When I was in 8th grade I was in the boys room at school and heard this whooshing sound coming out of a hole in the wall. I smacked it with my notebook a few times to see it it would sound any different.
Didn’t make it sound any different.
Just then, Mr. B, one of the teachers, heard the noise and walked in, grabbed me, and ushered me back to my classroom. He informed Mr. C, the art teacher, that I had been slamming my notebook against the wall in the bathroom and needed to be brought under control.
Mr. C made me come in after school to talk to him about this incident.
After school I go to his room. There were a couple of other people in the room working on art projects, and Mr. C sat me down and said, loud enough for everyone else to hear, “Perry, I’m really concerned about you. Do you need some kind of professional help? I can arrange for that if you want. Maybe you need to talk to someone about your problems.”
I can tell the girl across the room, who is working on a painting, can hear everything that is going on. But she’s politely trying to look like she’s ignoring it. I feel a hot flash of humiliation sweep through my body. I maintain a stony face and ignore Mr. C’s questioning. He and I had a hostile relationship to begin with, and it felt like he was deliberately trying to shame me.
Finally after 10 minutes of getting nowhere, he released me and I walked home.
Years later, it occurred to me that I probably *could* have used some professional help right about then. My dad had gotten demoted from his job because my mom had gone bi-polar, our whole entire life was fighting and bedlam from the time I got home from school to the time I went to bed, and a couple of kids at school were threatening to beat me up. My only escape was my music, my electronics catalogs and my stereo.
Surely everybody ought to know you can’t humiliate a 13 year old kid into bettering himself.
Frankly I don’t know ANYONE who doesn’t have some kind of story like that. A time when you really could have used an encouraging word and someone decided to rub salt in the wound instead. Some people let those stories define who they are. The rest of their life becomes some sort of revenge on Mr. C.
Maybe they succeed to show Mr. C was wrong. Or maybe they fail to show Mr. C that he was unable to teach them anything useful.
Personally, I don’t think you ever get much of anywhere if you let Mr. C define you. I think the best thing you can do is forgive Mr. C and decide that it’s God’s job to fix him, not yours. Actually it’s tremendously freeing to get the bitterness monkey off your back.
What’s REALLY going to propel you, I think, is the people who DID believe in you.
Mrs. Washburn, my kindergarten teacher, told my parents she thought I could be president if I wanted to be. Honestly, I can’t think of any job I’d enjoy less than running the biggest political machine in the world, but that wasn’t the point. She believed in me. My mom told me what Mrs. Washburn said over and over again until I believed it.
Mrs. Snoberger was my high school counselor and when my dad died of cancer and I was just starting my stereo business, she was the one who pointed out to me that very few kids are that entrepreneurial at age 17. She thought I was special. She wrote some recommendation letters that helped me get a much-needed scholarship.
Dr. Knoll was my college English teacher when I was 20. He was the first person to ever explain to me that I understood people *AND* things. He said most people are good at one or the other but not both. (I didn’t know that.) He predicted that I would someday be good at technical sales, and maybe even the president of a company.
It was mind-bending for me to even contemplate such a thing, back then. I was so keenly aware of my *limitations.*
Those words of encouragement from Mrs. Washburn, Mrs. Snoberger and Dr. Knoll carried me very, very far. It’s not even like those conversations were very long. It’s just that they had impact.
My friend, you’ve had your Mr. C’s and you’ve had your Mrs. Snobergers. You had them both. You get to decide who you listen to. Let’s just admit, they *might* both have been telling you some version of the truth.
But some truths are told to harm. Others are meant to heal.
The words that will propel you forward are the healing words. Not the hurts.
I’ve got this lady who consults for me, her name is Sue. One of her jobs is, literally, to pray for my customers. I know that sounds kind of strange, but I truly believe that every single day, thousands of people out there are on the edge. The edge of either discouragement or encouragement. The edge of either success or failure. The edge of negative judgment or positive inspiration.
I can only hope that when I blast out these crazy emails to my various lists of thousands of people, that I’m helping at least a few of them break whatever chains that have held them back. Whatever limitations of knowledge or belief, whatever barriers of confidence and security.
Because you’re only going to build a successful life out of your strengths.
Last night, after an exhilarating, exhausting Sunday, my buddy Nathan and I went out for burgers at 10pm. We were relaxing and unwinding at Bar Louie, bantering, philosphizing, solving the problems of the world.
Nathan says, “What if we’re aweseomer than we think we are?”
I smile and look at him. “Yeah… what if?”
He says, “What if we’re really operating at less than our potential simply because we don’t realize what our potential really is?”
I say, “We ALL are capable of even greater things.
“Dang, Nathan, that would make a great Facebook post.”
I get home and post. This morning, Jack Born, my resident marketing genius, replies with this quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; its in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same….
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Amen, Jack and Marianne. One last thought for you:
During the last couple of years, most of our friends, including ourselves, have hit some MAJOR crucibles in life. One friend’s husband left her for another woman. Another’s 13 year old son died of leukemia. Another has major chronic health challenges. Another came to the brink of losing their marriage.
Another has battled a series of addictions. Another has been beleaguered with financial setbacks. Another lost pretty much everything in the real estate crash. Another had two businesses fail and is $800,000 in debt – which is about 10X his current annual income.
But with only a very few exceptions, everyone has stood proud and tall and NOT run from their problems. They have extended their roots, they have deepened their relationships with their closest friends, they have strengthened their faith, they’ve honed their ability to listen and their resolve.
They’ve become stronger, more resilient, more joyful, more resourceful, more centered.
I am immensely, indescribably proud of all of them. Better days are coming.
My friend, life is either going to polish you up or grind you down. Focus on the polishing, not the grinding. Focus on the end result.
Please listen to everything the laboratory of life is trying to tell you. And never ever forget:
YOU’RE AWESOMER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE.
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