Why Deserve Is a Dangerous Word

A young woman asked me this question on Instagram: Do you have a blog post about “imposter syndrome?” Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve the beautiful life I have. 

I understand where she’s coming from. We’ve all felt at one time or another that we don’t deserve the cards we’ve been dealt—good or bad. There are good people who endure so much pain: an untimely death of a loved one, illness; financial problems, or heartbreak. And there are bad people who seem to be rewarded despite the hurt they’ve caused or the mistakes they’ve made. Either way, the question becomes, “Why did this happen if I didn’t deserve it?”

“Why me?”

My answer: Life is not at all about what you deserve. It’s about what you do with it.

Recently, my mother-in-law asked me if I’d call an Uber for my grandparents to ride from Hallandale to Miami to attend a funeral. “You know how much they love Elisa,” she said. “They want to be there for her.” 

I remembered Elisa. She lived in my grandparents’ building. I’d met her several times when we visited. Her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over twelve years ago. He’d been bedridden for quite some time. It was no surprise that he’d pass away soon. “Oh, poor thing,” I replied. “She took such good care of her husband. At least he’s resting now.” 

My mother-in-law’s eyes opened wide and her eyebrows raised. “No! It was not her husband who died. It was her son! He died of a heart attack. He was only 44 years old.”

I gasped. How could that happen? Wasn’t it bad enough that woman had endured the slow and painful deterioration of her husband to then have to lose her young and vibrant son? It wasn’t fair. It isn’t fair. 

Life Isn’t Fair or Predictable. It’s Just Life.

 

We could argue all the reasons Elisa didn’t “deserve” what happened to her. But does it matter whether she deserved it? What difference would that make? 

Also, how far should we take the deserve argument? Do you deserve to be born in a privileged country versus an underdeveloped country? Do you deserve to be born to one family versus another? Rich or poor? Homosexual or heterosexual? Male or female? Tall or short? 

To deserve something is that you are born worthy of that thing. I would argue that we are all born worthy of love, health, abundance, joy, success, and fulfillment. And yet there are so many who are deprived of those essentials since birth—without having done anything to deserve otherwise. So then what? If life isn’t fair or predictable, what do we do about it? How do we reconcile the things that happen? How do we maintain a sense of control? 

We eliminate the word “deserve” from our vocabulary. We accept that life is what it is, and we control the only thing we can—our attitude.

 

What You Deserve Doesn’t Matter

 

Once we accept that what we deserve is irrelevant, then we can take full advantage of the life we have. We can choose what we do within our circumstances. 

So you made a bunch of mistakes in the past and you feel you don’t deserve the life you have now? Apologize, forgive yourself, and commit to serving others from this point forward. Use your energy to be good and do good. Those mistakes will make you less judgmental, more forgiving, and more compassionate to others. You are in training for something bigger. 

So you’ve been a good person and you’re dealing with a hardship now? Let yourself experience that pain, be patient with yourself, and look for the lessons. Those hardships will make you stronger, wiser, and more compassionate to others. You are in training for something bigger. 

I do not believe that everything happens for a reason—but I believe everything that happens is training for the next obstacle.

You can always make better choices, pick yourself up again, express gratitude, and serve others. You have much more power than you think. 

As for Elisa, my hope is that she finds peace and hope in this difficult time; that her remaining children, grandchildren, and community offer her the love and support she will desperately need; and that she is filled with blessings in spite of her pain. 

A Moment Of Clarity

When you eliminate the word “deserve” from your vocabulary, you shift from a “why me?” mindset to a “what will I do about it?” mindset. Then it no longer matters that life isn’t fair or predictable—what matters is that it’s worth living. 

Coincidence or Serendipity?

Have you ever had something happen to you that leaves you wondering if it was sheer coincidence, divine intervention, or a serendipitous moment?

To some the answer is clear. To others, it can be argued either way.

I’ve always been an “it can be argued either way” kind of person. If you’re like me, then you know that when you experience a coincidence, you spend more time trying to find a reasonable explanation for it than anything else. You become like a detective, digging deep into your memory and looking for every clue that could lead to answer why things happened the way they did. This used to happen to me a lot.

