“As the bullet went in one side of my brain and out the other, chances of recovery full function was minimal. In life we have two choices, go uphill or go downhill. We can take the easy way out and spiral down or we can work hard, charge uphill, and overcome barriers that attempt to hold us back.”
Being bedridden in the hospital for seven months taught me a lot about making progress in life, overcoming obstacles, and the smaller steps that are necessary to accomplish a goal. One important thing I learned while trying to rewire my brain so I could learn how to move my arms and legs, again, was that all of the smaller efforts are the building blocks to open bigger doors in the future. Your efforts, no matter what you do in life, are like the pieces to a puzzle. By themselves, they may be small and insignificant, however, every piece collectively creates the bigger picture. There was a Dragos Bratasanu quote on the hospital wall which read, “Every step you take toward the top is possible because of all the little steps you took in the past.” Making progress in life is similar to driving a stick shift car, you cannot go from zero to one hundred without going through all of the lower gears to build momentum up to maximum speed. Additionally, smaller challenges provide a platform and training ground where you can perfect your craft before advancing in your journey. A smaller accomplishment acts as an initiation, or a right of passage, where one must discover and utilize previously acquired skills for further advancement towards their goal. With that said, you cannot move mountains without learning how to move molehills first, and that takes what I call the, “The Four P’s for Overcoming Obstacles“: Patience, persistence, perseverance, and perspective.
Auguste Rodin was quoted saying, “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” Sometimes we have no other choice but to let life take its course and in the meantime we can learn about ourselves, learn from life, and most importantly, use the moment as an opportunity to reflect on how you could be better today than you were yesterday. My whole life has been about change but it was not until my life changed that I realized the purpose of progress in life. Being in a position where I had no other choice but to be patient taught me that some our sufferings arise from our desire to protect, gratify, and have larger sense of who we are in the present moment. There are obviously many roots of suffering however, one fact remains, both hard work and patience is required today for the manifestation of the life we want tomorrow. Edmund Burke mentioned, “Our patience will achieve more than our force.” Some things cannot be forced and you have no choice but to wait for the universe to conspire new opportunities. In the meantime, from anecdotal experience, I found it important to work persistently towards our long term goal despite discouragement or any other climate outside of ourselves.
I have had every opportunity to quit. Besides being shot and paralyzed, I have also been kidnapped, held hostage, homeless, and come from a dysfunctional family of poverty as well. These were wonderful life experiences for me because it taught me that lacking persistence is essentially suicide. For example, if I were to succumb to the perils of life then I would be voluntarily submitting myself to live in the depths of Hell when I could put in the effort to live life by my design instead. Furthermore, life is full of ups and downs and it does not matter how many times we fall down because life’s breakthrough moments are created by the times when we get back up. Oliver Goldsmith once mentioned, “Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.“ Pain, reflection, and making progress in life are all related. Falling is part of the self-discovery process because it brings us to a juncture of realizing what is really important to ourselves. We, as an evolving species, want to keep the bar high and continue our journey towards personal excellence and achieve greatness without learning how to overcome turbulence. Persistence through adversity translates into the strength necessary to move mountains. To become successful on a larger scale you must start small first and work your way up, which takes perseverance.
John Quincy Adams once said, “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” Early on in my recovery, it became painfully evident that the only solution for me to overcome my mountainous obstacle, overthrow my paraplegia after being shot in the head, and continue to both make progress in life and reach my goals in life was to be persistent toward fighting for what I wanted and patient to see results. For example, it took me six months, being shot, until I could move a thumb. however, with a heavy dose of perseverance, I got to a point where I could move both of my arms by the time I left the hospital. This was a valuable lesson because it taught me that in life, anything worth having is also worth working for, no matter how long it takes or how hard you have to work to get it. B.F. Skinner, American psychologist, said, “A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.” If you want to make big moves in life, it will not happen without perseverance and making mistakes. Much of life is about perspective and finding holes within our intellectual framework. Life is not rigid and with the right perspective we can transform misfortune into opportunity.
Ryan Holiday said, “Perspective has two definitions… sense of the larger picture of the world, not just what is immediately in front of us.. [And] an individual’s unique way of looking at the world, the way that interprets these events.” Our perspective is how we interpret events in our lives, which builds the framework to how we respond. Perspective can make us feel powerless and small, limiting ourselves from both our capabilities in the moment and reaching our potential in the future. On the contrary, our perspective can empower us to increase our control over our lives or circumstances as far as we can imagine. For example, Steve Jobs believed that many of us were raised to have a very limited perspective on life. In fact, Jobs was quoted saying, “When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life.” Many of us are trained since birth to push molehills, and then become jealous and envious when we see the person next to us effortlessly moving mountains. Our reality is founded upon our perspective and what we think is possible. With that said, do not fall into a fallacious existence of our own creation because with the correct perspective, persistence, and work ethic, much of life is malleable.
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