HOW TO BEAT A CHALLENGE


In life there never seems to be a shortage of challenges. Whether you are a financially struggling blog writer and author or a well-established millionaire, there are going to be challenges. I will have to speculate on the second one for the moment. As you read this where I live the temperature will be -50 degrees with the wind chill. Those temperatures are in Fahrenheit where freezing is +32 degrees. In other words, it will be really cold outside.
Whether your New Year’s resolution was to go to the gym more often, or just get to work on time, today will be a challenge. When it is this cold cars tend not to start, energy drains and the temptation to stay in bed with the one you love can be hard if not impossible to overcome. That is just life. The challenges will not always be this extreme, but they will always be there.
The question is how to overcome these challenges. To make it very simple we will break it down to two words – face them. When you look a challenge straight in the eyes (if the challenge has eyes. If not, you just have to imagine them) and say as my friend Travis is inclined to say, “Bring it!” It may seem as if the challenge gets the best of you. Maybe you wish to go to the gym but the car will not start. Then go inside and do a little workout routine at home. If you are a little late for work again learn what caused you to fall behind and work on that for tomorrow. To put it as the picture says, ‘Challenge your limits’. Doing this daily you will be surprised at how much further you can go. You will see your life improve in each and every area.

WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

This blog post created itself last night. After Margie and I had finished our Wednesday night show and found ourselves driving with our friend Kelly. We began sharing defining moments from our childhood that defined who we are today. It caused me to reflect on a few moments that I would like to share with you. More so, it made me think of something far more important that we will get to right after this moment of reflection.

For those of you who may have been reading my writings of late, I have shared the story of my senior year English teacher. On the final day before graduation, she pulled me aside and said in an almost pleading tone, “I pray to God you will never have a career involving writing.” Given the evidence up to that point I would have been inclined to agree with her, but here we are.

Another fun story involved a teacher I had for business. She was a kindly lady. She kind of reminded me of someone’s grandmother from a Norman Rockwell painting. My relationship with this wonderful woman was great. We laughed, smiled and shared many good conversations. I would have said I was the perfect student with one glaring exception. In this class it just so happened I was surrounded by friends of mine. It also happened these were friends that like conversation as much as I did. Daily we shared conversations about life, love and our pursuit of happiness. When the time came out for giving everyone a grade I still recall what this teacher wrote. Written next to my grade was the comment, “Neil will do a lot better in life when he understands you can’t make a living discussing life and its challenges with people.” Once again, here we are. Discussing life and how to positively approach and overcome its challenges. Granted you might be reading this in Greenland, South Africa or Fiji while I am here in West Allis, Wisconsin, but virtually we are engaged in this conversation.

Let me share a more comical example from my youth. Second grade I do believe. I had a good friend who had just moved away and I found myself in trouble for something. That part seems to remain vague. As punishment I was to stand with my back against the wall and watch the other kids enjoying recess and playing on the playground. Sounds a little cruel in hindsight but I guess it served as a lesson – almost. As I was standing there I thought of a joke. One of the kids walked by and I told him my joke. He thought it was so funny he went to bring other kids to hear it. Before recess was over I found myself doing what could be described as a forced stand up comedy routine.

I saved this example for last because it was by far the darkest example. I was part of a group called ‘peer helpers’ in high school. The program was designed to help students who were facing addiction, abuse or any other emotional trauma. To me it sounded like a great idea on the surface. It became apparent very quickly that I disagreed with the approach of the program. It seemed to approach the issues from that of the adults who formed the group and not of the youths facing the challenges. I soon politely left the group. All would have been ok with one exception. I really did have the desire to help and still talked to many of the kids I had met in the program. I tried methods I believed might reach them. This was especially true because most of them had stopped asking for help from the Peer Helpers program.