But a conversation with my dear friend, Dave Bricker, changed the way I look at coincidences forever.

He said, “It doesn’t matter whether the things that happen are coincidences or sent from above. What matters is that you enjoy the mystery.”

Enjoy The Mystery

Those words penetrated my soul and gave me permission to stop trying to find explanations for everything and start enjoying the process. It allowed me to look at the world with wonder and gratitude — something I call having “Big Eyes.” The result: my heart is full and my world is more magical than it has ever been before and I love that!

I’ve also found that the more “coincidences” I welcome, the more I receive.  Which leads me to share the coolest thing that happened to me the other day!

I hired a company, The Self-Publishing Agency, to help me with the launch of my upcoming book. (Have I told you I wrote a book?) They’re responsible for picking the launch date. During our strategy call, we concluded that the book would be a wonderful “winter read” and that I should publish it sometime between November and December. My agent then asked, “Do you have a sentimental attachment to any date?”

The first thought that ran through my mind was: My birthday is in December. Imagine if I were to launch on my 40th birthday. That would be so cool! 

My response was: “No, I don’t have any sentimental attachments to a date.”

Why? Because I felt silly telling an agent I’d want my launch to be on my birthday. I should be more professional than that.

I waited in silence as she quietly browsed through her calendar.

“We could publish any time between December 6th, 7th, and the 8th. But I’m thinking the ideal date for your launch would be Sunday the 8th. Would that work for you?”

I gasped.

“December 8th is my 40th birthday.” I replied.

She laughed. “Why didn’t you say so? That’s totally a sentimental date. Unless you don’t want to publish on your birthday, which is also fine … we could choose a different option.”

“No, no, December 8th is perfect!” I interrupted. “I didn’t want to sound silly by requesting that date, but my goal for the year was to become a published author before I turn 40. I just can’t believe you chose that day.”

“It is meant to be,” she giggled. “December 8th is on the calendar.”

And just like that, the date of my book launch became a mystery I get to enjoy.  Whether it’s a sheer coincidence or a serendipitous moment? I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I’m delighted to come along for the ride.

A Moment Of Clarity

It doesn’t matter if the special moments in your life are coincidence or serendipity. What matters is that you look at life with big eyes — enjoying the mystery and being grateful you get to live it.

First you Do … Then you Become

Years ago when I started training for my first half marathon, I was running with a friend who I struggled to keep up with. In between gasps of air, I asked: “How do I get faster?”

His response was: “If you want to run faster, all you have to do is run faster.”

This answer annoyed me. Obviously, if I could just pick up my pace I would, but my problem was maintaining that pace throughout the run. Sensing my dissatisfaction, my friend elaborated.

“I know that seems oversimplified, but it’s not. You just have to keep at it. If what you want is to become a faster runner, every time you go for a run, commit to running a little faster than the last time. If you continue doing that, it’ll get easier. You’ll naturally become a faster runner.”

What he was telling me that morning, is a truth that applies to all of us in any circumstance.

THE ONLY WAY TO BECOME, IS TO DO

People often say to me, “Oh I wish I could run but I’m not a runner.” Of course, they’re not runners. They don’t run! I wasn’t a runner either until my girlfriend asked me to train for a half-marathon with her. All I had to do was put on running shoes, meet her on the street, and propel myself forward one leg at a time. Once the half-marathon was over, I trained for a full marathon and now I run a few miles a week to stay in shape. First I ran, then I became a runner.

For some things, this concept is intuitive. If someone asked you what they had to do to become a lawyer or a doctor, you’d have a simple answer: “Finish your undergraduate studies, attend law school or medical school, take your bar exam or boards and that’s it.”

But most things in life don’t have an exam that declares you that thing. Maybe you’d love to be a writer or a speaker, an artist or an actor, an entrepreneur or an adventurer. Maybe you just wish you were happier or more grateful. But if it doesn’t come naturally to you, then you assume you can’t do it. 

