Crack! The massive cracking sound slammed the all-metal water tower on the country road in front of our property, and it reverberated like a giant speaker. Sheets of rain are pouring down, an Armageddon of water from our roof. Zero visibility has eliminated my view. Silence does not exist as the wind howls and pellets of rain slam the metal roof. Suddenly I’m startled by an annoying emergency flooding alert on my phone. Yet the family sleeps, unaware of the chaos.
I’m not sure why I love storms so much. I don’t recall ever being afraid of the thundering noises. When I was a child l, we would open the garage door for storm-gazing. We would cheer at thunder and lightning, which we referred to as “God bowling.”
Chickens and Mountain Lions
In that garage we raised chickens and a baby mountain lion cub (“Blinky”) and a couple of dogs. It was home to my blue Stingray bike with the giant handlebars, and later my gold Schwinn with a fake “varoom” motor on it. I was such a nerd.
It’s amazing to me how the thought of a storm triggers so many memories of that garage.
Quick or Sustained?
I’m not sure, but I think I’d rather live in a place where we get all our water in huge, gushing storms rather than a steady stream of rain over long periods of time. That’s also the way I prefer life’s storms. I’d rather get them over with and deal with them, no matter how severe, than have my life be one ongoing problem after another.
Some acquaintances live in perpetual storms. It seems like life never cuts them a break, and they suffer through endless problems. Sometimes those storms are real problems — but other times they are attitudes looking for problems. There are people who find problems in everything.
I Thought Problems Followed Me
I have memories of moments when I was like Pig Pen, the character in the Charlie Brown comics with a cloud of dirt floating all around him. When problems would hit, it was as though they never ended. I would wallow in them. I would talk about them all the time. I wanted others to feel sorry for me.
Then one day I discovered the way I perceived problems was the reason my problems stuck with me. A wise mentor told me to embrace problems.
I thought he was nuts, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the biggest growth comes from pain. The brightest sun comes after the dark clouds of a storm.
Though none of us like pain and we don’t look forward to problems, these problems are what form us. My dad likes to say that it’s the hottest, bluest flames that harden steel.
I’d be lying if I told you I look forward to problems, but by changing the way I look at them, by knowing that they will provide growth and something better, I have become much happier.
A Giant Storm
This past week I was faced with a giant, tornado-like storm in my life. Though I was bothered and somewhat stressed, I faced it with strength, with calm, and without raging emotions. That allowed me to see the upside of a bad situation, and to help others who were experiencing severe emotions see that there might be a silver lining in this dark cloud. In fact, the outcome was better than anything we could have imagined. Even though the start of the week seemed like the end of the world.
What about you?
How do you look at life’s challenges and problems?
Do you face your problems with grace, and with a sense that no matter how dark it is, you’ll be better off on the other side?
Thirty years ago I spent a weekend lying in bed, crying in fear and shaking endlessly because a doctor had told me I was going to lose vision in both of my eyes and be blind for the rest of my life. I allowed my fears to control me.
Two years ago it happened again — I went about 80 percent blind in one eye. I called the doctor and went in for an emergency procedure. I was calm, I was joking with the doctor, and though I feared the worst, that fear did not control me this time.
The only difference was how I looked at the problem.
Walking in Your Shoes
I’ve not walked in your shoes, I don’t know the severity of your problems, I don’t know the issues you face with your loved ones. I cannot begin to imagine your pain. But I can tell you that flipping this switch in my head made me stop living with fear and drama.
Maybe it will work for you?
The Other Side of Problems
There are now over 100,000 of you reading this on Sunday mornings, and my guess is that some of you have lived a lot of life and dealt with a lot of problems, including some that truly were the end of your world. My guess is that in most cases there was something that happened on the other side of the problem, that made things better —maybe not in every case, but in many cases?
Think about those times when your world was ending and the outcome was for the better.
If you’ll consider looking at problems as temporary moments of discomfort that lead you to better things or to important lessons, it can change everything.
The longer I’m alive, the more I understand how much we can control our brains to enrich our lives and not react negatively to every challenge we face. I guess I feel like God’s got my back no matter what.
I hope you’ll try it this week. Instead of a negative reaction to a problem, look at it as something you simply have to deal with that will provide something better on the other side. Approaching things this way may enrich your life.
PS: I’m truly humbled by the release of my new book. This week, in the middle of my storm, the sweet news was that it became a #1 Amazon Bestseller in two different categories. Then we sold out of books, and we’ve sent the remainder of the print run, and all indications are that those will be gone soon. We’re already into the second printing after releasing it on May 1. And tonight I’ll be talking about the book and marketing and how people can create art and live their dreams on The Walter Sterling Show at Westwood One, a national radio show that airs on 50 of the biggest radio stations in America. The best news of all, though, is how many people are finding it helpful, including people who are not just in art, photography, or crafts, but people who run small and large businesses. Dan Kennedy, one of the top marketing minds in the world, sent me a FedEx to tell me the book was “solid,” which I consider a compliment. So forgive the bragging — I’m pretty excited.