
Today, I’m on a high, on a cloud, knowing we’ve achieved the best possible outcome, something we never thought would happen. Yesterday will go down in my history as one of my most difficult on this earth so far. But I prevailed and won a major battle of good versus evil.
Why am I sharing this personal story? I learned too much to not share it.
- It would have been easy to live on hope and not step up and do something that I did not want to do emotionally or physically. I did not want the inconvenience. But I knew I had to step up because it was not about me and my comfort.
- I went into this effort believing I had about a 10 percent chance of accomplishing my goal. I knew I was up against one of the smartest, most clever people I know, and that I was truly stepping into a battle of good versus evil. I could not have done it alone. The power of prayer from others and myself made a massive difference. I could see the moment when everything changed, and it was not about what I had done, it was truly an intervention from God.
- Things did not go well until I changed my attitude and knew I had to win, and I was going to win, no matter what. Once I decided I’d do what it takes, not ever give up, and fight the biggest fight of my life, I knew I would win. It may have taken all summer, or all year, but the determination to get a positive outcome and unwillingness to give up changed everything.
- We can’t do things alone. A couple of good friends stepped up, kept sending me encouraging texts, told me they were praying, and shared their own stories of similar battles.
- Support from my wife and family meant the world to me. Their encouragement drove me.
You and I will have other battles of good versus evil. We can’t ever let evil win.
You can do this. Whatever you are facing, no matter how difficult it feels, how impossible it is to accomplish, you will turn it around the moment you tell yourself that you will win, no matter what it takes. Doing that is a game-changer.
Churchill said, “Never give up — never, never, never.” He was right. Had he not prevailed, the world would be a very different place.
You’ve Got This
Whatever you believe in, if something is critically important to you, you need to make up your mind to win at all costs and never give up. Sometimes things happen fast, sometimes slowly. I saw this in my dad, with a company he had started with a new technology. It took 20 years, but he never gave up.
I can now see things I’ve committed to where I allowed the pandemic to slow me down and almost gave up. I now know that I need to rethink, recommit, and do what it takes (ethically, of course) to set my sights on success and remove all doubt. Once the doubt is gone, the roadblocks no longer look insurmountable.
PS: Please don’t ask. I appreciate your respecting our privacy.
Determination matters. I wanted to launch an online pastel conference and pastel newsletter, but others kept putting up roadblocks to protect their own turf. It crossed my mind to give up, but my readers told me they wanted it, and I was determined to give them what they want because it would result in massive growth and interest in pastel painting. We got the conference launched successfully, and we recently launched Pastel Today (you can subscribe at pasteltoday.com for free).
Our second online pastel conference will be even better than the first. We were worried that people wouldn’t return once the pandemic was over, but the opposite has been true. We’ve had a massive number of people sign up for three days of top instructors who will transform their painting skills (and a fourth Beginner’s Day for those who want to learn pastel). You can sign up or learn more at pastellive.com.
We tell ourselves stories, then we start making them happen. I told myself a story that attendance might be reduced after the pandemic, so I was not trying as hard — until I learned my story was wrong. I told myself a story that people might not attend in August because of travel and vacation time, but I discovered that was not true. Those who do have travel plans are registering and plan to watch the replays. Others plan to attend to be part of the community.
I also discovered something else. Most of the top-tier artists I know strive to be complete, meaning that they want to master every possible means of communication in art. They want to be great at drawing, and at painting in oil, acrylic, watercolor, and pastel, because each informs the others and gives them ways to communicate that other mediums can’t offer. For instance, if I want a certain look or vibrancy in color, pastel is my only option. I’ll be hosting Pastel Live and hope you’ll join me. But know that the price has to go up very soon, and this is the time to capture the lower price. (Even though people tell me it would be worth attending at five times the price.)