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Counting Blessings Amidst Our Tragedies

November 4, 2016 by  
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In last week’s blog, I talked about how all people have difficulties and tragedies. I’m fully aware that my problems mentioned didn’t sound that huge. Some readers might have even been saying to themselves, “Oh the unfortunate rich guy has major problems, huh? What a tragedy he’s had with that terrible common cold. I feel so sorry for him … not!”

My main point of the blog really wasn’t about my very small and temporary health issue but rather was about how we all need to rejoice more often and count our blessings. We need to do it every day and do it before we face a truly huge loss such as a severe health decline or the loss of family or friends.

There is an old Mormon hymn called “Count Your Many Blessings”. One of the lines goes “name them one by one.” I find this to be very profound in that it defines a great way to live each day. If we stop to recognize each of our blessings, it actually can improve our lives and make us feel better, just like what I learned some time ago about how smiling releases good chemicals into your brain, even doing  the same thing when we force a smile.

Like many people if not most, I’ve had some major tragedies in my life that I will never forget—there was my 17-year-old brother who died right in front of me on the basketball court when I was 15 and, the biggest and most terrible shock of my life, when my 16-year-old daughter died. Even though I’ll never really get over those tragedies, I’ve learned to live with the reality of what happened and it has made me more aware of living in the great ‘right now’. It has made me take notice and count the blessings in my life every day.

I remember vividly after my daughter died being totally depressed and laying around doing nothing but feeling sorry for myself for many, many months. Then suddenly I realized that I was completely neglecting my other children. I saw how important they were and how blessed I was to have such good productive, active, loving and lovable kids. I lifted myself out of the dumps and started to notice and pay attention to them and appreciate all the goodness around me.

As I mentioned last week, traveling through parts of Africa was a real eye opener. Our train traveled though many villages filled with garbage, spotted with homes that were just ten by ten foot shacks topped with flimsy roofs held down with rocks. As all too skinny kids ran along the side of the tracks waving at the train, I couldn’t help but see how good we have it. If we are paying attention, we’ll know we need to appreciate all our blessings every day.

So, let’s all take time to notice, take time to appreciate, and take time to love what we have and not just family and friends but even strangers. We need to start giving more back to those who need help. None of us know how long our loved ones and friends will be with us; tragedy can strike any of our lives at any time. So even if you have disagreements and arguments or find yourself angry at those around you, try to step back and look at the bigger picture and be grateful and appreciative of those people. Remember just how important they are to you and just how small the differences are that get in the way.

 

 

Great Lessons in Good Times and Bad

June 5, 2015 by  
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This week I was privileged to award 3 scholarships to graduating seniors from Cottonwood High School in Utah. I do it every year in the name of my daughter Kristin, who suddenly died of an eating disorder called bulimia when she was a sophomore at that school. It happened many years ago and anyone who has ever lost a child knows that you never get over it but, given enough time and thought, you learn to deal with it. And with more thought and the passage of time you may even learn a lesson or two.

So in my presentation to the 3 scholarship winners and to 100 plus other graduation seniors that were being honored for various achievements I gave what I think is crucial advice for a teenager and quite frankly I think good advice for all of us including myself. I said, first of all, “Let me tell you that if anyone ever tells you that they have a “perfect life”, I’m here to tell you that they are big fat lairs, or they just haven’t lived long enough yet”. Yes, I got a good laugh out of that line but it’s more than a funny line–it’s pretty darn true.

My second bit of advice that followed my first comment, was that the key to a successful and productive life is not what happens to you , especially if it’s bad stuff, but how you react to the things that happen to you and what you learn from it and then what you do from that point on.

Some people would say to me, “So what the hell did you learn from the tragedy of losing your 16 year old daughter?” Well, first I learned to accept what had happened, even though it took me a couple of years, by telling myself that although I can give up on life and give up on being a father to my other children, that I could just sit around and feel sorry for my daughter and myself for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t bring my Kristin back. I realized how stupid and selfish that would be and I wouldn’t be helping anyone. In fact, I’d be hurting a lot of people, especially my kids.

The second lesson I learned was about caring. I became so much more considerate of other people, even strangers, when I learned of their losses. Prior to my loss I was pretty callous and mainly only thought about myself. For too many of us it takes tragedy to bring us around to understanding the pain other people go through.

From the many comments I got from those graduating seniors, I think at least some of my advice sunk in and I sincerely hope they will still remember that advice when life kicks them in the face and they want to give up and feel sorry for themselves. We all need to burn into our brains that life is not easy, not for anyone (except maybe it seems that way for the big fat liars!) We need to keep getting up when life kicks us in the face and forge on. We also need to look for the lessons that are there for us, from both the good times and the bad times too!

 

The Tragedy is in Not Moving On

September 5, 2014 by  
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Tragedy is a word that none of us are fond of.  But you know what, virtually everyone on this planet has tragedy in their lives and if they haven’t had it yet, it’s almost certainly on the way. I don’t care how rich or how poor a person is, tragedy strikes everyone if they live long enough. We all were certainly shocked a few weeks ago when we saw that the loveable, talented and very successful Robin Williams had died by his own hand. This tragedy, as distant as he may be from most of us, touched so many of us nonetheless.

A couple of weeks ago, while talking to a large audience of really great people, I shared the sad, sad story of the biggest tragedy in my life–the death of my sweet, wonderful, 16 year old daughter, Kristin.  Even though that was many years ago, I’ve learned the hard way that you never get over it–that’s the bad news.  The good news is you can learn how to deal with it in a positive way.

