When faced with adversity, how do you respond?

Roasted coffee beans.

Roasted coffee beans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes, those forwarded emails you receive have relevant messages.  I like the message in this one:

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her.  She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up.  She was tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.  Her mother took her to the kitchen.  She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire.  Soon the pots came to a boil.  In the first pot she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the third she placed ground coffee beans.  She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

After about 15 minutes she turned off the burners.  She fished the carrots out of the water and placed them in a bowl.  She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.  Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.  Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs and coffee” she replied.  Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noticed they were soft.  The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell she observed the hard-boiled egg.  Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee.  The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.  The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water.  Each reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.  The egg had been fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting in the boiling water, its inside became hardened.  The ground coffee beans were unique, however.  After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter.  “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?  Think of this: Which am I?  Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?  Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart but changes with the heat?  Did I have a fluid spirit but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?  Does my shell look the same but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean?  The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain.  When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor.  If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.  When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?  How do you handle adversity?  Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.  The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.  The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling.  Live your life so at the end you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.


Do you know who your friends are?

As I venture out to do some different things with my career and try to give flight to some of my long-held dreams, I was excited to come across the following story I first encountered years ago.  I am a fan of John Maxwell.  What follows is an excerpt from his book Your Roadmap For Success:

When you’re trying to realize your dream, sometimes you’ll be surprised by which people want to light your fire and which ones want to put it out.  Let me tell you a humorous story that vividly illustrates this point.

A Canadian bird decided that it was too much trouble to fly south for the winter.  He said to himself: “I can brave winter.  A lot of other animals do it.  It just can’t be that hard.”  So as all the other birds flocked away toward sunny South America, he stayed behind and waited for winter.

By the end of November, he was having serious second thoughts.  He had never been so cold, and he couldn’t find any food.  Finally, he broke down and realized that if he didn’t get out of there soon, he wasn’t going to make it.  So he started flying south all by himself.  After a while, it began to rain.  And before he knew it, the water was turning to ice on his wings.  Struggling, he recognized that he couldn’t fly any longer.  He knew he was about to die so he glided down and made his last landing, crashing to the ground in a barnyard.

As he lay there stunned, a cow came by, stepped over him and dropped a plop right on him.  He was totally disgusted.  Here I am, he thought, freezing to death.  I’m about to die.  I’m on my last breath, and then this!  What an awful way to go.

So then the bird held his breath and prepared himself to die.  But after about two minutes, he discovered a miracle was happening: He was warming up.  The ice on his wings was melting.  His muscles were thawing out.  His blood was flowing again.  He realized that he was going to make it after all.  He got so excited and happy that he began to sing a glorious song.

At that moment, the farm’s old tomcat was lying in the hayloft in the barn and he heard the bird singing.  He couldn’t believe it; he hadn’t heard anything like it for months, and he said to himself, “Is that a bird?  I thought they’d all gone south for the winter.”

He came out of the barn, and lo and behold, there was the bird.  The cat crossed over to where he was, pulled him gently out of the cow plop, cleaned him off – and ate him.

There are three morals to this story: 1) Not everyone that drops a plop on you is your enemy; 2) not everyone who takes a plop off you is your friend; and 3) if somebody does drop a plop on you, keep your mouth shut.  The same can be true for you as you realize your dream.  Some people you consider friends will fight your success.  Others will support you in ways you didn’t expect.  But no matter which people criticize you or how they do it, don’t let them take your focus off your dream.

Now you know…

There is an important lesson in this story about speaking up when you have the chance.  Otherwise, it could be too late.

In the beginning was the plan;

And then came the assumptions.

And the assumptions were without form.

And the plan was completely without substance.

And the darkness was upon the face of the workers.

And they spoke amongst themselves saying:

“It is a crock of shit and it stinketh.”

And the workers went unto their supervisors and sayeth:

“It is a pail of dung and none can endure the odor thereof.”

And the supervisors went unto their managers and sayeth:

“It is a container of excrement and it is very strong, such that no one may abide by it.”

And the managers went unto their directors and sayeth:

“It is a vessel of fertilizer and no one can stand its strength.”

And the directors spoke among themselves, one to the other:

“It contains that which aids plant growth and it is very strong.”

And the directors went unto the vice presidents and sayeth to them:

“It promotes growth and is very powerful.”

And the vice presidents went unto the president and sayeth to him:

“This new plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency of this

company and these areas in particular.”

And the president looked upon the plan

And saw that it was good and the plan became policy.