How Charity Saved My Leg

One act of charity can have an unimaginable impact on the lives of countless people. One act of charity eventually saved my leg.

Charity – n

  • generosity toward others


Charity has many faces. It shows up as a helping hand, a cash gift, a listening ear, a deepening friendship, personal sacrifice, the sharing of wisdom and insight, to name a few.

The size of the gift is not what matters. What matters is the spirit with which the charity is given and the gratitude in the heart of the person who receives the gift. I have a leg because someone gave what they had to help someone else. That’s what gives life meaning.

We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.
Winston Churchill

A Story of Charity and Its Impact on Others

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while eking out a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the rescue. There, up to his waist in the black mud, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling for his life. Farmer Fleming pulled the boy out of the mud and saved him from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up beside their humble farm house and an elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out. “Hello, sir,” said the nobleman. “I’m the father of the boy you saved yesterday and I want to repay you for what you’ve done.”

Fleming would hear nothing of it. “There is no way I can accept payment for what I did. It’s what anyone would do!”

As he was speaking, his son came to the door of family home and the nobleman asked, “Is that your son?”

“Yes it is,” Fleming replied proudly.

“Here’s what I want to do,” said the nobleman. “I want to provide the money necessary for your son to get a quality education in the field of his choosing. If he is half the man you are, I’m sure he’ll grow to be a son you will be proud of.”

“Alright, I can live with that,” came the reply.

When the time was right, Farmer Fleming’s son graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, and become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the man who eventually discovered penicillin.

Years after Fleming’s life saving discovery, the nobleman’s son developed pneumonia. What saved him? Penicillin. Who was this nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. What was his son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.

Farmer Fleming’s act of charity saved a life. The nobleman’s act of charity changed a life who in turn acted with charity to save many lives.

Acts of charity touch us all

The world would be morally bankrupt without charity. Whether it’s a boy pulled from a bog, a scholarship given to say thanks, or a creative mind applied to solving a medical problem – charity matters.

Charity saved my leg. The infection I contracted during my motorcycle accident was a rare bacteria known as robinsoniella peoriensis requiring Piperacillin-Tazoba (part of the penicillin family) to eradicate. Because of the antibiotics, skilled surgeons, and divine aid, I still have a leg to this day.

Now what?

This Christmas, I’ve been thinking about the numbers of people who have been generous to me this past year. The charity I’ve received has come in the form of words, gifts, emails, wisdom, expertise, resources, money, help, time, respect, partnership, to name a few. I am truly thankful!

When I think about the charity I have received, I want to be quick to give away what I have in my hand when a need arises. I don’t want to give because I have to or to get something back but, like Farmer Fleming, because right in front of me is a boy who needs to be pulled out of the bog.

When have you received charity?
Where do you hear a call for “help” you can respond to?

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Secrets to Nelson Mandela Surviving 27 Year in Prison

The world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95. He lived his life for others and from an early age, entered the fight for freedom and equality to come to his nation.


Mandela has been a leader and example for me as I’ve been learning to navigate my own adversity. Studying his life has strengthened my resolve, renewed my hope, and given me handles to hang on to. One question people keep asking when reflecting on Mandela’s life is this, “How did he survive 27 years in prison and come out with no bitterness or hatred towards his oppressors but ready to lead a nation?”

I decided to dig into his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and see what I could find out. Here is a collection of his words I believe shed some light on this question.

Seven Beliefs and Practices Mandela Exercised to Survive Prison

1.      He always kept believing things would get better

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death.”

2.     He saw oppression as character building

“The policy of apartheid created a deep and lasting wound in my country and my people. All of us will spend many years, if not generations, recovering from that profound hurt. But the decades of oppression and brutality had another, unintended effect, and that was that it produced the Oliver Tambos, the Walter Sisulus, the Chief Luthulis, the Yusuf Dadoos, the Bram Fischers, the Robert Sobukwes of our time—men of such extraordinary courage, wisdom, and generosity that their like may never be known again. Perhaps it requires such depth of oppression to create such heights of character. My country is rich in the minerals and gems that lie beneath its soil, but I have always known that its greatest wealth is its people, finer and truer than the purest diamonds.”

