Thursday, July 26, 2007

Handling Customers in Times of Adversity

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Several months ago I wrote a story, "Adversity at the Barbershop" about an experience I had when I decided to try out a local barber for the first time. It describes what happened when I innocently asked the barber to cut my hair shorter. The outcome was a classical example of what customer service should NOT be!

Alexander Kjerulf from Positive Sharing wrote a fascinating article about how two major airlines deal with their customers in times of adversity. He painted a stark contrast between the behavior of employees from Contential and Southwest in "A Tale of two airlines - why every company should have a Chief Apology Officer."

Interestingly enough, his article nicely complemented some stuff I wrote about the wonder of Southwest Airlines:

1. Passion at Southwest Airlines
2. Entertaining the Possibilities at Southwest
3. Acting on Intuition - The Southwest Story
4. How Southwest Remembers People

On another subject, some of you may remember a recent survey I created just for you, the readers of Adversity University. It is you, the reader, who keep this blog alive. You are important to me. It is my intention to make a difference with my stories, observations and tips but I'm feeling the itch to expand. It is my desire to have you grow with me and the only way I can do that is if I know more about you and what you're looking for. By taking a few moments to answer some of my questions in the survey, I'll be in a better position to take the necessary steps to make it even more enjoyable for you. You can respond to the survey by commenting at the bottom of that post or sending me a private email (link in the right sidebar).

The survey was borne out of my desire to expand and venture outside the scope of this blog. That means possibly moving to a more flexible platform like Wordpress. If there's anything I've learned about writing/blogging since starting Adversity University a little over a year ago, it's staying close to the topic as much as possible and not veering too far off course.

On a couple of occasions I did just that and it didn't feel right. For instance, I came across a great tip on how to send gigantic files easily and effortlessly across the Internet ("How to Send GIGANTIC Files Easily and Effortlessly"). You were probably wondering at the time how that was possibly tied to adversity. In as much as I tried, I couldn't really make the connection. While it felt funny to post it, I did it anyway because I really thought you would benefit from something like that. But it was not something I wanted to make a habit of.

After all, you came to Adversity University seeking something specific, not how to send video files! There are blogs that are designed to answer those kinds of questions but my thinking at the time was that if the free, downloadable program featured in that post made my life easier to do business on the Internet, it would do the same for you.

So I truly hope to hear from you soon! Until next time, enjoy the rest of your week!
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Friday, July 20, 2007

Interacting with Readers of Adversity University

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Driving along the other day, an idea popped into my head to do something I've never done before. It's been a little over a year since I've started this blog. In the beginning, I had the comment feature enabled but then shut it down, taking the advice of other bloggers out there. But I'm just beginning to realize how important it is to actually interact with my readers at Adversity University because it is you who keep this blog alive.

I write for your benefit.

Therefore, I've not only reopened the comment feature (see the end of each post for the comment link) but I've also made it easy for you to contact me via email (see link at right sidebar).

Having said this, I want to take this one step further and conduct a short survey to learn more about the Adversity University subscriber community. One of the things I've been contemplating is moving this to a different program like Wordpress or Typepad, which will give me a lot more flexibility in terms of providing categories (so that people can find articles without having to randomly search the blog for something that was read months ago but not bookmarked), expand my ability to write on different topics and not be limited to overcoming adversity, etc.

My vision is to expand to the point where not only will I have the capability of creating categories, but I'll also have 3 columns (versus 2) with more materials for the reader's benefit. But before taking upon the herculean task of migrating to another platform and starting all over again, I need to know more about who you are, why you subscribed to AU and what you like/dislike about this blog.

Here goes:

1. How did you know about Adversity University?

2. What attracted you to Adversity University in the first place?

3. What part of the world are you from?

4. If you found AU through a search engine like Google, what search term(s) did you use? What were you looking for?

5. What inspired you to sign up as a subscriber to AU?

6. What do you like about this blog? What would you like to see changed/enhanced?

7. What would it take for you to tell someone else about this blog?

8. Do you have your own blog too?

9. If I were to migrate to another blogging platform, would you come with me?

10. Do you have any suggestions, thoughts, comments or ideas on how I can better serve you?

11. When you first heard of "Adversity University," what were your initial thoughts about those words? Did you think it was a play on words or did you think it was an actual university? Did you think it was a personal development site full of inspiring material or did you think it was about negative stuff (due to the word "adversity")?

12. When you first learned of this blog, were you experiencing adversity at the time?

13. If I were to create an "Adversity University" conference with speakers, breakout sessions, networking sessions, would you be interested in coming (i.e. say to Cleveland, OH)??

I am really, really looking forward to learning more about you! Remember, you can respond via the comments feature (see below) or via private email (see link at right sidebar).