Again, this would have all been good, but my locker happened to be right across the hallway from the lady who was in charge of the program. Once she noticed that quite a few of the students who left her group were coming up to my locker and asking questions she stormed over. She issued what can only be viewed as a veiled threat. She yelled how dare I think I could help kids better than she could and I better stop what I was doing “or else.” I really wasn’t trying to do anything but help people the best way I thought I could. I continued to do so with a little more discretion. Two days before I was set to graduate I was summoned to the principle’s office. When I arrived the teacher was there along with several police officers. This teacher, this adult, this individual who is supposed to be an example told all of them I had threatened to physically harm her. Not only was that a total lie, but I had no malice towards this woman, merely a difference in philosophy. Luckily, with the support and sworn statements of my character from other instructors I had and her changing her story several times the matter was all but dropped.

What is the point of all of these stories? The point is that anyone of these stories could have had a very negative impact on my life. What made the difference is that I chose what they meant to me. My high school English teacher could have prevented me from ever starting this site which has close to 1000 posts. What she told me could have dissuaded me from ever writing my book A Happy Life for Busy People. My business teacher tried to convince me there was no future in listening to the challenges people face in life and trying to help create solutions, but that is the basis of all I do.

Through my punishment that day in second grade I learned the power of humor to reach people. I also learned that sometimes when the world seems to be taken away from you, the best solution is to make the world come to you. It is a theme that kind of plays throughout the videos on my YouTube channel. It also showed me new and wonderful ways to make friends. The lesson that if you can introduce your material to enough people it can really change your situation didn’t escape me either.

The final dark situation could have steered me in many different directions. I could have decided not to trust authority. Certainly learning that ego can override professionalism and make people act in ways they shouldn’t. I could have decided that it meant if I try to do things on my own in a way I feel will help the most people it will lead to trouble and could land me in jail. Of course it also showed me the value of displaying and acting with the best character and highest standards.

What is your story? What events have transformed your life? Have you let them decide what you can or can’t do? Are they putting limits on your life or are you using them to motivate you? The story of our lives should not be told through the mouths or actions of others. Realize you are not a victim of your past but a victor over it. You have made it to today despite what you have been told and what has happened to you. Do not let your past or those in it steal your power for a strong future. Find the empowerment in every challenge you have faced, or may now be facing.

WE ARE ALL JUST ELEPHANTS

While having an inspiring and fruitful conversation with my friend Paul on how to get my first book I wrote and released last month  A Happy Life for Busy People in the hands of as many people as we can. That way we can make the world a more positive place. In the course of bouncing around ideas for promotion he told me he had planned on writing a book on how to add more happiness to your life, but for children. My first thought for a split second was that children have a natural capacity for joy. Why would they need a book? Then it occurred to me, that is exactly why they need a book. As we grow up our parents and other adults, well-meaning as they may be, often cause us to lose that inner peace and joy. They warn us about the dangers and what is wrong with the worlds. They tell us we can’t do things often to keep us from disappointment. As an adult if you say you wish to learn a foreign language perhaps and another adult tells you that you can’t you surely won’t just give up on their word. So why do we often still accept limits and beliefs we received as children well into adulthood, sometimes all the way until the end of our lives? The answer can be found at your local zoo. Have you ever seen the elephants at the zoo with just a chain around their ankle not able to escape? I have often wondered why doesn’t this big elephant just snap the chain and say “Thanks for the hay, but I am on the first plane back to Africa!” then it occurs to me an elephant can’t go on a plane and airfare doesn’t cost mere peanuts. Ok, double bad joke there, but seriously why don’t they break the chain when they easily could? The answer is in their childhood. When the elephants are young and far weaker the chain is put on. For months and years they try to break it and can’t. So when they reach adulthood and develop muscles that could easily snap the chain they accept the limit of their childhood and assume they could not. After all they spent years trying before. Is this true in your life? Do you have chains that hold you back you may have tried before and failed to break? Do you now just accept them as limits? Perhaps you have developed muscles you may not have realized that would help you shatter those limits? Not just physical muscles, but perhaps decision-making muscles, or the muscles of wisdom and experience? Take a new look at limits you have accepted about yourself. Perhaps they are not so true as we might have thought.