Some of us dabble in that thing we’re curious about. We take a writing class or a public speaking class. We read a book on happiness or practicing gratitude and we learn a few things. But taking a class, reading a book, or watching a video still doesn’t make us that thing we wish we could be. Only putting into practice what we’ve learned will change the game. 

BEWARE OF YOUR NEED TO COMPARE

There are some people born with talents or gifts that make them exceptional at a certain thing. On Tuesdays, I run at the track with one lady in particular who is an elite runner. Her speed is unbelievable. No matter how consistently I pick up my pace, I can never run as fast as her. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a runner. I can become a faster runner than I was, even if I can’t be faster than she is.

A friend of mine is passionate about acting and theater. He’s not the best singer. His talent doesn’t rise to the standard of being a Broadway performer. And yet, that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing what he loves. He consistently performs at community theater plays. There were some lead roles he dreamed of playing in a few of his favorite plays. But those plays either weren’t being offered, or he didn’t land the role he wanted. He decided to do something about that. He pulled some money together and produced a play himself in a local theater. It was a huge success. He recovered his initial investment and made enough money to produce more plays. Now he can say he is a producer and an actor. He did — and he became. And he never even quit his day job.

This is one reason I always warn against comparing our success against someone else’s yardstick.  There may be things that come so naturally to us it feels like breathing. Those are our gifts and talents and we should use them as much as we can. But there are other things we may want to do and don’t have that natural ability. Or there may be areas in our life that we don’t know if we could be good at or not because we’ve never tried them. 

If you dream of being a writer — you need to write consistently.

If you dream of being a speaker — you need to speak consistently.

If you wish you were happier — you need to train your brain to think happy thoughts consistently.

If you wish you were more peaceful — you have to practice breathing techniques, meditation, or other calming strategies consistently.

If you want to have a healthy lifestyle — you need to implement healthy food, exercise, and sleep habits in your life consistently.

If you want to be more self-confident — you need to practice positive self-affirmations consistently.

The common denominator to all of it — do it consistently. You must do consistently what you want to become.

Speaking of becoming. I’ve always dreamt of becoming a published author. I began writing 7 years ago in a blog I created called Pile On The Greens. After several years I expanded my topics and continued blogging on my current blog, Carolinedeposada.com/blog.

That made me a writer. It made me a blogger. But it didn’t make me a published author. The only way I could become a published author was to write a book… and publish it.

I am so excited to announce that I’m about to cross the finish line! I’ve written the book and will be self-publishing sometime between November and December. Just like that, I’ll become a published author instead of wishing I were one.

What about you? Do you catch yourself saying “I wish I could…” or “I wish I were…?”  then there is something you’re being called to do. You’ll never realize that calling if you don’t start somewhere. So do it. Do it consistently and see where that takes you. Before you know it, you may be something you never thought you could be.

A Moment of Clarity

First you do, then you become!

Are You A V.I.P.?

It was Wednesday of the first week of school. At pickup, Ryan opened the door of our Honda Minivan and looked at me with big eyes and a wide smile.

“How was your day?” I asked sensing some good news. 

“Mom, guess what?” Ryan clicked his seatbelt and sat up straight. 

“What?”

“On Friday the teacher is going to announce who is V.I.P. and I’m gonna get it.” Ryan squealed.

“Wow, okay. What is V.I.P.?” 

“It’s when you get to sit in the V.I.P. chair the whole week and you get to do all your worksheets in pen, and you get to use all of the teacher’s supplies … and you know what else?”

“What else?” 

He barely let me finish the sentence. “She gives you notebooks you can draw on if you finish your work early.” His enthusiasm was adorable. 

“That’s awesome, buddy! And how do you know you’re the one getting V.I.P.?”

“Because she gives it to the kid who behaves the best. And mom, I’m the best behaved kid in the class.”

“I see.” 

Ryan was so confident that I believed him. He couldn’t wait to get to school the next day and the next. 

On Friday I waited for him in the pick-up line, excited to see that elated smile. But Ryan kept his head down as he sat in his seat, clicked his seatbelt, and crossed his arms. 

“Ryry what happened?”

“Jake Diaz is the V.I.P., mom.” 

