Yesterday I saw a great movie – “Up in the Air” starring George Clooney. In the movie, Clooney plays a man whose job is to fire employees who companies are too squeamish to handle the ugly task themselves.
As you can imagine, much of what Clooney says to the laid-off is carefully worded due to legal restrictions. His words of consolence come across as trite and incomprehensible to his newly unemployed audience.
To paraphrase, Clooney’s signature line is: because you’ve gone through this experience, you are in a position to build empires.
A more poetic way of expressing this idea is quoted in the book The Passion Test. “We do not succeed in spite of our obstacles and challenges. We succeed precisely because of them.” – Richard Paul Evans, author of The Christmas Box.
For the many who have been laid off, or who are unhappy in their jobs, how can we apply this wisdom in our lives?
Having been raised on fairy tales, we tend to fixate on happy endings, overlooking the evil agendas or hardships that befall the characters along the way.
But if Cinderella had not been the stepdaughter of a social climber, perhaps she would have never met her prince. If Snow White had not been poisoned, she might never have met the seven dwarfs. And on and on.
At this year’s Massachusetts Conference for Women, I heard Suze Orman tell her life story. In short, she was a waitress who dreamed of owning a restaurant. Having raised $50,000 to start her business, she unknowingly signed the money into risky investments and lost all her money.
Let’s reflect on Suze’ options at this point in her story. One of her options was to take this loss as a sign that she would never be more than a waitress. She could have wallowed in self-pity the rest of her days, spreading misery among her customers and perhaps losing her job when the restaurant closed in a down economy.
But Suze Orman chose another path. Mystified by her experience, Suze set out to learn all she could about investments. She got a job with Merrill Lynch, the bank that had lost her money. She learned that what had happened to her was illegal and sued her employer. Today, she rights the wrong she experienced by educating women to take care of their money.
The lesson we can take away from “Up in the Air,” Richard Paul Evans, and Suze Orman? Life presents us with hardships. We don’t expect the hardships, and it’s natural to complain when they happen.
But those hardships are actually gifts in disguise. Inherent in disparities are the opportunities to overcome them. Once we overcome them, we learn that we are stronger, braver and more capable than we ever thought possible.
We may find a new mission in life thanks to our hardships, like Suze Orman did. We may have a new gift to share with other people. Because we all need teachers and mentors in our life. And we all have the capacity to be those teachers.
So keep your chin up when bad things happen. Because if Suze had never lost her money, she might be running a restaurant somewhere in the midwest, working nights and weekends to make ends meet.
The next disaster in your life may be the best thing that ever happened to you. So keep alert, and seek out the opportunities to build your empire.