3.     He focused his hatred on the system not the people running the system

“I was asked as well about the fears of whites. I knew that people expected me to harbor anger toward whites. But I had none. In prison, my anger toward whites decreased, but my hatred for the system grew. I wanted South Africa to see that I loved even my enemies while I hated the system that turned us against one another.”

4.     He found beauty in unsuspecting places fueling hope

“Some mornings I walked out into the courtyard and every living thing there, the seagulls and wagtails, the small trees, and even the stray blades of grass, seemed to smile and shine in the sun. It was at such times when I perceived the beauty of even this small, closed-in corner of the world, that I knew that someday my people and I would be free.”

5.     He tended a garden and saw it as a metaphor for life and leadership

“A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom. In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. A leader must also tend his garden; he, too, plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the result. Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.”

6.     He never stopped reading the survival stories of others

“I had read some of the classic Greek plays in prison, and found them enormously elevating. What I took out of them was that character was measured by facing up to difficult situations and that a hero was a man who would not break even under the most trying circumstances.”

7.     He didn’t survive alone but leaned on the camaraderie of others

“Prison is designed to break one’s spirit and destroy one’s resolve. To do this, the authorities attempt to exploit every weakness, demolish every initiative, negate all signs of individuality—all with the idea of stamping out that spark that makes each of us human and each of us who we are. Our survival depended on understanding what the authorities were attempting to do to us, and sharing that understanding with each other.”

“It would be very hard if not impossible for one man alone to resist. I do not know that I could have done it had I been alone. But the authorities’ greatest mistake was keeping us together, for together our determination was reinforced. We supported each other and gained strength from each other.”

Two related posts:
A Granddaughter Rekindles Hope
What Nelson Mandela Can Teach about Education

What other beliefs and practices do you believe he used to survive?
How do you need to apply any of these seven to your life right now?

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6 Ways to Boost Your Survivability

Survivability – n

  • The ability to remain alive or continue to exist
  • The capability of a person or system to fulfill its mission in the presence of threats, failures or accidents

Survivability is more than staying alive physically during or after an experience of failure, calamity, injury, hurt or loss. It is also about being proactive with your attitude and having the inner resilience to turns trouble into growth and calamity into character.


Undoubtedly you have to deal with the harsh realities of adversity and calamity but there are proven ways to rise above your circumstances and not be swallowed up by them.

These qualities I’ve been working on for the past 952 days during my recovery journey. They require being proactive versus reactive. There are days when I’m one dark thought away from spiraling downward to a place I don’t want to go. So I choose to live in the light and fight back the darkness with these activities and attitudes.

Living these is not easy but without survivability skills, you succumb to helplessness and undesirable hopelessness.

6 Ways to Boost Your Survivability

1.      Be Grateful

No matter how deep the valley, there is always something to be grateful for. The air you breathe, the food you have to eat, the gifts you possess, or the freedom you enjoy. Gratitude takes the focus off your trouble and stirs up positive feelings within you.

Happiness increases with gratitude.

2.     Be Active

When you engage in productive activity, you’ll be more likely to find traction even if your original plan is long gone out the window. The equation for gaining traction in life is: Planning + Action = Traction (Biehl).

Find ways to stay productive in the middle of chaos and
you will be able to let go of negative attitudes quicker.
(LaRae Quy) 

3.     Be Curious

You are a world of wonder. This may seen counter-intuitive but it pays to be wildly curious about what is going on both “in” you and “around” you. Adversity and harsh circumstances can be wonderful teachers about yourself and open up new windows into the world around you.

Don’t miss the lessons and learning all around you. Let your inner child out to play!

4.     Be Grey

One of the pitfalls we fall into in life is using black and white thinking to define the world. Black and white thinking during times of adversity falls flat because there are no clear cut answers sometimes. You can live with more uncertainty if your thinking and belief system allow for the in-between – the grey.

Much of life happens somewhere between bliss and devastation. Let grey be a color you add to the pallet your life to help explain the world and what it brings.

5.     Be stressed

Studies indicate that short-term stress (lasting minutes or hours) stimulates immune activity. If you have any wounds that need healing or infection that needs fighting, a little bit of stress goes a long way in boosting your immune system and releasing growth hormones. It also strengthens you mentally, heightens your awareness, and provides new perspectives.

Unchecked, long-lasting chronic stress is what you want to avoid. The right amount of stress can be your friend not your enemy.