My son was heartbroken. I leaned over to grab his hand. “It’s okay, buddy, you’ll have another chance to get V.I.P. This is only the first week of school.”

“But I behaved so good, mom; I did my best. I just knew I was going to get it, and I didn’t.”

I sat with my six-year-old and explained that sometimes you can work really hard at something and not be rewarded for it. You can do your best, and still lose. But it is in those difficult moments that you have the opportunity to show your real character.

Are you the kind of person who lets a failure keep you down, or the kind of person who keeps working toward your goal? Are you the team player who can celebrate someone else’s win, or will your ego make you resentful and bitter? Will you accept responsibility and find ways to win next time, or will you behave like a victim? 

After some tears and hugs, we agreed that Ryan would work really hard to get V.I.P the following week, while still being happy for Jake. 

The next Friday I waited anxiously for Ryan to come out of the school. As soon as I saw his half-smile, I knew he had not been chosen as V.I.P.

Before I even had the chance to ask, he blurted out, “They gave the V.I.P. to Samantha. The teacher decided to do one week boy, one week girl.” 

That evening at dinner, we shared our highs and lows of the day as we always do. Ryan’s low: “Walking into class, seeing the VIP chair, and knowing I could not sit on it.”  

“Daddy, may I be excused from dinner.” our middle son, Justin, asked. 

Orlando resisted. “Justin, this is our family time together. Why do you want to be excused?”

“Please daddy, please. I need to be excused for a good reason but I can’t say what it is.”

Orlando allowed it. 

A few minutes later, Justin shouted from his room. “Can you guys come here, please? Can you come … now?” 

We headed toward Justin’s room. He’d grabbed Ryan’s old Elmo chair, draped a blanket over it, and decorated it with a white piece of paper that read “V.I.P. Chair.” 

As Ryan walked in Justin stood by the elmo chair and said, “Ryry you don’t have to be V.I.P. at school. You’re V.I.P in our house.”  Ryan ran to his brother and hugged him, crying. 

“Why are you crying?” Justin asked. 

“Because that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me, Justy. I have the best family in the world.”

My six-year-old learned a second valuable lesson: Sometimes what matters most is the support system you have around you. Knowing your people have your back, and that they will love you even when you’re down is incredibly powerful.

Our little Ryan did not lose hope. The following week V.I.P. was to be given to a boy, and Ryan was determined to be that boy. Every day he’d come home and let me know he had great conduct and that his teacher was so happy with him. Because I’d have to travel on the next Friday, Ryan asked me to call him as soon as school let out so he could let me know that he’d been chosen as V.I.P. 

At 3:05 p.m. I rang. “Tell me Ryry? Did you get it?” 

Another boy had been chosen once again—a boy who was new to the school and who had become one of Ryan’s closest friends. “Oh buddy, I’m sorry to hear that, but this is Chris’ first year; he may have needed to be V.I.P. even more than you did.” 

“I know, mom. I said congratulations like a hundred times.” 

“Good for you, buddy. You feeling ok?” 

“Yeah I’m fine.” 

“Good. Keep your head up and keep working toward your goal. You’ll be V.I.P. soon enough, and when you do, you’re going to enjoy it even more because you’ll have worked so hard to get it.” 

“Okay, mom.” he replied softly. 

On Tuesday of the fourth week of school, I noticed Ryan crying at bedtime. I lay next to him and asked him what was wrong. 

“Every day I walk into the classroom and I see the V.I.P. chair, and I see myself sitting on it. Mom, I see someone else’s body and it’s like I see a cut out of my face on their body. I belong on that chair. I know I do. And I can’t get V.I.P. this week because it’s a girl’s turn!” he sobbed.

“Ryry, sometimes it takes us longer than we expect to get what we want. We don’t always get what we think we deserve. That’s life, buddy, but this is an opportunity to show you’re not a quitter.” 

“But what is the point of behaving good if a girl is going to get V.I.P. anyway?” 

“Ryan are you supposed to behave in class only to get V.I.P. or because it’s the right thing to do?”

