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Sometimes at the end of a day I start feeling sorry for myself. My kids are arguing with me, I have more things on my "to do" list than is humanly possible to finish, I am stuck in traffic at the end of a long tiring day, and so on. It's times like these that I remind myself to get into the mindset of champions. Champions like Martha Stewart.
As we all know, at a time when corporate corruption abounded and many executives seemed to be getting off scott-free, Martha Stewart was made an example of and sent off to prison for far less heinous wrongdoing. After all, she didn't destroy the retirement of millions of people. She didn't squander their hard-earned investment money with million dollar birthday parties. And yet, she was the one singled out, sent off to prison on prime time television.
If there was ever someone who could feel sorry for themselves, it was Stewart. True, she was one of the first woman billionaires in America. But she earned that distinction, worked hard to get there, and added value to millions of lives. How humiliating to be filmed in prison scrubs, after the lofty heights she'd attained.
Yet instead of wallowing in self-pity or sulking in the corner, she took it like the champion she is. Denied a job in the prison kitchen; she was assigned instead to cleaning the warden's headquarters. She dealt with it. She cleaned and vacuumed and fixed all the machines. She learned to make the most of whatever vegetables were available in the "sad garden" there. She learned to cook in the microwave. (As a result, she added recipes on microwave cooking to her magazine, Everyday Foods.)
In prison, Stewart worked out everyday, and taught yoga classes. She also taught a seminar on entrepreneurship for fellow inmates which became the inspiration for her latest book, The Martha Rules. Talk about someone who knows how to turn lemons into lemonade! In an interview with Fortune magazine, Stewart says one thing she has learned from her ordeal is that "I cannot be destroyed." Even after her release from the big house, she takes things like poor ratings on her television show (The Apprentice) and a weak stock price for her company in her stride. What an inspiration.
We all have our challenges in life. But as the New Year begins, let's start turning those challenges into opportunities. Think you have a big problem in your life? If you do, all that means is that you are playing small with yourself. One thing I've learned as a single parent is that the size of the problem is never the issue. What matters is the size of YOU.
When we learn to quit playing the victim and instead ask ourselves "How can I see this problem as an opportunity?" a whole new world opens up. One thing that can help us reach this point is to realize that everything that happens in our lives is neutral. Nothing has meaning except for the meaning we give it.
World-renowned speaker Les Brown used to tell the story of a friend , who called him crying to say she'd been laid off. He asked her, "Didn't you tell me you hated that job? They didn't lay you off-they released you to find your good!"
It's not about putting a happy face on a "bad" situation. It's about realizing that any situation is a potential opportunity if we choose to see it that way. Once we decide that we are bigger than any problem, we can handle any problem, what can stop us from reaching our goal? The answer is - nothing. And if nothing can stop us, then we become unstoppable!
If you don't believe it, look at Martha Stewart. She suffered the same doubts and fears the rest of us would have in her situation. She just didn't let that stop her. The same is true for other self-made millionaires (or billionaires), like Donald Trump. Trump has made and lost a fortune many times over. But no matter what else he lost, one thing he didn't lose is the mindset of a champion. He makes mistakes, he loses his fortune, but he doesn't let it stop him. He keeps right on going until he's won it all back.
In my life, I went from a lower middle class home to putting myself through law school and becoming a successful attorney, by refusing to let my problems stop me. The more I focus on opportunities instead of obstacles, the more successful I become.
The other day I was watching the Olympic ice skating competition on television. There was one young woman whose performance was breathtaking. She was so incredible that just watching her brought tears to my eyes.
All of a sudden, in the middle of a dazzling mid-air turn, she fell on the ice.
Did she lay there crying, knowing that her hopes at winning and all her years of practice, were down the drain? Did she act ashamed, having taken a spill on national television in front of millions of people? Not at all. She recovered so quickly I almost wondered if she'd fallen at all, and finished with a confident flourish.
We all fall in life. We all put our heart into something, only to see if fail. We all at times end up the butt of the joke. But at that moment of failure or challenge, if all we can think of is "poor me," then that is how we will end up. Poor.
If we choose instead to see our falls as an opportunity, as motivation, we can move on to heights we never dreamed possible. We need to realize that our life is not just about us. We need to start thinking big and stop playing small. As the New Year begins decide to find out how you fit into the Big Picture and accept our so-called problems along the way. Then you too will become indestructible.