Professional CornerThis excerpt was sent to me by the author, and with his blessing I pass it on to you. Take the parts that apply to you and use the rest as food for thought.
Discovering Treasure in Troubles and Strength in Struggles
By Ray Gebauer
One of the most common perspectives that people hold is that a negative personal history precludes and disqualifies them from having a powerful future.
This perspective is not only very limiting, it is very disabling and disempowering. This perspective not only limits us severely, but it can prevent us from even trying to make a better life and future.
History, however, clearly indicates the exact opposite: problems, troubles, struggles, disappointments and "failures" can be the most powerful preparation for a meaningful life of significant impact and contribution. Without the stress and challenge of struggle and problems, we would not need to grow and become stronger. We would miss much more of our potential than we normally already do.
For example, if you ease the struggle of a butterfly by helping it out of its cocoon, you will have disabled it from being able to fly by having deprived it of the necessary struggle. A life of ease breeds weakness. For example, scientists discovered that without the constant stress of gravity, our bones give up the "unneeded" calcium and within a few days, we would lack the strength to even walk as evidenced by astronauts returning from space.
But instead of appreciating the benefits that we can only get from struggle and problems, we frequently hold a perspective of resentment that disempowers us and stunts our growth.
We often will ask the futile question, "Why did this happen to me?" It may just be that this problem was exactly what you needed for your next stage of personal growth. Instead of believing that there must be a benefit in this situation, either now or in the future, we look at the immediate inconvenience. Here are a few of the unavoidable consequences of this unhealthy but all too common perspective.
Anxiety or anger over our problems creates an unhealthy psychological stress that weakens our immune system, which leaves us more susceptible to illness, including cancer and other common degenerative diseases.
Resenting the struggle also robs us of the happiness that could have been ours even during the struggle.
And then it gets even worse. Because we influence others, our anxiety or anger creates stress for others and pulls them down as well, and robs them of joy that they could have had. So not only have we ripped ourselves off, we have ripped off someone else too.
And it may not end there. The negative effect we have on another person can spread like an infection too hers, who in turn can spread it to others, sometimes amplifying the negative effect through each generation because it is combined with existing anxiety and/or anger on unrelated issues.
So there can be an accumulating "snowballing" effect; then on top of that is the "straw that broke the camel's back" effect. Without even having a clue, we can be contributing to the unhappiness of dozens or hundreds of others, while we ignorantly think that it is just our problem.
Another crippling effect this limited perspective often has is that it robs us of more than the happiness in the present-it will insidiously rob us of our future as well! We feel unqualified and perhaps disqualified to attempt something great, based on how we interpret our past or current problems, failures and struggles.
If you feel like a loser, why would you even try something new? You're thinking that you've already had enough disappointment and pain from failure, and you certainly don't need any more! A different perspective could be that because of all your past and current disappointment and pain, you are better prepared than ever to do something new and different, or even great! With the accumulation of all that experience and education from the school of hard knocks, you are positioned to really do something significant.
Plus, you can look at it from this perspective as well: "I've had enough-I'm not going to live this way any more!" This perspective (attitude) can powerfully propel you into a fantastic fulfilling future. So instead of caving in under the pressure, harness that pressure to skyrocket yourself into your exciting future toward your destiny. It's your choice. You can take the negativity from your past and allow it to explode as gasoline in your face and cripple or destroy you, or you can take that same negativity and use it as fuel to drive your vehicle to success. The best example I can give you is my own life. I want you to know some of the negativity of my past, so that you can clearly see two things.
First, it is possible that you too can have a great future even if your past has been quite negative.
Second, your negative past, though it is full of struggle, disappointments and "failures", inevitably has an undiscovered significant value to you in terms of preparing you for a great destiny. But this benefit is not automatic-it depends upon you shifting your perspective to a positive expectant outlook.
I was born on Christmas Eve in 1951 with a major disadvantage. Three months earlier, my father, who had just graduated from Bible school, died from a ruptured appendicitis. The doctor had misdiagnosed his illness as food poisoning.
So I never had a natural father; instead I started off with a heart broken grieving mother. Probably due to the stress of this situation, I had a severe allergy to milk, which on one occasion caused me to turn blue; if my grandmother had not recognized the severity of my condition and had not rushed me to the hospital, I would have died.