He sniffled. “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Okay, let me ask you another question. Let’s say you get chosen as V.I.P. The privileges of being V.I.P only last for one week, right?”

He nodded. 

“Well, does that mean that once that week is over, you plan to behave bad the rest of the year?”

“No.” He looked insulted. 

“Then it doesn’t matter if it’s a girl’s turn this week. You’re supposed to behave because it’s the right thing to do, not because you want to be V.I.P. In life you must do what’s right because it’s right, not because you’re expecting to be rewarded for it. Sometimes you can do what’s right and never be rewarded for it. And even when that’s the case, I promise you, it will always be worth it.”

In a much calmer state, my son looked me in the eyes and said, “I guess you’re right mom.” 

That Friday Ryan was picked up at school by grandma. When I arrived at the house, he was waiting for me with a folded piece of paper in his hand. It had a heart drawn on it and read: “For Mom.” 

Ryan loves to draw me notes so this wasn’t out of the ordinary, but when I opened the paper, I couldn’t believe my eyes. In blue crayon, the note read Ryan is the V.I.P. 

I started jumping up and down and cheering for him. He screeched and laughed in excitement. It was unexpected.

“Ryan, how did this happen? Wasn’t this week’s VIP supposed to be a girl?”

“Mom, I raised my hand in class today and when the teacher came to my desk, I asked her: ‘Does VIP have to go to a girl, or can it go to the child who behaved the best?’  The teacher said, ‘It should go to the child who behaves the best.’ And then at P.E. she said, ‘Ryan is the V.I.P. this week.’”

It was then that my son taught me a life lesson: Sometimes you have to ask for what you want; you have to speak up for yourself. He didn’t think he had a chance to get V.I.P., but Ryan asked the question that made his teacher think about her choice and re-evaluate her decision. He grabbed what he wanted because he knew he deserved it. 

Ryan spent the next week sitting in his V.I.P. chair and enjoying that which he’d longed for since the first week of school.  Every night at dinner as we announced our highs and lows, Ryan would share every detail of how great it was to be V.I.P. 

This brings me to the last life lesson we all learned from this experience: Enjoy the win! Revel in the reward. We will always have ups and downs, wins and losses. Celebrate your successes when you have them and enjoy them.

 

Ryan was only V.I.P for one week, but his determination, character, and resilience will make him V.I.P for a lifetime. 

A Moment of Clarity 

Sometimes you don’t win even when you worked hard. Keep your head up and be a team player. Your time will come.

Surround yourself with people who will always have your back and push you to keep going when you’re feeling down. 

Do what’s right because it’s right, not because of the reward. There won’t always be a reward. 

Ask for what you want. Speak up. Don’t just sit and wait; go out and grab it! 

Celebrate your success. 

Apply these principles in your life, and you will always be a V.I.P.  (A very important person)

What My Mom’s Failed Marriages Taught Me About Success

Today I get to marry my mom. I’m sure that there aren’t that many people who get to do that in their lifetime, but I do. My mom met a wonderful man. He is kind and loving, hard-working and smart. He takes good care of her and makes her laugh. He’s everything she’s been looking for her whole life. 

My mom has married and divorced quite a few times. For a long time, I saw her divorces as a series of poor choices she made. It seemed like she could never get it right. I wanted her to stop making the same mistake, so whenever she got divorced I’d try to convince her to never remarry again. And yet here I am, getting ready to perform her wedding ceremony. Ironically, I couldn’t be happier for her.  

If she knew I was writing about this, she’d probably tell me to delete it!  Her divorces embarrass her. But my mom’s failed marriages have taught me more about success than anything else, and I want her to know how proud of her I am. 

Here are seven important life lessons I’ve learned from this amazing woman: 

Life Lesson:

Let it go

My mom has an incredible ability to forgive. No matter how many times she has been hurt or wronged, she refuses to be a resentful woman. Anger does not define her. Resentment does not consume her. She lets those emotions go. Not allowing your heart to harden makes you vulnerable to getting hurt again — but it also allows you to love again, to trust again, and to dream again. Holding on to the pain may keep you safe from being hurt, but it also means fear controls you. Letting go allows you to live fully instead of letting a part of you die.

