"It doesn't matter whether something is fortunate or unfortunate... What's fortunate is that it happened to you." Marcus Aurelius.
This quote really puts so much of my life into perspective for me along with the 20/20 clarity of hindsight. Looking back so often when great/good things happened to me they really were not necessarily the best thing for me. Conversely almost without exception every horrible occurrence bore out some great benefit, growth, personal development, power.
In my gratitude practice I look back often and give thanks for the horrible things... realizing each one in their own way set me up for success and growth. While the titles earned, awards given and numerous successes did not offer the same long term growth. Small victories and successes do provide what I would call short term motivation, which is certainly welcomed and a good thing. But real character building, long term growth only comes through adversity.
In a comfort seeking world we do our utmost to avoid any adversity. And I do mean ANY! And the more we avoid, the weaker and more fear filled we become. We fear hard work, outside weather, sun, rain, snow, other people, strangers, learning new tasks, snakes, bugs, airplanes, large tasks, public speaking, leaving toxic relationships, being alone, unemployment or tough endeavors. Not to say any of these things should not be respected, but they should not necessarily be feared.
It helps to recognize what adversity really is. A builder of character. All of us have met those few folks living on a trust fund who have never had to want their entire lives. Almost without exception these poor souls develop neurotic eccentric personality disorders and provide for the most boring conversation you can experience! Being born with a silver spoon in your mouth is UNFORTUNATE.
I value my unfortunate fortune... being born in an isolated, impoverished, racist community.... growing up in a dysfunctional education system replete with broken teachers (some even illiterate)... a school system not fully integrated until around 1973 and then only because arsonists burned down the black school... being placed in the "dumb" class of my grade level... taught to fear fags, women in leadership, all other religions, dancing and rock music by the southern baptist church... physically bullied from 6th-10th grade... my parents nasty divorce... my mom's alcoholism and complete self sabotage behavior (which continues to this day, she was recently featured in the 24hr police incident report- she is in her 80's)... having little choice but joining the Army at 17... jumped and beaten to unconsciousness by a gang... endured orthopedic surgeries to every extremity of my body to include back surgery and facial surgery... endured more concussions than I can remember lol.. having my dad run over and killed by a teenage son of a rural North Carolina sheriff (less than one page investigative report)... my own divorce and fragmented family life... making and losing small fortunes along the way.... career shifts and changes....
I have spent most of my life really pissed off about a lot of this and blaming the outside causes- people, institutions (ed, church, gov), bad luck... But through the wisdom given by time, the study of stoicism and so many great examples leaders in my life have demonstrated... I have learned to give thanks for the struggles. Slowly my perception to all of this has changed. I see these awful occurrences more as a "badge of honor" placed on my uniform by a valiant leader... every single one being a test to see "Will he buckle?" "Will he turn to drugs or alcohol?" "Will he give up?". I see these now as the true "titles" the true "awards". I look back and of course I say "Damn it that was some fucked up shit!"... but I say "Guess what... I am still standing! And I am standing tall not in spite of it... but because of it!"
I was recently on a zoom call like many of us do these days... I was in my truck. Where on my ceiling I have placed patches to commemorate my life! Each patch hearkens back to a time in my life whether its the military, college, previous jobs, places of travel or parts of the world I have lived. I had not thought of everyone in the webinar seeing these patches as I spoke! After my presentation the moderator commented on the patches and I replied "Yes! that is my life story on my ceiling!".
I have been richly blessed with so many good things in my life. Way more than I deserve. But looking back the unfortunate things really built me into the man I am today. I wear each event as a patch on my heart, a badge of honor... not because of the event but because somehow I made it, I stood back up. I am so grateful for all of it. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!