Resolve to Reflect
- January 1, 2014
The New Year is a great time to pause and reflect. While I do this throughout the year, as we let go of one calendar year and look toward the next, it seems only natural to review and assess the struggles and successes of life, and examine how that impacts my values, beliefs, and actions.
For quite some time, I have believed that it’s not a person’s ability to thrive during good times that defines them, but rather, their ability to survive, learn from, and even thrive after life’s toughest moments. Because, who really knows what is good and what is bad? Do you think that Bill Gates’ parents were excited when 20-year old Bill told them that he was dropping out of Harvard to start his own company? “We’ll see” and “more shall be revealed” are appropriate in cases like that. They have certainly guided my reactions to life’s events—both good and bad—for a number of years now.
I have achieved some level of business success, and material success has come from it. Because of this, some people say that I lead a “charmed life.” Most of these people are not aware of the many life challenges – hard times – that I have endured. Those challenges taught me the life lessons that later allowed me to have this so-called “charmed life.” Challenging times are, in fact, what I think of first when I reflect upon the attitudes and decisions that enabled me to become the man that I am.
As a child, I grew up without much money. I recall my parents actually alternating nights that they ate dinner, as there wasn’t enough money for adequate food. I recall my mother crying during Christmas because she couldn’t afford to buy even small gifts for us that year. My family experienced several, serious health situations over the years, each quite scary, but from which we recovered.
And while I’ve experienced some business success, I’ve also failed in four businesses. For one of my earlier businesses, I borrowed a large amount of money. When it failed, I was devastated, having no idea how I would repay the money that I borrowed or properly provide for my family.
While I was going through one of these particularly tough times, a new friend said to me, “You know, Dave, this is actually a gift.” At the time, I couldn’t fathom how that could be true. But since, I’ve come to understand completely.
I have learned that each of life’s challenges – or hardships, more directly – gives us an opportunity to learn things that we otherwise wouldn’t learn. Through them, we develop new skills and most importantly, gain the ability to appreciate life for all that it is. My hardships developed in me traits and skills I might never have developed, if not for these very tough experiences. Challenge chiseled into me tenacity, resilience, interpersonal skills, leadership, negotiation skills, the ability to compromise, problem solve, love and express gratitude.
Life is great. But it is fragile. And it must be cherished. We will all be faced with both joyful and challenging times. Some of the challenges seem terribly unfair, whether it’s dealing with a life-threatening cancer or a long stretch without work. Whatever the hardship, we must learn to take it all in, recognize that this too is a gift, a lesson that life wants to teach. And hard as they are, we can let those lessons lead us to the life that we all deserve.
May you all enjoy a good and prosperous new year.