Struggles are required in order to survive life. How else are you going to know how to stand up unless you have fallen on your face from time to time?
Struggling is not their identity. You continue to live while you struggle. That is how others identify you. That is how they see you separate the struggle from your life.
I have repeatedly declared myself the King of all Failure numerous times in this very column. Denying it now is a little late in the game. However, no matter how much it hurt, I can safely look back on every failure in my life and can testify they it made me better.
Not at the time, mind you. It was very painful at the time. Welcome to life! The problem with life is it always gets in the way. We think about flipping to a quicker way, a faster path, an unidentified shortcut… and then we realize a truth: If we were weak enough to cross over to the dark side, we might not be strong enough to come back. Oops!
I will stack my list of failures up against anybody’s and I will blindly bet that mine is longer, wider and deeper than yours. The difference between others and me is I refuse to own my mistakes. I am just passing through looking for a better way, a brighter path and a clearer destination.
When it is over, I will look back on those struggles positively and will be glad that I never gave up or gave in. Mama Alice used to challenge her 11 children in the same way: “You have to find another way! Without struggle, there is no progress. There is always another way.”
I was the third born in a house of almost a dozen kids. Being something of a middle kid, Mama Alice would look to us to not only successfully carry the baton, but to pass it to my siblings as well. “You have to be a reason for your brothers and sisters not to give up!”
I did not understand that responsibility at the time, but I think I understand it today. Hardship defined our family and allowed us not to surrender but to fight through.
Winning was not the goal; not giving up was the objective. “Winning will eventually follow,” she would say. “One day or day one… you get to choose! Your best days are yet to come. There are people you have not yet met and things you have not yet experienced.” Profound thinking.
Mama Alice had remarkable wisdom for a woman who spent most of her 60 years on this earth making babies and fighting cancer. She had this innate ability to cut through the chaff and identify what was valuable.
“Some people will hate you for pursuing your dreams,” she would advise. “Because you remind them that they are not. That is their problem, not yours. Be who you are!”
Brazilian lyricist and novelist, Paulo Coelho (Aleph), once observed: “If you only walk on sunny days you will never reach your destination.”
One of my twin sons, Cory, is the weightlifting and strength coach for all sports at St. Cloud High School.
“You have to feel the burn,” he would say. “When it hurts, observe… life is trying to teach you something.”
Mama Alice would say, “Don’t be afraid of colossal failure. It’s OK to fail. You should fear and never celebrate petty success. Darkness exists before you see the light.”
Michael Aun is a member of the Speakers Hall of Fame for the National Speakers Association, Toastmasters International and the Veteran Speakers Retreat.