I suppose it’s time to put up a new post, but I must confess I’m a bit more nervous than usual.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a lot of new people subscribe to my blog, and quite simply, I am not used to this many people waiting to hear my words. I am not as familiar with this new crowd, and I feel added pressure to impress.
But this desire to impress conflicts with my journey toward humility, so let me begin by saying to the newcomers that I am nothing.
And while it is true that I aspire to greatness, I have not reached it. Before I went to bed last night, I studied philosophy and a new martial arts book. When I awoke this morning, I did the same. (And, yes, I did this even though I am on vacation.)
If you came looking for some self-assured loudmouth, who spouts catchy lines and speaks deeply, with self assurance, then you have come to the wrong place.
For, as my friends will tell you, I am most certainly not that man.
I am a student. I am a disciple. And I am hungry.
Now, let us begin.
I would like to share with you an event that happened with me several months ago. A person I was coming into contact with regularly (I am purposefully being very vague to protect his identity), and who was clearly beat down, began to seek my advice on some things.
This man was in a very difficult situation. He was a cancer survivor, who continued to struggle with health problems. He had serious financial problems because his spouse couldn’t work, and his own job was in jeopardy (so far, he still has it). And worst of all, he was in his mid-50s, in a career he hated, and lacked the desire or funds to go learn a new skill.
I had a lunch with him and listened for nearly an hour. It was very trying and difficult, and I let him vent and pulled probably far more information from him than he wanted. (Hey, I’m a former reporter. I ask lots of deep questions.)
But while listening, his situation really pulled down my energy. Frankly, I just wanted to run. But that goes against my desire to “feel others’ pain as if it’s your own,” and to help others with compassion and love.
Toward the end, I steeled myself, tried to fire myself up, and humbly offered a few suggestions. ALL OF THEM were shot down, with comments such as “I know that, Stan.” And it was true, this was a very well-educated person, who had a couple decades on me.
Worst of all, by the time I tried to help, I think it had hit the person how embarrassing it was that they were seeking my help and had shared all of that. I instantly stopped suggesting things, tried to exude as much love and energy as I could, and said everything I could say to build them up.
We both left the lunch feeling pretty uncomfortable. I was completely frustrated that I’d wasted a lunch trying to help someone that “knew” too much to be helped.
But I thought on it some, and after several days, I decided I’d try to help them one more time. (Even at the risk of hurting our friendship. The person clearly needed it, and it totally depressed me to know how much pain they were in.)
So, I thought I’d share below the email I finally sent, in the hopes it might help someone on my subscriber list, as well. Perhaps you, too, are in a difficult situation or a bit beaten down by life. It’s my great hope that at least one piece of advice helps you in your own struggles.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about our conversation on Friday and the very difficult situation you find yourself in.
I’m a natural giver, and I like trying to help people, and much of what I said didn’t seem to offer much help.
Ever since we talked, I imagined if the situation was reversed, and how I would feel if I were in your shoes. And imagining that made me really search for some answers, since clearly you’re in a tough spot.
I thought I’d throw out a few suggestions, which hopefully you take the right way. One thing I need to preface my comments with is that at one point on Friday, you said, “I know all of this.” And there’s no doubt that you do, but the problem is you’re not practicing it.
And as I once heard a millionaire businessman say, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you do. You can know how to do sales, but if you don’t do them, you’re not helping my company and your knowledge has little to no value.”
So, here are a few suggestions I’d toss out.
1) Fire your friends. Or most of your friends. You’re really beat down and pessimistic right now, so whoever your friends are, they’re the wrong friends. Time to start working yourself away from them, and toward some new ones. New ones with a much more positive attitude about life, and who are far more energetic and happy.
2) Read some books. Books provide fuel. You should consider reading some self-help books on motivation and drive, and some biographies, as well. There have been people in tough situations and they found ways to persevere. (Here’s a great one I’ve read about a woman with terminal cancer, no job, no health insurance, and an inability to pay the next month’s rent.)
3) You mention not having any energy, and I can’t imagine how hard that must be. I’m just 37 and I never had cancer and I feel similarly, quite often. (Mine is due to poor eating, something I’m trying to work on.) Anyway, you’ve got to get more energy, which would also go miles toward helping your attitude, so try to find something you enjoy doing. Maybe to start, just walk two laps around the work building, both in the mornings and afternoons, even if you have to stay a little later at work.
4) You need to try to watch less TV. Watching TV, besides sucking up time, also leaves people feeling depressed afterward. It’s like a short-term drug that crushes you when you turn it off, because your mind isn’t stupid and it knows you wasted two-plus hours on something you shouldn’t have, when there are chores to do, exercise that’s needed, etc, etc.
Anyway, that’s some advice I had after chewing on it a bit. None of it sounds any fun, but we really don’t have any choice. Life is going to beat the hell out of you whether you’re prepared to fight it back or not. So, we can pick ourselves up and punch it back, or take it on the ground while we’re curled in a ball.
I think you’re a million times stronger than you give yourself credit for, and you’re just in a valley and feeling down right now.
Hopefully, some of this helps a bit. No need to answer and if I crossed the line by providing these suggestions, then I apologize in advance.
Just know I’ve got nothing but love for you and just wanted to share some encouragement. And you ought to consider that book. It has some amazing advice, and though some of it is about selling, ultimately if you’re going to be management, then you need to do a better job selling yourself. So, I think it totally applies and would make a good first book on the road to rebuilding yourself to the level — and eventually higher — that you were once on.
You’re a bad-ass, who’s just beaten down. Start rebuilding yourself one step at a time, and in no time, you’ll regain your confidence.
Stan R. Mitchell
Stan R. Mitchell is a writer and author, as well as a prior Marine infantryman. Mitchell served in Alpha Co., 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and was lucky enough — or unlucky enough — to snag a Combat Action Ribbon. (The details of his military career.) Looking for something free to read? Here’s a piece of fiction that he wrote for you to sample. Hopefully, it’s both powerful and inspiring: The dreamer’s lament. And click the link at left to check out his books.