Life Lesson:

Correct your mistakes

Mom taught me that you can correct your mistakes. People assume divorce is always a sign of failure. Sometimes divorce is the mistake. It can result from one or both parties’ unwillingness to do what it takes to make their marriage work. Those cases are unfortunate.

But there are also times when divorce is the correction of the mistake. It’s a way to stop the bleeding in a bad situation. It’s a way to cut your losses. I learned from my mom that no matter how painful it is to publicly acknowledge failure (i.e. go through a divorce) it is more painful to be imprisoned in a life that no longer serves you. My mom gave her marriages all she had. She fought for her relationships. But there were boundaries she was unwilling to cross. And when there was nothing more she could do — or there were wrongs she was not willing to accept — she dared to walk away. I will never view my mom as a woman who has failed. I see her as a woman who is courageous enough to start over when her circumstances no longer serve her.

Life Lesson:

Something good can always come from the bad

 I’ve often questioned my mom as to how different her life would look if she’d made better decisions. But she always tells me, “Even if I could change all my decisions, I wouldn’t because they gave me your sister, your brother and you.”  

Life isn’t always perfect, but that doesn’t mean you should want to change it. Your past is part of your journey, and something good will always come from it — even if the only good was the lessons it taught you. 

 Focus on the good and move on. You don’t have to live with regret. Embrace that this is all part of your journey. 

Life Lesson:

Ignore the naysayers

 So many people worry about their image. They govern their decisions by one premise: What will they say? 

But they don’t have to live your life. At the end of the day, they go home and you’re left with the choices you’ve made.

The problem with living life to maintain an image is that it prohibits you from living authentically. That is why so many people suffer from depression or live a secret, double life. 

But not my mom. 

She withstood so much criticism over the years from her family, her friends, to outsiders. People have judged and criticized her for not wanting to be alone. I was one of them. I was only trying to protect her. I didn’t want her to get hurt anymore. I just wanted her to be happy by herself. But that wasn’t my decision to make. Sometimes you think you’re protecting the people you love and what you’re doing is discouraging them from finding their happiness. That must have hurt my mom tremendously, but she ignored us, naysayers.  

My mom is fierce. She forged ahead anyway with a smile on her face and her heart on her sleeve. She wanted to find love and she would never stop looking for it, no matter who said what.  

Life Lesson:

Accept where you are, 

but be clear about where you want to go

 

There came a point in my mom’s life where she finally realized that being alone is better than being in bad company. Her desire for love overlooked that in the past and blurred her decision-making. The good thing about her is that she was strong enough to end bad relationships. The bad thing is that she was weak enough to get into them. Sometimes you have to beat your head against the wall a thousand times before you get it right. She’s one of those people. But at a certain point, albeit late in her life, it clicked that she should only be in a relationship with someone worthy of her. 

 She began doing things she hadn’t done in years: she went back to the gym, made friends, and began enjoying life as a single person. My mom finally accepted that she may be alone for the rest of her life. It made me proud to watch her embrace this new era. 

But she never closed the door to love! She still met people and went on dates, only this time as soon as she saw there was a red flag, she’d stop there. My mom became crystal clear on what it was she was looking for and she would never settle for less again. 

 It was when she took that stance she met the most wonderful man; the man she’s going to spend the last chapter of her life with. 

Life Lesson:

You’re never too old to find happiness

As long as your eyes open in the morning, your life isn’t over. Witnessing my mom find love at 70 years old has been remarkable. One would think she’s too old, but she’s proven to all of us that is only a limiting belief. Love has no age limit. Success has no age limit. The only limits we have are those we impose on ourselves. 

 Stop thinking you’re too old to live your life. You’re still here. Live!

 My mom hasn’t been afraid to put herself out there no matter how old she is. And after all these years, she found the man she dreamed of. We don’t know how long they’ll have together but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they get to be together today. 