Thanks so much for your time - can't wait to hear from you!
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Walking the Talk and Taking Pimping to New Level

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The other day I was reading an article somewhere on the Internet (I regret that I did not save it for future reference) on whether speakers, writers, authors, coaches and other so-called personal development experts follow what they preach. In other words, are they "walking the talk"?

How about you? Do you walk the talk? Do you find yourself doling out advice and then following it yourself? Or do you preach one thing but behave in a contrary manner?

One of the things I most admire in other people is their level of authenticity. Because I respect people of this stature and want to emulate this character trait, I am very conscientious of my own behavior and monitor whether I also "walk the talk." If there's anything that makes me want to vomit, it's being in the presence of hypocrites. You can spot them a mile away.

A few days ago, I wrote "Pimping the so-called Competition." In that article and another one (see here), I emphasized that there is no such thing as competition. Why? Because it's all a matter of how we perceive things. It's actually very smart business to help others out there, especially if their work truly inspires you. If you understand and respect the spiritual law of giving and receiving, then this concept will make perfect sense!

Mindful of the need to stay true to my words from the other day, I've decided to take the art of pimping to another level today. On the upper left hand corner, is a photo of a fellow self development writer, speaker and author that I've had the good fortune to become friends with recently. His name is Phil Gerbyshak from Make it Great!

While I've read a lot of Phil's articles, there was one that touched me to the core, making me want to pimp the hell out of him. He wrote a beautiful, touching story of his experiences as a young boy who faced adversity along the way: "The Power of Positive Thinking." You'll find that he writes from the heart and shares his innermost thoughts, fears and beliefs, telling himself over and over again, "I can do it." It's worth your time to read it.

Well, my goodness you're back! What did you think of it? Didn't it remind you of your own life's experiences? Didn't it bore a striking resemblence to some of my stories ("Adversity in Elementary School," "Three Words," "The Bully")?

Food for thought: Do you walk the talk? Have you thought about taking the art of pimping to another level and telling the world about someone who truly made a difference in your life? Why not do it in an unconventional way, surprising, even shocking people?
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Courageous Blogger Award for Adversity University

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Christy from Writer's Review created a slew of awards that work like a meme where they are given out to bloggers who are found to be "inspirational," "courageous," "charitable," "thoughtful," or "creative." The recipients are then invited to pass it on to others who are deserving of the same award. Christy's idea is a marvelous way to create goodwill, recognize the work of other bloggers and generate lots of link-love!
Karen from A Deaf Mom Who Shares Her World was the recipient of the "Courageous Blogging Award" and paid it forward to me at Adversity University. Thank you Karen - I am both honored and humbled!
While I know of a lot of courageous people out there, I realized this presented a great opportunity for me to recognize those who have participated in the "Secrets of Dealing with Adversity" tagging experiment so far. A handful of people declined to share their secrets because it was either too personal or painful for them to do so. Therefore, I know how much courage it takes to participate in a project of this magnitude.
That's why I decided to narrow down the field of recipients to those who courageously took on the challenge of revealing their innermost secrets and tips when dealing with adversity. As a result, the granting of this award became much more meaningful to the receipients and added a lot more value. It just so happens that Karen was one of those people to be a part of my project at Adversity University. You can read about her secrets here. The other participants are listed below.
The list is by no means complete because I am not yet ready to shut down the "Secrets of Dealing with Adversity" project. My vision is that this interactive project will eventually catch fire and go viral because adversity is the one thread that connects all of us, no matter where we are on this life's journey. No one is immune because adversity never discriminates. In fact, adversity doesn't even need an affirmative-action policy!
You never know who you could be helping at any given moment by divulging your adversity secrets. Someone might read your story/tip and decide right then and there to make a life-changing decision because of YOU. Imagine that!
Don't be shy - even if you weren't tagged to participate, you can still join in on the fun and make a difference. Please go here for more information. Everyone is welcome - subscribers/readers of Adversity University, other bloggers and new/returning visitors. No one is turned away - NO ONE. There are no muscular bouncers at the door, picking the select few and turning the rest away. We are all in on this together.
Meanwhile, let's congratulate the following people for receiving the "Courageous Blogger Award" from Adversity University!!!

Meryl at
Marisa Haedike at Creative Thursday (Podcast)
Aaron Potts at Today is that Day
Scott Eggleston at Film Flap
Karen Lynch at Live the Power
Josh Johnston at CarolinaFlicks
Julie Gray at The Rouge Wave
Phil Gerbyshak at Make it Great!
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Friday, July 13, 2007

Pimping the So-Called Competition

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In March 2007, I took it upon myself to share some thoughts in "No Such Thing as Competition." It was about how we are trained to believe in competition whether we're in business for ourselves, seeking to climb the corporate ladder or get ahead.

