If you think of people that you admire and I’m talking about people who have achieved big things or people who always bounce back or people who are unusually kind, you’ll notice something.
They weren’t born extraordinary. They became extraordinary through circumstances.
Outstanding people have been through tough times. Maybe they lost parents early in life or they grew up in poverty or they went broke more than once or maybe they barely survived serious illness. They were shaped by circumstances that they didn’t choose.
My dad was a sailor in the Second World War and he spent five years having bombs dropped on him. On one ship, I remember him telling me they went two weeks with nothing to eat but porridge and ketchup. And I used to wonder how come my dad never stresses about little things. He would often say, so long as I’ve got a dry bed to sleep in, I’m happy.
How did he become so resilient, because of circumstances that he didn’t choose? My wife Julie, she lost her mother at ten after a long illness. Julie was shaped by circumstances that she didn’t choose. At eight years old, Julie was calling doctors, arranging ambulances, delivering her mother to the hospital. At eight years old, she was taking care of her brothers and sisters. She just learned to make things happen. If my life ever depended on someone, I would want it to be Julie.
Julie once built an orphanage for 150 babies in Indonesia with no money. She just kept visiting construction companies and said, “I’m building an orphanage, give me whatever timber, bricks, window frames, doors, and paint you can spare. She built a whole orphanage without a cent.
Julie became my publisher in 1995. She knew nothing about publishing. She’s not even a big reader. And she said, “Andrew, we’re going global”. Thanks to Julie, my books are now in 47 languages. So what made her unstoppable? She will tell you growing up without a mother, “I just had to be”, circumstances that she didn’t choose, circumstances that turned her into a force of nature.
So you ask, well, how do I bounce back from failure, tragedy, and disappointment? It has a lot to do with the questions that you ask yourself when things go wrong.
Some people ask, “Why do bad things always happen to me?”, and that doesn’t help.
Here’s a better question, and it’s the question that achievers ask, “what’s good about this?” Whatever goes wrong, you can always find something. Even if you’re broke, you say, well, “What’s good about being broke?” Well, you develop character, you learn how to budget, and you learn who your friends are. Your relationship breaks up, you say, well, “what’s good about that?” You’ll get out of your comfort zone. You’ll meet some new people.
Now, you might say, let’s be realistic. Lousy things happen, and resilient people have the habit of asking themselves, “what’s good about this?” That simple question, “what’s good about this?” you quit feeling like a victim. Suddenly, life is not happening to you, it is happening for you, circumstances that we didn’t choose. You see, now it’s our turn. We have a pandemic that we didn’t choose and it’s scary. But what you thought was breaking you is probably making you.