6.     Be challenged

When overwhelmed by adverse circumstances, keep in mind a challenge that says, “You’ll get through this!” Call it a positive attitude, optimism, hope, or possibility thinking but call for it. Challenge yourself to hold out hope for a better future (even in the midst of a firestorm of trouble and calamity).

What do you need survivability for?
Which of the six ways to boost your survivability hits home?

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A Donkey and a Powerful Lesson

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in situations unplanned, dark and without hope. We feel a lot like one particular donkey who found himself down in his circumstances and fighting for his life. How he responded to his despair and hopelessness is a lesson worth pondering.


The Donkey’s Choice

One day a farmer’s donkey fell into an abandoned well.

The animal cried mercilessly for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do in order to save the animal. Finally, he arrived at the fateful decision to let this old and worn out animal, be covered up and given a proper burial. It wasn’t worth the time and trouble to pull him out.

So he invited his friends and neighbors to come help bury this old beast of burden.

They each grabbed a shovel and began to throw dirt down into the well. Realizing what was happening, the donkey at first started to wail and cry even louder. Then, a few shovelfuls later, things down the well got real quiet. Had he succumbed to the inevitable fate that had come upon him?

The farmer cautiously leaned over the edge of the well and looked down. What he saw shocked him!

With every shovelful of dirt that hit the donkey’s back, he was doing an amazing thing. He was shaking off the dirt and taking a step up onto each new layer of dirt. The more dirt they threw at him, the higher he climbed. Pretty soon, with each new shovel full of dirt and each determined step, the donkey’s head appeared, then his body, followed by his legs. He came bounding out of the well with a strength the farmer hadn’t seen for years.

People stood in astonishment and cheered as the donkey trotted out of that well and started eating some grass to regain his strength.

When Life Shovels Dirt

At times in life, life and circumstances shovel dirt on our head. How we respond can make a world of difference.

This week some dirt fell on my head. I was gearing up for surgery #9 when the phone rang with the news it had been bumped due to a trauma case taking priority. The dominos fell and I was in the line just a few patients down. “Your surgery most likely won’t be in this calendar year,” continued the message.

Initially, I whined and voiced my disappointment and frustration. I had things all planned out! Surgery, recovery, perfect timing to break from work again for three months, a flight booked for my sister’s visit, training events planned just after I get back to work. Then I found myself looking up from a well. I even woke up in the middle of the night, angry at the whole thing.

Then I started to see some light. I had most likely bumped others waiting for their surgery. I arrived by helicopter once. Someone else made space for me. Now it’s my turn to do the same.

Just like that donkey I can and will choose to shake the dirt off my back and take a step up onto each new layer of dirt as it falls.

Seven simple rules for climbing out of a well:

  1. Acknowledge the falling dirt.
  2. Release your emotions (anger, disappointment, frustration, fear)
  3. Choose to not give up but STEP UP onto the dirt.
  4. Focus on what you can do (work, love, help, give, pray, care, wait, laugh)
  5. Turn your worries, uncertainty, and fears over to God
  6. List the things you’re grateful for.
  7. Lower your expectations and enjoy life NOW!

What’s the well you have fallen into and the dirt falling on your head?
What do you need to choose to step out of that well?

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Top 10 Attitudes When Facing Adversity

You might be in a storm right now, have a storm on its way, or see your storm in the rear-view mirror. Regardless of the relationship you have with adversity, your attitude towards it makes a world of difference.


Since adversity is unavoidable, why do we have such a hard time accepting it as the way life is? Truth is, the quicker we accept adversity as “normal,” the quicker we’ll gain a healthier perspective and experience deeper growth in our lives.

When my world was rocked by driver error, a storm erupted and continues to blow. Surgery number nine is coming up in two weeks and with it more fresh pain and a steep climb up the hill of physiotherapy.

To get my head and heart around this next storm, I’ve adopted certain attitudes to keep me grounded and growing through the wind gusts that are coming. Here are just a few of the attitudes I’ve adopted and have found to be my companions through a variety of storms.

