“It’s never too late to be what you might have been” – George Eliot
Perhaps you are not into watching professional fights on the big screen, but I grew up watching Muhammed Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard take on big fights with much anticipation and hype. I will even admit that I had a passion for Sylvester Stallone’s depictions of Rocky Balboa, yes probably every movie. There was something about watching him train for the next big fight, especially after losing a great bout. The early morning runs and workouts, eating egg yolks in a glass (what the heck was that about) and coming back into the ring ready to match the usually much stronger and faster contender.
As I look back at a time when I was he. Down and out, just recently lost a battle and wondering what my next steps would be, I liken it to a time where I was finding myself or rediscovering what I was really made of. Kind of like a fighter going back in the ring for a second or third fight against someone they lost to prior.
So how do we prepare in real life when we lose a battle and find ourselves against the ropes of life preparing again? Are you still in the battle, getting up early, staring at yourself in the mirror declaring who you are? What steps are you taking to make your comeback, or have you given up completely?
I remember being younger, much more vibrant and with an attitude that had no quit in it, well until I was hit with that unexpected uppercut to the jaw and gut that took all the breath out of me. I stumbled, fell to my knees and said to myself, “What the hell was that?” To sum it up I was not ready for it as much as I thought I was. I suppose we really never know what we are made of until those times of testing come to us in full circle.
It reminds me of a pivotal time years ago when I had to make a choice about who I was going to be. I was newly married (for the first time) and working for a family member. I tried with all I had, but it just did not work out, so I quit and pursued other things. To no surprise it created tension in my new marriage and also strained the relationship I had with my family member, but it also proved to be a time of rediscovery and ultimately a time to come back from the dead.
You see I was despondent and felt like a failure, but I had to do something. Wallowing in my own despair felt good (for a little while anyway), but I had a new wife to support and a life to live, so I needed to do something. At that time I was still young in my career and in doubt about continuing in it. So after much prayer and consulting with my wife (at the time) I decided to pursue a new career path in education.
This decision, although not my ultimate path, proved to be the season of my training and development. For one school year I took a leave from my established career and began a new journey. It would require a long ride on commuter train (aka BART for my non Bay Area readers). During this approximately one hour commute I would have time to read, meditate and reflect on my life. Initially it was very difficult, because my thoughts were overtaken with regret and failure. I wondered, “How did I get here, and did I just make a big mistake?” But I pressed on despite my thoughts and allowed the journey to continue.
Over time, I learned how to use my time of reflection to build myself up versus question every decision I had made. Initially the real battle occurred in my head, but I had to learn how to accept how things were versus question “why” things were, if that makes sense. You see, we can all find ourselves at some point in life in predicaments that cause us to question everything. Our minds will become filled with doubt, anxiety and a nagging voice that tells us that we are worthless. It is how I felt everyday for months while on that commuter train and it did not help that I was receiving antagonizing messages from my family member about how much of a failure I was after leaving his business.
And then one day there was breaking point. After successfully working in this new career path and attending school at night, it came to me. I was engaged in my normal walk to the BART heading home and I suddenly felt like this small man in a big world that could not make a difference. I questioned what I was doing and why I quit the career I was trained for, for almost five years. This was not one of those moments I was feeling sad or despondent. I was in a good state and felt as if I heard from God, so to confirm it I spoke to my wife about my thoughts once I arrived home. She immediately agreed that I should go back into my career, so there I was at a crossroad, but this time I was certain about what I should do and better yet I also understood why.
So once the school year was over and my job came to an end, I once again pursued a place back into my previously trained career. As a skilled Union craftsperson with a 4-1/2 year apprenticeship under my belt I just needed an opportunity. After months of going to job sites and making calls, I finally received the call that I was praying for. The rest is truly history. Now as I look back over twenty years ago, I see that temporary job in education as my training for a comeback.
As much as I agonized the initial months of despair, accusations and futile questions posed to me, I realized later how important they were in getting me ready for what was to come. But I also understand this part of the journey was essential for my development, appreciation and respect for the next steps of my life and career path. Without the past lessons there is no way I can honestly say I would truly be able to walk in the shoes I do today without humility.
My journey of comeback went from a man who worked for part of the year on most occasions to a manager of almost 200 people today. There is no way I could have written this script. I only listened to my heart, the voice of God, while simultaneously knowing the specifics of my trade to insure a position that I could retain over the long haul. Even as I reflect today, it still brings chills to my spine about how far I have come. I am grateful to God and the many lessons I have learned about myself during this season.
So where do you find yourself these days? Have you fallen off your planned course or become a major disappoint to yourself or others that you care about? Did you lose your job, go through a divorce or let someone down? Has life taken a sudden turn that could not have anticipated, or do you find yourself out of breath after being figuratively punched in the gut with unexpected circumstances? Believe me I get it. I know all to well how it feels and I sincerely empathize with you.
So what are you going to do? Life will not stop and there are people still counting on you, so I encourage you to prepare for your personal comeback. Get back in the ring and begin to train, however that looks for you. And yes you may get beat up the first time, but learn from the failure and realize that failure does not have to be final. If allowed it can become the impetus to the new and improved you.
Of course my story is my story and does not guarantee anyone else’s success, but the beauty is in the trying, for in the trying lies the golden nuggets of hope, faith, belief, patience, confidence and joy. All the attributes that can lead us to a better future and a great comeback. Now go get yours!