Before I was two years old, my mother remarried. This man was not well equipped emotionally to be my step-father, having never recovered from trauma he had suffered in the war. He was quite abusive, both verbally and physically. It seemed that his favorite words were "stupid, idiot or crazy." I lived in Gresham Oregon my first 18 years, dreaming about the day I would finish high school and escape the terror.
Predictably, I grew up feeling very insecure. I was very introverted and shy (I am still an introvert). I had a problem with stuttering. I lacked the basic social skills to even have friends.
To compensate for these problems, I tried sports, including wrestling, swimming, football, baseball and track. I dropped out of the football, baseball and track, and never got any better than average in wrestling or swimming.
My first year in high school, I discovered that I could get high grades. I started reading a lot, and developed my analytical mind. In fact I over compensated by becoming excessively analytical and a very judgmental self- righteous Pharisee. I had successfully turned my good gift of intellect into a social handicap. This arrogant mind-set continued to be a painful blind spot for many years. In fact, traces of it still occasionally manifest.
I had decided that I wanted to get a Ph.D. in nuclear physics. But just before I graduated, I decided that I wanted to first go to a Bible college in Grand Rapids Michigan for one or two years to get a good foundation for my life. However, after a couple months, in the Fall of 1970, I decided that people were more important than science (as fascinating as science was to me) and chose to stay the full five years and major in Bible and Theology.
I remember my first sales job. It was the summer of 1972. I was recruited by Southwestern Books to sell Bible story books door to door for the summer. I didn't have any confidence that I could do such a thing, but they convinced me that because they would fully train me, I could make up to $5000 for the summer.
A week after I was married, we went to Nashville for a week of training, and then to Long Beach California for the summer. It was a good growing experience, and at least I didn't quit. But at the end of the summer I owed the company $500!
After graduating in 1975, I spent 5 disappointing years as an intern at a small church in Anaheim California. During this time, I discovered Multi-Level Marketing. I was intrigued by the concepts of multiplication and leverage and the dream of financial freedom. This marked the beginning of nineteen years of frustration and failure as I went through three or four dozen companies with very little success. This included buying $5000 of water filters that collected dust in the garage for years.
In 1980, after being involved in insurance sales and building a good sized organization, my manager decided that I was not competent to manage my organization and took away my people against my will. During this period, I had my car repossessed.
I started my own janitorial service, doing most of the work myself. Within two years that fizzled and failed. In 1982, I experienced the harsh devastation of a divorce and losing our house to foreclosure.
I then met a lady from San Diego. We fell in love, and we were engaged. She refused to marry me until I had steady income which never happened. Three years later, through a lot of pain and disappointment, that relationship failed. Later that year I met someone else and was married for the second time. What followed was seven painful years of "hell". Because it was so bad, both of my sons moved out to live with my mother in Oregon and my brother in Washington. I was failing as a father, too.
In 1990 I moved to Washington and attempted to sell insurance again. I was not successful. Other companies I worked with went out of business without paying me all that was owed.
In 1993, I was divorced a second time. I now felt doubly disqualified from life, since I believe marriage is supposed to be permanent. At the same time, it was a huge relief.
At this point, I had no job, no place to live of my own and owed over $25,000 on just credit cards (and six months behind on payments). I owed far more than that in personal debt.
In desperation, I asked a neighbor if I could stay in his basement for a few weeks. He graciously consented. After six months, he insisted that I leave. I then met a family who had an empty unfinished basement. I asked if I could stay for a few weeks. It turned out I stayed a year. Initially I was unable to even pay the $200 rent or afford my own food.
In February of 1994, I got a call from someone (Jett) who had been given my name by someone else (Ray Robbins) I had known from another failed MLM. Jett convinced me that this new company was different. I decided that it was either too good to be true or too good to miss.
Fortunately, I did take my new business seriously. I borrowed money to fly to Dallas to see the company. Then because I felt I needed to invest in my new business by having plenty of product on hand, I did one of those last resort desperate kind of things-I called my mother. I hoped she had a credit card that she could use to give me a cash advance of $1900. I promised to pay her back within 30 days plus all the fees and interest.