1.      Keep the long view in mind

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” Haruki Murakami

2.     Courage is born through adversity

“Pain nourishes courage. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” Mary Tyler Moore

3. “Normalizing” adversity lightens the burden and creates opportunity

“There’s a partnership between perceived deficiencies and our creative ability so it’s not about sweeping under the rug the challenges but finding the opportunity wrapped in the adversity…Perhaps if we see adversity as natural, consistent and useful we’re less burdened by the presence of it.”  Paralympian Aimee Mullins

4.     Adversity strengthens our resolve to keep moving

“You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won’t happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am. I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.’” Joel Osteen

5.     Inner beauty is formed through trials

“The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

6.     Adversity turns up the volume on our ability to hear God speak  

“God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain!” C. S. Lewis

7.     Adversity creates a useful learning laboratory

“A person who has had a bull by the tail once has learned sixty to seventy times as much as a person who hasn’t.” Mark Twain

8.    Adversity tears away non-essentials leaving what really matters

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” Arthur Golden

9.     Adversity shows our true character

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” Randy Pausch

10. Adversity is one of the pathways to success

“Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.” Zig Ziglar
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas A. Edison

 In your experience, what attitude would you add to the top 10 list?

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12 Tips for Pushing Past Fear

Fear if allowed to dominate, holds us back and paralyzes us from action. If fear warns us of a legitimate threat, it’s our friend. But if fear is unfounded in reality and comes as an emotional disturber of the peace, it’s a different story.


What exactly is fear?

FEAR – noun

    • a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined
    • concern or anxiety (Source:

Some of our concerns and future possibilities are imagined but some are very real. Whether fear comes upon you through the course of your day or wakes you up in the middle of the night, these “distressing emotions” can be quite troubling.

Fear has been surfacing in the middle of the night for me lately. As I think about this unwelcome addition to an otherwise good night’s sleep, I’ve been asking a few questions:

  • Where is this fear coming from?
  • Is my fear real or imagined?
  • How do I dial back the fear and push forward to a place of peace?
  • How do I inspire courage within myself in the face of these fears?
  • What has worked in the past to deal successfully with fear?

The truth is, you can’t eliminate fear from your life nor do you want to (since given the right situation, fear helps us prepare for what’s coming). What you do want is inner growth so you are better able to push back fear and step into a place of courage.

Courage is not the absence of fear —
it’s inspiring others to move beyond it.
(Nelson Mandela)

Top 10 fears people experience (click here for an article describing these fears)

10.  Losing your freedom
9.   The unknown
8.   Pain
7.   Disappointment
6.   Misery
5.   Loneliness
4.   Ridicule
3.   Rejection
2.   Death
1.   Failure

In my current recovery journey, I resonate with a few of these fears especially in light of another very painful surgery coming up in three weeks. I’m fearing the pain, the unknown and losing my independence (freedom) once again.

What am I doing to push back the fear and press on in life and in the work I find meaningful and part of my purpose?  Here are a few ways I’m learning to live courageously in the face of fear.

12 Tips for Pushing Back Fear  

[1] Reframe – ask yourself, “If I don’t face this fear, what will it cost me?”

[2] Regroup – ask yourself, “What am I even more afraid of than not taking action?”

[3] Recollect – read stories of courageous people who overcame their fears

[4] Rehearse – if you’ve overcome fear in the past, remind yourself how you did it

[5] Reactivate – get into motion (i.e., walk, ride a bike) and change your emotional state

[6] Reflect – journal your fears, ponder next steps, meditate, pray, be grateful

[7] Refuel – read and fill your mind with hopeful thoughts; take a nap

[8] Re-educate – replace outdated thinking patterns with new ideas and concepts

[9] Relax – enjoy nature, listen to great music, do something fun

[10] Recharge – have coffee or lunch with a courageous friend

[11] Realign – get in touch with your WHY in life

[12] Release – say no to F.E.A.R. if it’s False Evidence Appearing Real

No one likes to deal with distressing emotions aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain – whether the threat is real or imagined. The truth is, if you don’t deal with your fear, it will paralyze you from truly living and steal the life you could have.

Now go and face your fear courageously!

What fear is waking you up at night?
What two things can you do to take away fear’s grip on your life?

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A Granddaughter Rekindles Hope

Nelson Mandela tells a story of a hope inspiring visit he had with his daughter while in Robben Island prison. The visit occurred shortly after his daughter Zeni had married into the Swazi royal family to the prince Thumbumuzi.


Once married to a member of the Swazi royal family, it gave Zeni diplomatic privileges and allowed her to visit her father any time she wanted. It also gave her, her husband and newborn daughter the ability to meet with Mandela in an open room free of thick walls and glass.

