A Slice of Adversity

adversityHere’s an excerpt from the book I reviewed yesterday. It will give you a taste for how the book flows and some of the insights you’ll find in it. Two of my favourite lines come almost at the end of this passage. You’ll probably know when you get there. Enjoy this read, I’d be interested to hear what you think of this little taste.

From THE POWER OF ADVERSITY by Al Weatherhead (published by Hampton Roads Publishing Company Inc.). Copyright 2008 by Al Weatherhead with Fred Feldman. Reprinted with permission of the author. www.powerofadversity.net

Adversity Builds Walls for You to Tear Down pgs. 67 – 72

And as the shock abated, I reached out for more help.

In 1990 I read the book Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, and wrote to him, offering to fly to San Francisco and enlist in his pioneer study. That highly select group had long been doing the heart disease reversal program and could not accept new participants, but shortly after our exchange, Dr. Ornish offered his first heart reversal retreat in California. I applied and was accepted.

Ornish’s theory was simple. With a combination of lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet, stress reduction, and exercise, the progression of heart disease could be halted and perhaps reversed. More than anything, Ornish opened the world’s eyes to the notion that heart disease was not just a physical problem but a holistic one.

According to him, it is equally as possible to shut down the heart by denying intimacy as it is by consuming fatty foods. Surgery and drugs are often essential when one is experiencing the heart attack, but they do nothing to resolve the underlying cause. A coronary bypass is just that: a bypass of the problem.

Ornish taught that reversing heart disease demands enormous patience, love, and understanding . . . a union of mind, body, and spirit . . .

Those words resonated within me as the sweat equity earned through my previous adversity kicked in, and the walls began to come down. I at last began to draw the right conclusions about adversity—how I had been responding to it and how my responses were changing:

• My ostracism from my fatherʼs company had ultimately caused me to abandon my false images of who I was and what I deserved, versus what I had to earn.
• Alcoholism and rheumatoid arthritis had humbled me by rubbing my nose in my terrible isolation, stripping me down until my only choice was to reach out to others.
• Now heart disease was presenting me with yet another opportunity to understand myself and the world around me in a more loving fashion.

What made this particular illness/adversity unique and especially intimidating was that it carried with it the risk of death. While all the other adversities in my life had been serious, none before this one was potentially fatal.

So my heart attack—more than any other problem I’d faced—was a cold shower that woke me to the staggering realization: the adversity we perceive as an exterior problem—like a heart attack—is often really the symptom of a problem deep within ourselves. It is only by tearing down the walls of adversity that those deeprooted issues will at long last be revealed.

In my case, I learned that my heart condition was not a matter of the “heart attacked” as much as my heart attacking me in retribution for the festering knots and thorns in my life.

Tearing down the walls of adversity and reaching out to others isn’t and shouldn’t be the only way to progress. You can also lure yourself out of adversity’s shadow by finding something—anything—you think you can do to tackle the problem you’re confronting.

We’ll talk more about choices in the following chapter. For now, let me emphasize that any step you take will begin to transform your wall into a bridge to help you escape your labyrinth and reach spectacular vistas of self-potential.

Your first step is to convince yourself that you have thought through your avenue of action and that it is the right thing for you to do at this moment. Not necessarily an hour, day, week, month, or year from now—but right now.

Take my drinking. It didn’t matter that I could go weeks, months, even a year or more without going on a binge, because sooner or later (usually when I thought nobody would be the wiser), I’d disappear into some hotel room and hit the bottle nonstop.

In 1966, I started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Then I prided myself on being only a periodic drunk. I was, I thought, better than “that drunken slob lying in the gutter.”

The beginnings of my sobriety and my life in AA commenced when I spent seven days in Rosary Hall, a retreat for recovering alcoholics at Saint Vincent Charity Hospital in Cleveland. There I went through basic training for alcoholics. Since then, I have been sober, and to those of us in AA that means one day at a time or shorter periods of time if necessary.

Several years later at an AA meeting where I gave my lead, Jack Ball, a thirty-year member of the organization commented, “Al, you’re nothing more than a goddamned drunk who’s periodically sober.”

There it was. The bald-faced truth. And that meant no more lying to myself! No more running and no more hiding from myself.

What’s the right first or next step for you to take to free yourself from the prison of your adversity? Not tomorrow or next week or next year, but right now? Simply take the time to marshal your arguments about your choice of strategy and detail them to yourself the way you would to persuade another person. Your way will come clear to you. In addition, you’ll be amazed at the peace of mind you will experience . . . a peace that comes from knowing you’re doing the right thing to the best of your ability.

The walls of your adversity might seem too high to scale. Never mind. Don’t look up and don’t look down. Look straight ahead, find that first foothold, and climb. Soon that wall will become merely a stepping stone to the next phase of your life—and (surprise!) your next adversity. At that point, recall the concept of sweat equity and realize that when you leverage your learning from adversity past and present there is no failure and no wasted time.

This is a lesson I try to teach at my factory as I mentor the new generation of management that has taken over the day-to-day leadership of my business. I stress that the important thing is to have fun moving forward, addressing the inevitable mistakes as they arise, but not obsessing about dead ends or what might go wrong in the future.

It all comes back to Rule 12 in the list in chapter 1 that I devised to help you put adversity to work:

ADVERSITY ALWAYS GRANTS A CHANCE TO CREATIVELY RESOLVE THE PROBLEM.

In my experience, the first creative solution or decision that comes to me is usually the right one . . . It’s that idea, plain and simple, that feels correct in my gut.

Once you’ve been creative and come up with your solution, it’s time to be innovative.

Throw your ideas against the wall and see what sticks, remembering that there’s no such thing as a mistake if you learn something from your actions.

As I’ve already said, worrying too much about the future can trap you in mental quicksand. The more you flail, the deeper you sink.

How do you get out? The same way you escape from real quicksand. Relax, so that you float to the surface. Then, one move at a time, propel yourself to safety. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to apply one of the most important lessons from this book: reach out to others to help you escape from your quagmire of adversity. Chances are, the next time around, you’ll be the one doing the helping.

You truly can bring down your personal walls built with the bricks of adversity and venture forth into a bright new dawn of self-potential. I’ve shown you the keys to your prison.

Now it’s up to you to use them.

From THE POWER OF ADVERSITY by Al Weatherhead (published by Hampton Roads Publishing Company Inc.). Copyright 2008 by Al Weatherhead with Fred Feldman. Reprinted with permission of the author. www.powerofadversity.net

You might have guessed it, but here are two of my favourite lines:

Several years later at an AA meeting where I gave my lead, Jack Ball, a thirty-year member of the organization commented, “Al, you’re nothing more than a goddamned drunk who’s periodically sober.”

There it was. The bald-faced truth. And that meant no more lying to myself! No more running and no more hiding from myself.

The resonate with words, great words, that unlock so much more: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Know anyone that could help?

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About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in book review, Books, Christianity, Confession, Life, perception, Reflective and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Slice of Adversity

  1. greggmac says:

    I have always believed that “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” applies to ME. The truth about ME sets me free from the bondage of self; the most tyrannical form of bondage in existence. That being said it can be hard to maintain that freedom in a culture of happy faces whose mantra is I’m OK – You’re OK. Which translates to I won’t tell you the truth about myself or yourself if you return the favor.

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