More Thoughts on Dealing with Adversity (and 10 lessons learned from my journey)

Jun 17, 2015

Hello from the air….Air travel – I’m always fascinated by it. I write from 10,000 feet (or whatever it is). For some reason, flying brings out a lot of creativity for me. I think it’s the disconnection, although I did buy the wifi to send a few emails for work, etc.

I’ve heard from many people about my post earlier this week about embracing adversity. I think the overwhelming sentiment is that it was encouraging to hear, refreshing to hear. For that, I’m eternally grateful. Your words mean more than you know. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I know I haven’t written a lot in the last year so please forgive me for posting a bit more than I have been : )

By all accounts, at least surface accounts, you would call me successful. If we were in a room together, you might even call me an extrovert, maybe even the life of the party. I don’t say that to brag or anything like that. I say that to emphasize that a smile or a joke can simply be a cover. I’m not saying I’ve always been miserable….there’s been plenty of happy and amazing times. But, there’s always been a chronic underlying feeling of, shall I say – despair? Not sure that’s the right word but I do know that not being real and not dealing with the “crap” of life is a slippery slope.

As I said before, we’re taught at an early age to keep everything in. To deal with things and be strong. I get it. I’m not saying we all need to go unfiltered and shout to the world our deepest thoughts or issues. That’s not it at all. But, we do need to assess when we need a helping hand or someone to talk to. Maybe it’s writing…maybe it’s prayer. Something to allow for an outlet…otherwise, we internalize and things get pent up.

Think about garbage day. Each week you probably go through a ritual where you take out your trash. For us, it’s every Thursday. It’s a ritual that morning if I’m in town to go throughout the house, gather all the trash and recyclables and fill up our brown and green trash bins. We take the stroll around the kids toys and bikes in our garage, out to the driveway and down to the end. The trash company comes later that day and picks it up. We go out that night and bring the trash bins back in, empty.

Think about your life this way. What if you were able to take out the trash each week? To cleanse yourself of any destructive feelings or habits.

Again, maybe it’s just keeping a grateful journey and writing each week. Maybe it’s coffee with a best friend. Maybe it’s talking through things with your significant other. The important thing is to have an outlet.

My outlet used to be sports as a kid. Academics as well. That turned into drugs and alcohol, then to work, even to gambling (albeit not big bets but a distraction from reality, nonetheless).

My dad was going through some stuff when I was a kid. I think I was 10. My dad was in the hospital and our school guidance counselor called me into the office. She asked me how I was doing. I think I just shrugged my shoulders and said “great”. She asked about my grades and I think I said I was getting straight A’s or something like that. So, it began…internalize and find ways to compensate. That’s the earliest recollection I had to masking any feelings.

This was subtle of course, but over time, and as adversity and pain increases, this habit of keeping things in is a recipe for disaster.

I love my parents dearly. They are both amazing people. They didn’t have the best relationship when I was growing up. In fact, their relationship ended with my mom and dad getting into a bad argument and the police showing up. My dad spent the night in jail…nothing physical happened but it was close enough. I know they loved each other but they just couldn’t co-exist anymore.

Instead of dealing with this, I took the road of not addressing how I was feeling. I didn’t feel worthy b/c after all, it wasn’t me that was going through it. It was them. Again, recipe for disaster.

So, why do I tell you all this? Well, I think I’m trying to be transparent b/c I know there’s probably something or someone going through tough times…and they need to know that it’s okay to feel pain. In fact, it’s a necessity.

One of my friends and mentors, Kary Oberbrunner, talks about this a lot. He says that we need to embrace Acute Pain in order to extinguish Chronic Pain. One of the most influential books I’ve read, in fact, was The Deeper Path, which Kary wrote. In order to free yourself from a lifetime of pain, you need to dig deep and uncover the root cause – not just the symptom. Essentially, it’s being authentic…it’s being vulnerable…and, overall, being courageous.

There’s tremendous bravery in vulnerability. I never knew that but I’m learning more and more everyday.

So, what can you do? There’s got to be some action steps right? : )

Here are some things I wish I embraced more and have learned are crucial in the process:

  1. Be real with yourself. Don’t hide from your feelings. Own your story. It’s really the only way.
  2. Write – Forget about what you’re writing, just write. Get your thoughts out. This is cleansing. It will bring clarity.
  3. Start a grateful journal – Just write 1-3 things a day you’re grateful for. This can be as basic as the air we breathe or the smile on your child’s face. This will build a positive mindset ritual. It’s a great way to start or end your day
  4. Pray – For me, I’m learning more and more each day to seek God. I find power in praying for others and praying with others, especially my wife and kids.
  5. Know that it’s never too late – There’s always time. There’s always a way out. No matter how painful your experience is, know this. As the guys at Focus 3 talk about – it’s not about the Event, it’s always about the Response. You always have an opportunity to change your response.
  6. Find someone you trust and confide in them – When I started to do this, to actually start to open up and let people in, things started to change. It just took a while to get to that point. Just one person. That’s all it takes to get the ball rolling.
  7. Seek professional help – There’s absolutely no shame in this. I used to think differently and that was my biggest mistake. A good therapist is just like a coach or a good friend, except they’re well versed in dealing with these kind of things.
  8. Get Moving – Break a sweat…go for a walk, a run, whatever…it will help you think clearly.
  9. Perfection is a myth – Everyone has issues. The universal emotion we all experience is pain. As Kary wrote about in The Deeper Path, we start our lives experiencing pain (at birth) and we end our lives typically in some sort of pain. It’s something we all feel.
  10. Learn to embrace your adversity – I’ve heard the saying Use your adversity to your advantage (I think from Darren Hardy). What if you changed your mindset? And, actually leveraged your adversity to help yourself or others. That’s powerful – a complete paradigm shift!

Don’t wait. If you’re going through something or know someone who is, the time is now. Right now. Life is too short. I believe we are all put on this Earth to leave a lasting legacy and do something amazing. Each and every one of us. Not being authentic equates to playing small in this world. We aren’t meant to play it small.

I hope this transparency helps you or someone you know. I realize this is putting myself very out there. I’m okay with that. I’ll take the bad with the good and if just one life is enhanced b/c of this, it’s all worth it.

Thanks for reading. I’ve kind of decided to post things somewhat unfiltered. It’s part of the overcoming of my perfectionist tendencies : ) Sorry if I’ve jumped around a bit!


“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the see of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill


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