Here is Nelson Mandela telling the story of their meeting.  

I waited for them with some nervousness. It was a truly wondrous moment when they came into the room. I stood up, and when Zeni saw me, she practically tossed her tiny daughter to her husband and ran across the room to embrace me. I had not held my now-grown daughter virtually since she was about her own daughter’s age.

It was a dizzying experience, as though time had sped forward in a science fiction novel, to suddenly hug one’s fully grown child. I then embraced my new son and he handed me my tiny granddaughter whom I did not let go of for the entire visit. To hold a newborn baby, so vulnerable and soft in my rough hands, hands that for too long had held only picks and shovels, was a profound joy. I don’t think a man was ever happier to hold a baby than I was that day.

The visit had a more official purpose and that was for me to choose a name for the child. It is a custom for the grandfather to select a name, and the one I had chosen was Zaziwe—which means “Hope.”

The name had special meaning for me, for during all my years in prison hope never left me—and now it never would. I was convinced that this child would be a part of a new generation of South Africans for whom apartheid would be a distant memory—that was my dream. (Long Walk to Freedom, Kindle Loc. 8927-8928)

When I think of Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom and how he persevered in the pursuit of his dream, there were days when he struggled to maintain hope. He never gave up the fight and eventually led his country to freedom and into a new beginning.

As I think about my own physical, mental, spiritual and emotional struggle to navigate the ongoing repairs and recovery I continue to face, I am challenged to stay hopeful. To keep my eyes on the climb and to live daily with a sense of purpose and deeper meaning.

After all…

How we spend our days is, of course,
how we spend our lives. (Annie Dillard)

May we spend our days with bright hope and the way we want to spend our lives!

What inspires you to keep hope alive in your life?
What about Mandela’s story encourages you today?

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What Nelson Mandela Can Teach about Education

The story of Nelson Mandela is a story of courage, tenacity, and transformational leadership. His book Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela is a journey describing both his formative years and his long struggle to bring freedom and equality to his people and to the nation of South Africa.


One theme that captured my attention is his focus on education and learning. Even during his painful and challenging years in prison, he fought for both his own education and acted as a catalyst for the learning in others.

These words capture his view on the value of education and the difference it can make in your life:

Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. (Loc. 3049)

Then he said these powerful words:

It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given,
that separates one person from another.

These words are another way to describe what it means to “dance with the rest.”

When handed a lemon, you can be stung by the lemon juice that gets in your eyes and squint in pain or add some sugar and turn it into lemonade.

When handed a painful loss, you can either shrink back and let it define you or move through your grief with courage and find a new purpose and growth in it.

When handed failure in spite of your best efforts, you can either wallow in self-pity and despair or turn your failure into a classroom for deeper learning and growth.

Nelson Mandela failed in his attempts to bring equality and justice innumerable times during his life but he never gave up the fight. He kept growing through his failed attempts and disappointments until his hopes were realized.

Thomas Edison was always in school. His journey to invent the light bulb was long and difficult. He once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

It’s what Edison made out of what he had, not what he was given that made the difference.

Education paves the way for future achievement and significance.

Nelson Mandela could have shrunk back during all his years in prison. He could have given up the fight for the freedom of his people and nation but he didn’t. He kept pressing forward – kept learning, kept reading on a wide range of topics, initiated stimulating conversations with his prison mates and guards, and expressed his thoughts stealthily through writing.

Even in the dips he kept his heart and mind active.

Where does education happens?

  • In the classroom (sometimes)
  • Through mentoring, coaching, and other focused conversations
  • Through books, seminars, workshops, podcasts, webinars, etc.
  • Through group discussion and intentional interaction
  • When you reflect and evaluate your experience (the success and failure)
  • When you see failure and disappointment as a teacher not as what defines you

Michael Jordan was educated through his losses and misses, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another. (N. Mandela) 

What have you been given?
What are you learning and making out of what you have?

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A Goat and a Bull

Today I share two stories intended to bring a smile to your face and a lesson for life. Keep in mind as you read these stories, thankful people are proven to be happier, less depressed, more satisfied with life and enjoy healthier relationships.

A story of a man and his goat


There lived a man in Budapest who went to see his rabbi with the following complaint, “Life has become unbearable! I live a horrible life with eight other men in a one room apartment. What can I do?”

