They tell you to breathe. So you do. They tell you not to worry. They’ll tell you that things will get better and you hope that they’re right. They tell you that everything will work itself out and that you just have to keep plugging (whatever that means).
Is that their best advice?
It is amazing to me. People are in the midst of so much. Pain hurts and at that moment, that’s all we feel. So, although the intention is great, it’s uncomfortable to be uncomfortable. However, my point is it’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to be mad or hurt or have feelings of any kind. It’s okay to want to scream or look at the sky like, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
For the record, I would rather address life honestly than tell someone, “don’t worry,” or “don’t be sad.”
I would rather handle this honestly on the side, privately, than allow someone to explode publicly.
I say this because sometimes life comes with reasons to worry. Sometimes life comes with bad news. And sometimes, you want to quit and say ‘to hell with this place!”
Back when I was in a suit and tie and selling for a living, I was told that every “no” is one step closer to the big “YES!” But meanwhile, I was swimming in a sea of “No!”
I was working in a constant swarm of rejection and trying to get my sales off the ground. Meanwhile, I had people sitting on either side of me who were selling as if it were easy.
They had big accounts. They had big commission checks. They had big smiles, too, especially when they heard the sales manager yelling at me in sales meetings.
I mean, the guy threw a stapler at my head once . . .
safe to say he was a tough boss.
There was a man named Ron who sat in the cubicle to my right. Ron, or Ronnie as we called him, was as nice as could be. I never saw Ron angry. I never saw him lose his cool. Even when there were reasons to lose his cool, Ronnie always remained calm.
Ron once told me that no one was laughing at me. He said that everyone remembers what it felt like for them to start out and how brutal it was. Ron would tell me that he went through bouts of rejection. He was yelled at and screamed at and more importantly, Ron remembered when people would tell him, “Just keep plugging.”
“Yeah, but did anyone ever throw a stapler at you?”
Ron smiled at me with that comforting grin of his. He laughed and shook his head, “No.”
Ron told me that he couldn’t stand it when people would tell him to keep plugging. He said he hated when people said this, which I can agree and confirm that yes, I hated this too.
I would hear someone tell me to keep plugging, which came with good intentions and oftentimes (if I’m being honest) I’d find myself cursing their mothers in my head.
Or, maybe it’s a different saying for other people. Maybe they’ll tell you to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Or, maybe someone will say that you can’t see the forest through the trees. Or how about this one: It’s always darkest before the dawn.
The most honest approach anyone has ever offered me is when I was acknowledged. This is when someone told me, “I get it!” Rather than look to take my feelings away, I was comforted because I was allowed to feel and then later, I was supported to improve.
I would like to share a few details about yesterday with you.
First, I had very little sleep. Or, pretty much no sleep. I had to manage my way through my eight-hour shift and sift through the chores of work life as well as navigate through the dramas that come with workplace anxieties and personal interactions.
I ran around. I couldn’t stop. When quitting time rolled around, I had to make my way out of town for a three hour lecture in which I was not as prepared nor was I at my usual energy level.
I am a firm believer that energy is contagious. As the speaker, my energy to carry a three-hour course needed to be optimal. Otherwise, the class would consist of students who seemed uninterested, playing with their phones or falling asleep.
None of that happened, by the way.
Safe to say, I kept plugging. I kept moving. I kept working and, above all, I performed to the best of my ability. I did this regardless of my fears or regardless of my connection (or lack of) with the students. I focused on my plan and stuck to my strategy, which I admit was loose at the time, but hey, I never gave up.
After the class, I spoke with some of the students. I heard a little bit about their background. I heard a little about their stories and where they came from. This is an honor.
I met some of the most amazing people in the world yesterday. And somehow, throughout all of their adversity and amongst all of their pain or grief, they decided to get up, dress up and show up.
These are beautiful people. Therefore, my ambition is to be as brave as them and if I were to become only half as strong as they are, then I will become stronger than I’ve ever dreamed I could be.
Look, let’s be honest with each other.
There are days when getting out of bed is a bitch. The body hurts. The mind hurts. The thought machine is overloaded and at times like this, the last thing we need is someone coming over to say turn that frown upside down.
I had a phone call where the person was discussing the option of suicide. But rather than tell them not to or debate their will to live (or die) I took a different approach.
Or, should I say that I took an honest approach. I explained that I experience similar thoughts and asked them to explain more.
We talked for a while. In fact, we talked longer than a usual hotline conversation would go.
After a while, I explained that it’s not that I want to die as much as I want things to stop. But nothing stops and the world never seems to slow down. We hung up the phone.
About a year later, I heard from this person’s mother. They are alive and well, working and doing fine.
I need a break; however, most days there are no breaks. This is life and more often than not, there’s only more of the same. Understand?
And me and my silly little imperfections and my doubts, my fears, and my worries if I’ll ever make it are only questions that distract me – will they like me or will they hate me? Will I ever find my version of success? Or, will life be like it was when I was a salesperson and every “no” brings you a step closer to one big “YES!”
I have never been sure how people find the motivation to get up out of bed. It is far beyond my comprehension how people endure when they’ve had pain that goes beyond the usual threshold. But that’s just it. That’s the real question. This is the real challenge.
How do we find the secret to our endurance?
What can we use for fuel?
How do we rebuild when we fall or better yet, how do we get back up when we feel as if we don’t have the strength to get off the ground?
What are we going to do to get through the day?
I am thinking of a young person whose story showed me that life is not the same for everyone. This person exposed their truths to me; yet, in spite of all that has happened in their life, this person dares the world on a daily basis. No, wait.
This person defies the odds (and the world) on a daily basis.
I am honored.
No, I am inspired.
Imagine the action, taking on a day, even when I was not at my best and as a result, I got to share my time with the most amazing people in the world.
I am a very lucky person and with all of my heart, I thank you.
Reading this post was just what I needed this morning! You continue to uplift and inspire, Benny. It sounds like you have really found your niche in this life. Glad your speaking engagement went well and that your energy was such that your audience was paying attention (no small feat when it comes to college students!). Have a great day!