There was once a wise man. One day his son came back to the farm having captured a prize stallion. The people in the village came to witness the magnificent beast, and all proclaimed how lucky the wise man was, to which he replied
The next day, while trying to train the horse, the son fell and broke both his legs. The people of the village came and proclaimed how terrible this was, and how unfortunate such an injury must be. The wise man sat silently for several seconds and then replied
A week later the local militia came. The country was at war, and the militia was rounding up every able-bodied man to fight. Seeing the sons broken legs, the militia let the boy stay In the village. How fortunate the wise man was, the village people said. To which the wise man once again replied
You all in this room have a view about what life means, what it’s about. For some of you, life will be a game. For others, it’s a struggle. Your worldview reflects how you perceive the reality around you. There are even those who believe that life is a virtual reality simulation and that we are all minds floating in a computer game. Every theory is true to the person that holds it.
So who is right?
It’s impossible to say. But what we do know is that your thinking can have a direct impact on the quality of your life. And many of us try our best to avoid struggle, to avoid conflict and to avoid hardship, only for life to deliver those to our door anyway. It’s almost as if life is somehow testing us. Sometimes it feels like life is testing us more than we can bear.
But how many of you have been through “bad times” only for you to come out the other end a richer and better person? The struggle, the ordeal, moulded and shaped you into the person you are now. You didn’t let life break you, you didn’t let fate crush you under its merciless thumb.
Because there is no failure in life, just learning experiences. You only fail when you quit. And everyone here will, at some time in their lives, face rock bottom. It is how you react in these moments of crisis that defines you, that shapes you. It is your decisions in these moments that create your destiny and your legacy. And sometimes we don’t recover from our challenges. Life was never meant to be fair.
The author and businessman Napoleon Hill once said that opportunity invariably comes wrapped up in impossible situations. By failing to find the gift in the difficult times, we fail to learn the lesson that we are perhaps supposed to learn. For there are people who have faced incredible adversity only to come out better people, to change the world and be a guiding light. Here are a few examples:
Sylvester Stallone, born with facial paralyses, was once a down on his luck actor, but acting was his dream. There was a time where his biggest role was in a poorly produced soft porn movie. His adversity was the constant rejection he faced every day in his attempts to fulfil his dream. But then he had the vision to write a screenplay about a struggling boxer who was given his chance at the big time. His screenplay was rejected again and again. So desperate was Stallone for money to feed his family that he even sold the family dog.
And then came his chance. A studio liked his screenplay so much they offered him 300,000. But he turned them down because Stallone also wanted to be the star.
“How can you be the star, nobody knows who you are”
But he persevered and ended up persuading the studio to let him play the role. They reduced his fee for the screenplay to a tenth of what they first offered, as well as a % of the profits…. Because they didn’t envisage there to be any profits. It cost a million dollars to make and has made nearly a quarter of a billion worldwide…and made Stallone a star. He bought his dog back from the person he sold it to….for several thousand dollars.
Art Berg was left a Quadriplegic after a head-on car collision five weeks before his wedding. The wedding went ahead, but the doctors said he would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. He didn’t let that accident define him or hold him back. He made the wheelchair his own and started playing wheelchair rugby…otherwise known as Murder Ball. He became a bestselling author and world-renowned motivational speaker. He even did a 300-mile endurance marathon through the American desert states. Eventually, he even taught himself how to walk again. Even though he died at the age of 39 he had a huge impact on the people around him.
Stephen King always wanted to write. It was who he was, and his first book **Carrie** was where it all really began. Unfortunately for King, his book was rejected 30 times by publishers, and on his last rejection, he even threw the book in the bin. Right then and there he almost gave up, but his wife picked the book out and told him to persevere. Some of us need to accept the guiding hand of those around us. Stephen King’s books have sold over 350 million copies worldwide.
Oprah Winfrey had a childhood of abuse and molestation by members of her own family whilst living with her mother in a deprived neighbourhood. At the age of 14, having run away from home, she gave birth to a child that died shortly after. It was when she was sent to live with her father that things began to change. Her father was strict and insisted she got a decent education. Driven by a desire she didn’t understand, she went into broadcasting. Even her media career wasn’t without struggle. She was a black woman at a time when racism and sexism still thrived across the United States. But she beat the odds to become a media sensation. She is now a multi-billionaire.
Victor Frankly was a psychologist who was unfortunate to be a Jew in 1930’s Germany. He was sent to numerous concentration camps, including Auschwitz and yet managed to survive. Even though his wife and family were all killed by the Nazi’s, he never lost hope. He later went on to write the best selling book about what he learnt from his experiences. “Man’s Search for meaning” sold over 10 million copies. He brought forward the concept that without meaning, without a purpose, man is a lost soul.
Abraham Lincoln grew up in poverty and lost his mother whilst still a child. Due to lack of funds, he had to teach himself law. He had to deal with the loss if his first wife as well as numerous failures to enter politics at the ballot box. His biggest adversary was probably his own clinical depression. All this made him the man he was, the man who needed to be the force of will that brought the country through its civil war and saw an official end to slavery in America.
Winston Churchill had not been the most successful politician. In charge of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in world war 1, he lost his parliamentary seat in the 1930’s due to his unpopularity and was viewed as a renegade and a washout. But he fought back, shaped by his past failures and in WW2 became the right man at the right time in the right place. His leadership helped stall the Nazi juggernaut and turned the tide of war.
And I will leave you today with one of Winston Churchill’s final speeches.
Don’t worry, it isn’t a long one.
Never, never, never, never give up
That’s the way it looks from here
Dr Stephen Hudson BDS, MSc, PGD Med law, PGC Dental Law & Ethics