Like some of you, I took for granted that I would be successful in whatever I chose to do. With a good education, a good work ethic, and several languages under my belt — or should I say skirt? — I grew up confident and vain.
I didn’t count on the sobering discipline and enormous amount of faith required to achieve and sustain success, while tackling some seemingly insurmountable challenges. I had to learn the hard way my life’s lessons and exercise humility.
I would like to share with you where my road was heading after I faced a serious health scare, how someone else’s tragedy profoundly altered my personal GPS for the better, and four recommendations for dealing with trying times.
On December 25, 2010, I suddenly collapsed on the floor and was resuscitated at the doorsteps of my Washington, D.C. apartment. The good news is that I became part of the ten percent who statistically come back from the dead after being worked on by trained medics.
After waking up at the hospital, I was shocked and perturbed when I learned that I had been resuscitated on Christmas Day. I was afraid that had I been spared for some reason, I had no idea of my life purpose. The unknown made me felt lost and fearful.
The bad news was that I was not heading straight for Heaven and God knew that I like hot weather, but not THAT hot! And so began my spiritual journey.
Until then, I had lived for decades under the wrong impression that my life was supposed to be a heavenly, joyous ride all the way to Heaven. Boy, did I have a rude awakening…
I became even more upset four years later, when I learned that a former colleague of mine* had taken his own life. He had courageously fought harassment and bullying at work and the ensuing depression.
As we all know, power in the workplace is a complex issue and many inconsiderate acts are committed in the name of expediency. When management’s decisions are poorly executed or lack compassion, it can devastate people’s lives. My colleague was let go a few weeks before he completed his 20 years with the organization, and could not collect a pension until much later. He was abruptly escorted out of his office without having a chance to say good-bye to his long-time peers. This gratuitous humiliation compounded his pain. Unemployed, he later despaired.
My friend’s beautiful French didn’t serve him well when he saw a “detour” on his road. He could only perceive a precipice at the end of a tunnel, and decided to put on the brakes on his own terms.
He was found dead, listening to his favorite music at 48 years of age. His untimely death robbed us all of a gentle soul, with a perennial smile and never-ending wit. The impact of his life on my own has been immeasurable. He became my inspiration and I had to change the road I was taking, and the way I was driving. His premature departure signaled to me that he had apparently given in, let go and, by some human measures, did not succeed. However, he taught me three posthumous lessons:
- Fear Not! Pope, now Saint, JPII’s “do not be afraid” phrase started to resonate continuously on my mind. I returned home to the Catholic Church. I think that my friend had stopped trusting his celestial co-pilot.**
- Know Thyself. To go from “self” to “others” you need to know yourself. I set out to become gentler, like he was. I decided to devote more time to fight violence against the most vulnerable in our society.
- Be tolerant. I exercise more patience with my and other people’s shortcomings.
We all make mistakes, but we rarely take the time to examine our conscience or make reparations. My four recommendations when faced with fears of failure are:
1) Trust God’s mercy, grace, and the talents within you.
2) Remember that instability is what brings to our human experience the gifts of “creativity, art, and competition.”***
3) Be compassionate with yourself and others.
4) Put your creativity to work for those in distress or in greater need than you!****
If you wish to put your gifts to work in honor of someone starting today, consider contributing to one of the organizations supported by #GivingTuesday. Henry Timms launched the first #Giving Tuesday campaign four years ago, right after Thanksgiving Day. Since then, #GivingTuesday has been growing globally. It is now working with the U.N. Development Program, TechSoup Global, and other international networks to celebrate local heroes and engage communities around the world.
You can make the commitment to review your map, think of alternative routes, change your means of transportation, and set your GPS to new heights if your destination reads “Others.”
For the next 365 days be generous with your time, talent, or pocket change. Just choose your preferred cause. Together, we can do some awesome social good by joining #GivingTuesday activities!
*In memoriam of JG
***Wilson, E.O., November 25, 2014, “E.O. Wilson: E.T. Is Out There and He/She probably Looks Like This.”
****”Strive for More”
Images courtesy by photobucket.com
This article originally appeared as part of LinkedIn’s #RoadNotTaken series.