After telling the audience about Kristin and how she died, I asked folks to raise their hands if they had has lost a child.  About 3 or 4% of the group slowly raised their hands.  I wasn’t trying to sadden the mood of the group but I was making a very important point.  That point was that if we as human beings are going to prosper and make the world a better place we must learn how to deal with tragedy since we all have or will have tragedy in our lives.

Too often I have heard people complaining and in essence saying, “Poor me. If you had gone through what I’ve been through you would not be able to do any good and great things for yourself or your family let alone strangers and other people out there.” These people are basically saying that because of their unique tragedy, their lives are over and they’ve given up because they have no choice.  If these people would step back a bit and take a look at the big picture and look beyond the facades that nearly everyone puts on, at least to a degree, they’d see that all of us are in the same boat.   And all of us really do have a choice.  We can learn how to deal with the tragedy and move on with our lives. Many times because of that tragedy we’ve had to work through, we can become better people and can be of greater help to those around us. Face the truth–tragedy strikes everyone and none of us will get out of here alive!

Think about that. And please share this message with others that you see that are in need and have not been able to move on quite yet.

A Lesson From Tragedy

November 1, 2013 by  
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There are a lot of great lessons to learn in life and if we are paying attention–being acutely aware of what’s going on around us and inside of our heads–then we just might see what life is trying to teach us and learn some great lessons.

Two weeks ago my dear wife’s sister Susan and husband Val lost their 33 years old son Brad to cancer. It was a huge smack in the face for the whole family. My wife, Kimberly, quickly flew to North Carolina for the wake and to be with her sister and Brad’s wife and kids. I stayed home but became overwhelmed by my own grief as young Brad’s tragic death brought back the memories and sorrow I have surrounding my own daughter, Kristin, who passed at the age of only 16.

During my time alone I happened to open up my own book How to Ignite Your Passion for Living to page 159 and three lines of bold face print jumped out at me like a bright light. Those three lines were what Nando Parrado said many years ago after surviving that horrific plane crash in the Andes mountains. He and a companion climbed over one of the highest peaks during a grueling 11 day trek to civilization and the chance to rescue the remaining crash survivors who only survived because they ate the flesh of their dead rugby teammates. The life lesson that Nando wrote was this: “There may be only one good thing that can come from great human tragedy and that is tragedy can make you so much more human than you ever were before.”

When I think back and look at myself after Kristin’s death, I can see how it changed me and intensified tenfold my empathy, caring and loving of other people. I was especially empathetic towards those that had lost a loved one and, in particular, if they had lost a child. I can’t put into words the huge change in my feelings towards those people and their families.

There is not one of us 7 billion humans that are going to make it out of here alive (although I’ve thought about totally boycotting death!) and if we live long enough we are bound to encounter our share of tragedy. So given that probability, doesn’t it all just come down to how we handle those terrible tragedies?

As I see it we have 2 choices. One, we can totally give up, throw in the towel and lay around feeling sorry for ourselves until we die.  Or two, we can learn a lesson about life and go out in the world trying to help others survive and even thrive as well as help them make it through their tragedies.

We do have a choice here. I think if we chose the first option we are bound to drag ourselves into depression, misery and sadness for the rest of our lives. But if we chose the second option, I think we’ll see brightness and light not only fill our own lives but just as important we will see that light in the minds, souls and bodies of those we seek out to help.

So what do you choose?

Accepting the Moment

October 25, 2013 by  
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I noticed that myself, my wife and a number of other people are having a hard time with life events this past week. We will all have difficult times to deal with but how events affect us now and impact us in the long run depends on how we deal with them. If you’ve followed this blog for a while then you’ve probably read my thoughts on living in the now and how it affects your health, stress level, and just enjoyment of life. Well, the same kind of thing is key for dealing with hard times—awareness and acceptance of the present experience.

When we find ourselves in an emotional or difficult moment—whether it’s a deadline you’ve missed at work, a bad injury or the loss of a loved one—one of the first things that comes to mind is wanting or wishing we could change what has happened. There’s no point in doing this but we all do it just the same. If you hold onto those thoughts, you’ll just be torturing yourself which does you and those around you no good at all and can be harmful in the long run.

Now some situations can be changed for the better but not always and sometimes changing it is going to be a losing battle or just make something else worse. The first thing you need to do with any situation is to accept what has already happened. The past cannot be changed. If you missed that deadline, well, you can’t go back and get the work done on time any more but you can move forward and get the job done as soon as possible or put it aside and pick up the next most important task. If someone has passed away, celebrate who they have been and how they have enriched your life while accepting that everyone will pass on and that it’s okay, that it is just part of this wonderful miracle that is living.

Accepting and living in the moment won’t make the stress or pain of what has happened go away completely and that’s okay too. Disappointment, pain, and sorrow are normal when things get rough but they should only be momentary, a reaction to the circumstance. Feel your emotions and accept those as well. But let go of any attempts to control what has already happened. This will make it so much easier to accept difficult circumstances which will reduce the emotional and physical problems you’ll have when dealing with the situation.

So live in the now, accept the moment. Don’t spend time wishing things had been different and don’t try to change the present in an attempt to change the past and its effect on you and your loved ones. The only thing that can change how a difficult situation will affect you, is in how you deal with it.