Drowning? Identify Your Life Preserver

It has been said that you may be a nobody to the world, but to somebody you are the world. To understand what “being somebody” truly means, one must experience unconditional love in his or her most vulnerable moment. That love might be the only thread to hold on to as the wounded soul navigates through the tides of life to a renewed hope and focused sense of purpose.

While building a professional speaking/training career is an individual must pay his dues in the school of hard knocks. Astonishing effort must be devoted in getting people to know your work, hoping that effort will lead to business opportunities. The mental and physical challenges one has to endure in the process have forced many dreams to be changed. Financial constraints seem to be the axe that transforms aspiration into desperation.

My moment came in the spring of 1998. It had been about one year since I left corporate America. My dream career seemed more like a mirage. The challenges that relegate 90 percent of all start-up businesses to oblivion in the first year had infested my efforts. Two to three months would pass–easily–without a single call from a possible prospect. Forget health insurance and the luxury of paying bills on time.

Then the flyer came. I was invited to an event in Seattle, Washington with the potential of speaking to hundreds of thousands and being a guest on one of the National Public Radio’s programs. I could not let this opportunity pass. But it was up to me to pay for my travel expenses, and I’d have to be willing to stay with a host family. No problem. I had done it—traveling from Boise, Idaho to Midland, Texas to speak to a library storytelling group and a Toastmaster’s club with no payment besides the opportunity to sell some books.

The program was, unfortunately, not publicized. My hosts, bless their hearts, did their very best with what they had and I am grateful for that. In a one-bedroom apartment, I had to share the living room with four dogs that didn’t seem comfortable with a stranger. I have no hidden dislike for dogs. But this quartet became alert and ready to attack whenever I made the slightest movement. I resolved not sleep–and not to be eaten without putting on a fight. This battle of wills between a would-be speaker and dogs lasted for four days and nights.

At last my journey was over–and I figured my career was, too. With a bruised ego, four sleepless nights, a depleted wallet, and an uncertain speaking future, I was ready to throw in the towel. My wife picked me up at the Boise airport at noon. I had shared my terrible experience with her already, when I had given her information about my arrival time the previous night. She took the day off from work and drove me to my favorite restaurant. After lunch we went to Ann Morrison Park and relaxed as we reflected on the ebbs and flows of life. There was no discussion about unpaid bills or a career that seemed to be fading away before it had even really begun.

By the end of the day, all the frustrations and disappointments I had experienced started to lose their grip. I was ready to go back to the trenches of building a speaking business.

Now, nine years later, I wonder what could have happened if, after feeling like a nobody, I came home and my feeling was affirmed by words said to me or actions that reflected negatively on my miseries. That inspiration from my ever-supportive wife re-focused my course more than any book or seminar on “How to be tough in difficult times” could have done.

It is the special attention and sense of belonging we receive when we have been wounded in the battles of life that become the source of much needed hope, and rekindle our faith to carry on, just for another day. That’s what makes a difference along the paths we have chosen to travel in life.

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