She said no. After going back and forth several times, I finally convinced her to take a chance on me (I was able to sell enough product to pay her back in 30 days as I had promised). Seven weeks after starting, I got my first check from Mannatech. It was for $7. After working 80 hours a week for seven weeks, I had earned only about one cent per hour! I was discouraged, but I still had faith to keep going. One week later, on April 7th, my car was repossessed. Since 99% of my time was spent on the phone, that didn't slow me down much.
Forty days later, with some help, I was able to get it back. My monthly income with Mannatech continued to increase. By my 7th month, my income had reached over $10,000 for that month, which was more than I had made in my entire life in Network Marketing. By the end of the year, it had exceeded $20,000 per month.
Now, my income is more in a month that most people earn in two years. We now own a beautiful home worth close to a million dollars right on Lake Sammamish, with a dock, ski boat and Sea Doo. I bought a new gold LS 400 Lexis (owned free and clear). But the greatest blessing by far has been my marriage to Diana on May 7th of 1995. We are free to enjoy life and do what we feel is most important, which is serving God and helping people.
As to why I was blessed with such great success as fast as it occurred (which is not typical) is primarily due, I believe, to God's grace. It certainly helped having phenomenal products with a fantastic compensation plan and great leadership in the company.
But the other key factor was this: I was ready. I had been learning and growing through all the struggles and disappointments over the years. I was being prepared because I used my faith to maintain a healthy perspective on life. I continued to believe that someday things would work out for the best, as long as I never quit. I had been feeding my faith and positive perspective by attending seminars, reading self-improvement books and listening to self- development tapes for years (such as Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar).
It is always better to be prepared without a good opportunity than to have a good opportunity without being prepared. So why do people tend to get stuck in an unhealthy and negative perspective? It often is due to the common thinking (assumption) that our future will be a continuation of our past.
It's like expecting a rolling ball to continue in the same direction. People often act like a mindless ball-they just keep doing what they always have done, because they know nothing else, and thus expect nothing else or different.
But because we do have a mind, unlike an unconscious rolling ball, we have the power of choice. We have the power (and responsibility) to choose our direction and our destiny. We are not victims of fate. The ball is unconscious, so it has no choice. But unless we choose to be unconscious (that can be a choice), we too, like the ball will be unable to change our directionor our life. How tragic! How sad!
Here's another example. Consider this: does a dog love bones? Most people would say. "Yes, of course." That is certainly one perspective. I say the dogs don't particularly like bones. Actually they settle for bones.
The proof of this is in giving the dog a choice between steak and bones. About what percentage of the time do you think the dog will choose the bones over the steak? Pretty close to zero! So the dog appears to love bones because it doesn't normally have a choice. The reality is that the dog is settling for bones.
What are you settling for? Are you settling for "bones"? If so, it is because you don't realize that you have a choice. Perhaps you are holding on to a disempowering interpretation of life that says that you are disqualified from being able to choose "steak" because of your negative or abusive past. This may also show up as feeling undeserving, or unable.
You have the power to use the rough rocks from your past for the building of walls and prisons, or to build steps to your future, or even better, a palace instead of a prison.
And this is best done with happiness and gratitude, knowing that you are better prepared because of your past.
There is also a huge benefit of which you may be unaware, that comes from sharing your story of your negative past with all your disappointments and failures. When you share your negative past, people tend to identify with parts of your history (since they too had bad stuff happen to them too!). The result of this is two things.
First, they will feel more secure and comfortable around you, since they will realize that you are not that different from them. Instead of seeing you as a possible threat, they will be open to new ideas, and begin to think that if you can do it, so can they.
Second, they are more likely to respect and trust you since you had the courage to be open and authentic. In this position, you are better able to help them make a positive decision since they will be less defensive.
In conclusion, if you are willing to adopt a different perspective, you can discover buried treasure in your troubles and strength in your struggles.
Empowered with this perspective, you can rejoice instead of resent. Empowered with this perspective, you can have victory instead of being a victim. Empowered with this perspective, instead of living with frustration, fear and failure, you can live with fascination, faith and a fantastic future.
There is too much at stake here. If you interpret your past as disabling, you have chosen to mentally cripple yourself. As a self-created handicapped person, you will never be able to influence and inspire lives or achieve anything great. Not only will you be the loser and miss your destiny, so will the thousands of people who you deprived of your powerful influence (both directly and indirectly).
Instead, embrace a positive perspective. Your destiny is at stake! It's your choice! Fear or faith! Choose the road less traveled!
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