Life Lesson:

Own your journey

There have been many moments in mom’s life where things didn’t work out the way she thought they would. There have been many moments when she didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel; when she thought her life was hopeless. Even though she has lived courageously and authentically, there is still a part of her that is ashamed of her divorces. Society has a way of making divorce feel like you’re wearing a Scarlett letter. That’s why it’s so important for me to share this message: You don’t have to be ashamed of your past.  

I wear my mother’s divorces like a badge of honor.  

Because of her mistakes, I’ve learned the power of making good choices. Because of her example, I know I can fail and pick myself back up again. Because of her actions, I know that I can always choose love, happiness, and forgiveness. Because of her never giving up, I know failure often paves the path to success.  

Every journey is different, what matters is that you own yours.  

As I reflected on these life lessons I’ve learned from my mom, I realized if I were to replace the word “marriage” with “business” I’d be describing an entrepreneur’s journey. An entrepreneur’s journey is not easy or perfect. My mom is nothing more than a badass entrepreneur of love!

If there is one thing my mom will say at the end of her life, is that she lived it her way. And that, my friends, is a page we should all take out of her book. 

 

A Moment of Clarity 

No matter how many mistakes you’ve made or how many times you’ve fallen — never give up on fighting for the life you want. A life lived with passion, zest, resilience, and a happy heart is the most successful life you can live. My mom taught me that. 

Lessons learned in the face of a Hurricane

If you live in an area that could be hit by a hurricane, then you know warnings of the threat of a potential hurricane begin as early as five or six days prior to its making landfall.  Staying tuned to the weather channel, the uncertainty of where the hurricane will hit, and the chaotic behavior of those around you as water and gas become scarce can leave you feeling anxious and scared. 

You find yourself constantly agonizing: Is the hurricane coming this way or not? Do I leave town or do I stay? How much water and food will I need? What kind of food do I buy? Is my house safe? What will I lose? What are my loved ones going to do? 

What’s worse is that oftentimes we are forced to make decisions before knowing whether the hurricane is going to hit us or not — because if we wait — the hotels, flights, gas stations, and supermarkets will be sold out or empty. 

But despite the chaos, the fear, and the constant distractions, these uncertain times have a way of teaching us lessons.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the years in the face of hurricanes:

Control

We don’t have control over how things are going to turn out. The only thing we can control is the decisions we make with the information we’ve been given. When we are faced with choices and options that can lead us down different paths, the uncertainty can cause more pain than the path. Weigh your options, make a calculated decision, take action, and have faith that things will work out. Trust in yourself. 

Fear

The only real fear in life is the loss of it. Other fears are often fabricated or exaggerated in our minds. But when one is in a life-threatening situation, things that seemed overwhelming in the past become trivial. If we could somehow bottle that wisdom up and open it in times of stress, we would eliminate most of the unnecessary fear we place on ourselves.

Time

Material things don’t matter — time does. The time we have is our most prized possession and sometimes it takes the Universe to force us to STOP the grind and just be present in the moment. Even if that moment is a bad one, it pulls us together and brings out the best in us. These moments create the space to value the time we spend with our family and the importance of enjoying life while we can.

Community

Community matters. Surround yourself with the people you love. Help each other. Stick together. Laugh and love each other. Nothing matters more than that.

Perspective

When faced with disasters in our lives or the threat of them, the one gift we can always take advantage of us is perspective. In these moments we are forced to decide what we’re made of and what we truly value. A couple of years ago, when Hurricane Irma was heading straight toward us, I had a liberating realization. I’d been agonizing for years over what to do with some of my late father’s material possessions until they were all at risk of being lost in that hurricane. Suddenly, I didn’t care at all if I lost all those things. All I cared about was my family’s safety. I realized that those “things” weren’t my dad, they were just things. I understood that everything I need to hold on to I carry with me, in my heart and mind — no hurricane can take that away from me. Long after the hurricane was over, that perspective stayed with me and allowed me to get rid of the clutter I couldn’t get rid of before. 

A Moment of Clarity

If you are facing a hurricane in your life, remember that no matter how much destruction, pain, or chaos it’s causing — you can always find the lessons. It is in those lessons you’ll find that you are stronger, wiser, and more resilient than you ever thought you could be.