At some point in our lives, we will find ourselves burned out, emotionally exhausted, depressed, distressed, and afraid ever to risk again.
Things don’t work out as we think they should. Intimate relationships come to an end. Friends and family die, leaving us at a loss. Our children listen to their own drummers and couldn’t care less about our core values. We lose our jobs, our courage, our time, our hair, and our confidence. We’ve all been there more times than we’d like to admit.
But the comforting news is that we are not alone, because this scourge of discouragement has plagued some of the most familiar names in history.
Consider these individuals and the challenges they faced:
- Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked ideas.” Disney went bankrupt several times before he developed a theme park now known as “the happiest place on earth.”
- A diving accident in 1967 left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadraplegic. Gradually Joni discovered a personal joy and peace in God so powerful that her life now inspires thousands worldwide. A talented vocalist, aritst, and writer, she is a leading advocate for disabled persons.
- An “expert” said of football great Vance Lombardi, “He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation.”
- The mother and father of the famed opera singer Enrico Caruso wanted him to have a career in engineering. His teachers said he had no voice at all and simply could not sing.
- Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old. He didn’t read until he was seven. His teacher described Albert as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” He was expelled and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School.
- Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, was told by her family that it might be best if she’d look for work as a servant or seamstress.
- Jackie Robinson, grandson of a slave and abandoned at six years of age by his father, broke the color barrier in baseball and was voted the National League’s most valuable player in 1949.
- John Bunyan, while languishing in an English prison for twelves years for preaching in non-sanctioned places, wrote Grace Abounding and Confessions of Faith and began formulating his major work, Pilgrim’s Progress.
- Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, failed college. His teachers considered him “both unable and unwilling to learn.”
- Babe Ruth, arguably the greatest athlete of all time and famous for setting the home run record also held the record for most strikeouts.
- Winston Churchill flunked sixth grade. He did not become prime minister of England until age sixty-two, and then only after a lifetime of defeats and missed opportunities. The greatest contributions he made to his country and the free world came when he was a senior citizen.
- After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the memorandum from the MGM testing director, dated 1933, read, “Can’t act. Slightly bald, Can dance a little.” Astaire kept that memo over the fireplace in his Beverly Hills home.
What made these people — most considered failures — persevere despite insurmountable odds? It wasn’t their education, their good looks, or, in most cases, even their IQ. It was something less tangible.
There was something different in their spirit that set them apart:
- They faced their fears, and conquered them.
- They stayed focused and flexible, and they had fun!
- They refused to give up on their dreams.
- They maintained a spirit of optimism.
- They though with their hearts.
- They used their stumbling blocks as stepping stones.
When you admit that most of you fears are homegrown, you can then make the decision to stop feeding them, pull them up by the roots, and regain control of your life.
SOURCE: Chapter 8: “The Joy of Confident Living” in How to De-Stress Your Life by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.
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