The rabbi answered with a simple solution, “Take your goat and bring him to live with you in the apartment.” The man was dumbfounded and openly reacted to the idea but the wise rabbi insisted, “Do as I say and come back to see me in a week.”

The week goes by and the man returns looking more distraught than ever. “We cannot stand it,” he tells the rabbi. “The goat stinks, is destroying our furniture and eats everything in sight!”

The rabbi gives his next set of instructions. “Now, go back home and put the goat back in his pen. Then, wait a week and come back and see me.” The man obeys.

A week later, the exuberant goat owner returns to the rabbi and exclaims, “Life is beautiful! The nine of us haven’t been happier now that the goat is gone. I can’t thank you enough!”

The morale of the story? Change your perspective and change your life.

If you don’t like the way something looks,
change the way you look at it.
(Wayne Dyer)

The story of two men and a bull


Two men were strolling through a field one day when they spotted an angry bull. They knew they were in trouble so they instantly started running towards the nearest fence.

The enraged bull took off in hot pursuit right towards them. It didn’t take them long to realize they weren’t going to make it.

Terrified, the one man shouted to his friend, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in big trouble!”

John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never said a public prayer in my life!”

“But you must!” demanded his running companion. “The bull is catching up to us and we’re desperate for help.”

“All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I ever heard – the prayer my father used before every meal, ‘O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.’”

The morale of the story? Giving thanks* in (I didn’t say ‘for’) all circumstances may not change your circumstances but it will change you for the better in your circumstances.

*Studies show that grateful people find more positive ways to cope with the difficulties they experience, are more likely to seek support from other people, reinterpret and grow from their experiences, and spend more time planning how to deal with their problems.

Where in your life do you need a goat for a week?
How will you express gratitude “in” your circumstances?

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Be a Fox not a Porcupine

An old Eastern proverb says:

The fox has many tricks, but the porcupine has one big trick.


In his book, The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfection, Dr. Rosenthal suggests when dealing with adversity, we are better off being more like the fox than the porcupine.

In other words, there is no one silver bullet for dealing effectively with adversity. It’s a dance you learn to take requiring agility, variety of approach, creativity and alertness.

Dr. Rosenthal (a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School) knows a lot about adversity from his own experience, years of research and his work with people going through a wide range of challenges. He shares 7 tricks for dealing successfully with adversity I want to share here.

The 7 tricks to deal successfully with adversity

  1. Accept that the adversity has occurred
  2. Proportion your response according to the nature of the adversity
  3. Analyze the situation
  4. Regulate your physical and emotional state (i.e.,  keep regular hours of sleeping and waking, eat regular meals, exercise,  meditate)
  5. Reach out for help – to family, friends or  even kindly strangers
  6. Turn your predicament into a story – to help you process it
  7. Reframe the adversity – think about it in a  different way

A Clear Head is Your Friend

The most important tool is a clear head. Don’t panic. In most situations there is time to think; thinking is your friend, and impulsive action is your enemy.

Analyze the situation, understanding what you’re up against and what resources you have at your disposal. Of course, in emergencies you will need to act quickly, but that’s when your primitive fight-or-flight responses will click into gear and – with a bit of luck and quick thinking – will save the day.

Remember, other people have been this way before and have succeeded in overcoming these very same obstacles and, in many instances, have become stronger as a consequence. If they could do it, so you can you. Now you simply need to figure out what they did that worked and how you can implement a strategy that will work for you.

What might this mean for you and I?

Adversity is multifaceted and comes in many different shapes and sizes.

It’s wise to have several tricks up your sleeve. All 7 tricks are ones I’ve used during my own season of adversity. They have helped me keep “hoping for the best and dancing with the rest.”

Let me add some food for thought from others to fan your ability to live fox-like during your time of adversity.

All sunshine makes the desert.
Arabian Proverb

Fractures well cured make us more strong.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adversity is the mother of progress.
Mahatma Gandhi

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man be perfected without trials.
Danish Proverb

Obstacles are great incentives.
Jules Michelet

Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.
Henry J. Kaiser

What trick would you add to the list?

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Posted in Adversity, Attitude, Character, curiosity, discipline, Emotions, Endurance, Hope, learning, Opportunity, Perspective, self-awareness, suffering, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments