Posted in: Inspiration, Success Stories
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Embrace Challenges and Find the Enlightenment You’ve Always Had

*This is a guest post from Porter Olsen*

We have all felt like giving up when things get rough, at one point or another. But something we should all remember is that everything in life can be consideredaquestion of perspective.

Let me share a story with you to illustrate how true this really is.

Poet and author Jack Kerouac said, “When you become enlightened you will know that you’ve always been enlightened all along.

What he meant is that those who take the time to embrace life’s challenges, to learn from the lessons contained within them and to discover their true selves, will come to realize they’ve always been on the pathway to enlightenment.

One of the most inspirational people I know is a woman who by all accounts lived a storybook life. Very attractive, by any standard, selfless with her time and resources for those less fortunate, and a marriage she’d always dreamed of to the man she’d always wanted.

She was happy to be a homemaker raising two young children, volunteering her time, and living every day to its fullest. Less than four years into her ideal married life, she received a phone call that forever changed her. Her husband passed away unexpectedly at work and there was nothing anyone could have done to change the outcome.

Her life was instantly altered. They were a young couple, filled with life and vitality, and hadn’t planned well for the future at that point. As a result of his untimely death, there was nothing in the way of life insurance. What they had in the bank would be drained in a matter of months.

This happened over 20 years ago, and now you would never guess the hardships she endured and the many goals she set for herself and her children. Immediately after her husband’s death, there was little she could do for herself and her children. She was in shock and mourning, and overwhelmed with grief. As time passed, and the raw emotions of her husband’s death ebbed, she was able to take inventory of what was, what is, and what was to become.

Her immediate challenge was to figure out how she would make herself marketable to prospective employers. She didn’t have a college degree, but was smart and had some skills. She considered using sympathy to guilt an employer into offering her a job. Certainly these were natural feelings, born from desperation, but she somehow knew she’d remain a slave to her emotions if she chose this path.

She set a goal to speak with at least three prospective employers every day until she landed a job. She saw getting a job as step one in taking control of her new situation, but only step one. She was a long way from her final goal which, at the time, she hadn’t really identified, but knew it had everything to do with self-sufficiency for her and her children.

Her first few job interviews were failures, and she almost let this ruin her plans. But she did something most might not think of doing – she picked up the phone and spoke with the person she interviewed with. She admitted her inexperience interviewing and asked what she could have done to get the job.

To her great surprise, the person who interviewed her told her he sensed she was gloomy, perhaps depressed, and overall would not have fit in his upbeat office environment.

At that moment she realized she had to find—even create—some happiness each day. She reasoned that if her downbeat emotions and somber countenance were detectable, then if she could somehow transform herself into a happier and more positive person, those traits would shine through as well.

From that moment, she set out to turn her attention to her children, ages four and one. Each day she created an activity that was fun and that would make her truly happy when she saw the joy she was bringing to her children.

It wasn’t easy, like the day they ventured out to a sporting goods store to buy her son a mitt and ball, only to have the checkout clerk ask if he was going home to play baseball with his dad. It was no one’s fault that she barely made it to her car before she broke down, but it was also a turning point for her.

It was that moment, roughly a year after her husband’s death, that she felt one chapter closing and a new one opening. There was nothing she could do about his passing, but there was everything yet to do in her life. She embraced what happened that day and used it as motivation to go back to her goal of getting a job.

She called that hiring manager back and refreshed his memory. He agreed to another interview, and she walked out as the new receptionist for a prosperous homebuilder.

They’ve remained friends for years, and he later learned what happened in her life, but admitted that she was like a different person in the second interview.

She worked there for a handful of years as their receptionist, using the experience and opportunity to create stability in her life. The work wasn’t demanding, the environment was professional and filled with other parents, and gave her the opportunity to take stock in her life.

She was a good employee and her job wasn’t going anywhere as long as she showed up every day and did it. But she also knew something would have to change if she was going to meet the demands of her growing children and her desire to take care of her family. She knew she had to go to school, but how, and when, and with what money?

She ultimately saw an education as step two, on a pathway to an ultimate goal she still hadn’t defined. She only knew that to stay where she was and who she was meant stagnation for her and her children.

She eventually managed to get a two-year degree and take a couple of community college classes along the way. Through grants and scholarships, and family willing to babysit when necessary, she was able to attend night school at a local university to complete her degree in Business Administration.

Her next step, as a single mom now in her early 30’s, was to find a job where her degree and office experience could be put to practical use.

Her self confidence, office experiences, and a quality letter of recommendation helped her land a job as an office manager in an industry of which she knew next to nothing about. Her desire to become financially secure motivated her to learn everything she could about running a business.

She embraced these new challenges, and explained what they were: Stepping stones on her path to becoming her own boss and answering to no one but herself. She saw herself transforming as a person who was willing to accept any challenge placed in front of her, because she saw it as the only true method of self-discovery. She never saw anything as impossible so long as she had a desire to conquer it and remember the lessons she learned.

Today, she owns her own successful small business, has a handful of employees, and hundreds of customers. Had she been unwilling to dig down deep and find the strength to embrace the challenges she faced so many years ago, and to see them as opportunities to create for herself and her children the life she says they all deserve; they would have been on a very different course in life.

Your daily challenges may or may not be this extreme, but the idea of embracing them rather than letting them take you down is the same.

What remains, however, is the question of how will you embrace the hurdles and roadblocks currently standing in your way?

The first step must start with your acknowledgement. If you don’t accept that you have to tackle what’s standing in front of you, then it’s going to tackle you, which means you stand the risk of living the rest of your life feeling like a victim. You can do better that giving your challenges that much power over you.

Once you’ve recognized it’s time to be a leader in your own life, it begins when you set simple goals with identifiable benchmarks that are easily attained. Surprisingly, very large goals—the kind that feel impossible to reach—become very manageable when they’ve been reduced to their simplest tasks. Believe it or not, everything that’s ever been accomplished by another human being in this world was literally done by someone putting one foot in front of the other and not stopping until their goal was achieved.

Decide today to take that first step, and then take it. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.

 Porter Olson is a writer and blogger for UsDirect.

Please share this post, because that’s how more people can look at challenges in an empowering way

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20 Comments

  • Amazing article! This resonates very deeply with me, and the story here is a shining example of persistence in action. Very insightful and influential!

    • Glad you liked it! Persistence is such an underrated quality is life.. If you don’t give up, it’ll eventually work out. Always.

  • Absolutely! Persistence and repetitive, positive personal action is the recipe for success. Trace back any successful person’s life, and you will see the underlying pattern of trying over and over until things work out. This is no coincidence; the law of averages works for those who DO work!

  • Awesome post! Love it. Shared this on my blog today. :)

    • Nice, thanks Lei!! Keep up the great work with the blog it looks great. :)

  • Thank you for sharing this story. Simple yet very inspiring and moving.

    • Yeah definitely helps put our own situation in perspective…! Have a great day Diane!

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  • An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been conducting a little research on this. And he actually ordered me dinner because I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this matter here on your website.

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  • I really appreciate this post. I have been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thx again!

  • Nice read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch! “Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be” by Miguel de Cervantes.

So, what do you think?