40 Things I’ve Learned Over 40 Years: How I Learned To Be Resilient

If you do a Google search on the word “resilient” you will come up with two definitions: “(of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions” and “(of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed”.

While I don’t necessarily want to start comparing myself to an object, I do think the second definition applies just as much as far as how I’ve handled my life as the first. Particularly the phrase “spring back into shape”. I’ve always considered myself to be a resourceful person who has kept plugging away diligently in order to make something of their life. I’ve worked very hard on myself as well as my career in order to get where I am today. I did most of it without ever knowing what I truly wanted to accomplish and without really knowing just how much I was capable of achieving.

Me? Resilient? No Way!

Until recently I never actually thought of myself as being “resilient”. This is a word I would use to define an athlete like Michael Jordan, not somebody like Marc Schmidt. That’s too bad because I don’t think I was giving myself enough credit prior to meeting a new friend/mentor of mine this year. Scott Stolze, founder and career coach at Create Your Great is somebody I hold in very high regard. I just happened to find his profile on Instagram a few months ago while I was browsing through a profile of a connection I had made on Linkedin. There was something about Scott’s attitude that I really liked. His profile was filled with motivational quotes that rang true for me. As a result, I gave him a follow and moved on with my day. However, this lead to us chatting through direct message about our goals and viewpoints on achieving our goals. After awhile he offered to do a few mini interviews that helped me to elaborate on my story on how I’ve managed to keep moving forward through all of the obstacles I’ve had. This was not only a very fulfilling experience, something he said during our conversations opened up my eyes. He used the world resilient to describe me. It’s now something I think about every single day.

So what is it about the word “resilient” that has struck a chord with me? Not only I do find this to be a very flattering way to define me, I also think it’s true. For me to be born with a Opitz G/BBB syndrome, which includes cleft palate and lip (among other things), and to keep that fire in my belly going after everything that has happened is pretty amazing. To be honest, I don’t think I spend enough time giving myself credit for it. I tend to keep myself moving forward rather than reflecting back on what I’ve achieved. This is partly due to the fact that I don’t believe I’ve achieved what I have set out to do in life. I still have a long way to go. I’m extremely proud of my achievements and am very grateful to those who may have helped along the way, but I am not done yet. The fact that I live with this mindset is one of many reasons I may not be giving myself enough credit. I hope this post makes up for my lack of reflection!

How Did I Become So Resilient?

Ok, so you know I was born with some obstacles and you know that I have done a lot to earn the title of “resilient”. However, you don’t know what I’ve done to earn that title (unless you’ve read some of my other work of course!). Instead of rambling on and on and on about what I’ve done, here is a list that will hopefully clear it up:

-I was the kid who spent most recesses in the schoolyard alone

-I was the “weird” kid who went to speech therapy in the middle of the school day

-I was the kid some teachers thought was dumb because of their cleft lip and palate

-I was the kid who always got picked last, if they got picked at all when playing in the shcoolyard

-I was the kid who was told they couldn’t read in front of the church because nobody would understand me

-I was the kid who missed school and some summers playing outside because of surgeries that helped improved my condition

-I was the kid who had to travel from Reading, PA to Philadelphia every month just to see an orthodontist who could handle my issues

-I was the kid who got bullied and dismissed often because of the way I sounded and looked

-I was the college student who kept dropping out because they felt lost and didn’t feel like they fit in

-I was the teenager and adult who didn’t have a girlfriend until they were 27 because they didn’t think anybody would want to be with them

-I was the adult who still faced subtle, indifferent bullying from other co-workers for reasons I still don’t understand

To be honest, I could probably go on and on. There is a lot more going on here than this. After all of this you might be wondering how any of this makes me resilient. Allow me to explain with another list. This time I’m going to tell you what I’ve done with my life despite all of this:

-I kept my head together and graduated from college with a degree in the field I always dreamed of being in (this is despite being told by people very close to me that it would be a waste of my time)

-I moved away from my hometown and never looked back

-I’ve worked at and interviewed at some of the biggest television networks in the world. I didn’t always get the job, but I am proud I even made it that far

-I finally got promoted into management after spending several years in entry level positions

-I overcame a huge mental hurdle and got my “love life” on track. I am now married to my amazing wife of over two years

-I built and bought my first home in 2017

-I resolved $20,000 in credit card debt after my ex-wife left me (without going into bankruptcy)

-I never gave up even during some pretty dark moments in my adult life

-I now have more confidence today than I’ve ever had thanks to all of the above

What That “Fire In My Belly” Has Taught Me

Even after making these lists I feel like the point I am making has only been partially explained. You see, being resilient is something I believe we all can do. Every single one of us is capable of bouncing back and being stronger than we’ve ever been. I think the difference between me and a lot of other people is the fact that I came into this world with the odds already stacked against me. I’ve been fighting the good fight since day one. When your earliest memories are of a kid pointing back and forth between his philtrum in order to remind you of the fact that you are different it tends to stick with you for life. When your overall feelings about teachers is negative because many of them counted you out or thought you couldn’t read because of how you sounded, that again tends to light a fire in your belly. When you take all of the stuff I did and didn’t tell you into consideration, it helps you to develop a certain mentality. One where your goal is to prove yourself to the world.

Be Successful For Nobody Else Except You

There is one sad reality that I’ve learned throughout my journey in life. Perhaps it won’t be sad to others, but it was a tough realization that I made a few years ago. The truth is, most of the people who count you out in life don’t actually care about whether you succeed or not. If you work hard in order to prove something to others, you will wind up feeling very disappointed. Very few people will come back to you and say “I was wrong for treating you that way”. To be honest, a handful of people have stepped up and done this. I don’t necessarily look for it, but I have to admit that it feels nice when it happens. However, the truth is that most people won’t step up and admit they were wrong. That goes for MANY other things in life beyond what I’m telling you in this piece.

If you’re going to find that fire within yourself, do it for yourself. Don’t do it for the kid who sounds annoyed when they “have” to pick you last in the schoolyard. Don’t do it for the girls or boys who won’t go out with you. Don’t do it to prove something to the teachers who didn’t call on you or the boss who didn’t promote you. You have to do everything in life for your own satisfaction and gratification. Be resilient because you are worth it. Be resilient because unless there is an afterlife or we get reincarnated, this is our only chance at living in this world. Be resilient because overcoming your obstacles will make you feel good in the long run. Be resilient because getting stuck in a rut won’t accomplish anything. Be resilient because the naysayers don’t actually know the “real you”.

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