Tonight, I have an another opportunity to touch upon this subject. I stumbled onto a very informative blog called "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing" by JA Konrath. Even though Konrath happens to be a mystery-thriller author, his material applies to everyone who dreams of getting published. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. While I realize some of you may not necessarily want to be an author, I am sharing one of his articles because it touches upon the competition issue. We'll get to his piece in a moment.

Many of us have cultivated a set of erroneous beliefs that we need to be stronger, faster, smarter, prettier or thinner in order to get our hands on the "prize." Remember the opera singer in that YouTube video? Even though he was surrounded by others who were also vying for the top prize, he was truly in a class all by himself. If you missed it, you can see it here.

Society teaches us that there are only winners and losers. We're also taught that there isn't enough to go around. But the truth of the matter is we attract what we are thinking. If you think you will experience competition, that will be your experience. It's the same thing with the idea of scarcity or winning/losing.

You might be thinking, "Well, Stephen, what about those people who didn't win?" "Isn't it a fact that only one person got the top prize, while everybody else lost?" "Isn't that by definition competition?"

It's all a matter of perception. The ones who didn't get selected were not meant to get it. The universe had other plans in store for them. Perhaps they will succeed at another event, leading them to even bigger things. Maybe they will be led down a path they were supposed to be on in the first place. It could be that the timing wasn't right. From a cosmic, spiritual point of view, everything happens for a reason and therefore, there's no such thing as competition. Take my speaking career as an example.......

I've not, to my knowledge, had to "compete" for a speaking engagement because I've never had to answer to a bunch of decision makers sitting around a table, trying to decide who to hire because I haven't attracted those kinds of clients.

The universe attracts the right kind of clients to me because my life's experiences cannot be claimed by anyone else - they are my unique signature stories. There are certain corporations, colleges/universities, nonprofit organizations that are looking for what I have to offer. They find me in an easy and effortless manner. They are drawn to the unique blend of my life's experiences along with my speaking voice (go to my website and see the clips if you haven't been there before and you'll see what I mean), which puts me in a class of my own. Now, while not everyone will like my style, my personality or even my voice, there's still plenty of business to go around because there are those who believe in their heart that I am right for them.

Almost all of my speaking engagements have come through word of mouth, networking and/or through the presence of my website. I've not had to "fight my way for a speaking engagement" for the fear of being beaten out by another speaker. Either people want to hire me or they don't. It's that simple!

It is because of this way of thinking that I have absolutely no qualms about promoting other speakers, even if they talk about the same kind of topics that I speak on. In "No Such Thing As Competition," I wrote about Wendy, a speaker/writer from the Creations Thought blog and have mentioned numerous other speakers before and since that article. And you know what? Virtually all of them have reciprocated in one way or another. Either they gave directly back to me or someone else did.

Let's turn to Konrath's cleverly titled article, "Pimping." Here is an author who actually goes out of his way and "pimps" other authors' books, giving booksellers and book buyers a reason to buy them!


Because it is smart business. Think about how you would feel if someone you originally perceived as a "competitor" was out there promoting you and/or your products/services? Wouldn't you feel grateful enough to want to return the favor? Of course, I'm assuming you're like the majority of human beings with sufficient emotional intelligence and not some cold, heartless uncaring person. Most people would be so grateful they'd bend over backwards to reciprocate. It can't be helped. It's the old "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" kind of thing.

The pimping concept has merit because it is applicable regardless of what you do in life. You could pimp your co-worker by heaping praises on that person in front of the boss or a big client. Or you could pimp a fellow speaker, author, blogger, business person, pilot, teacher, sibling, etc. You get the idea.

Here's an excerpt out of Konrath's article:

This isn't a competition. We're all in the same boat, and helping each other is smart business. It reminds me of an old church sermon about heaven and hell.

Hell is a huge banquet, with every possible delicious food imaginable. But everyone seated at the table is miserable, because the only way to eat is with forks that are ten feet long, and no one can feed themselves.

Heaven is also a huge banquet, with delicious food. And heaven also has forks that are ten feet long. But in heaven, everyone is happy, because they're feeding each other.

Feed each other. Pimp your peers.

Food for thought: Are you pimping for other people, helping them get what they want?
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Energy Vampires

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Under the category "Ten Most Popular Articles" on the right sidebar, you will notice "How to Deal with Difficult People" nestled in there. In a moment, you'll understand why it was selected for inclusion in that category.

In an effort to spread my message about this subject, I submitted the above mentioned article along with another one called "The Importance of Surrounding Yourself with the Right People" to, a popular source of free self-help articles. Apparently, I hit a nerve out there because traffic statistics for both Adversity University and EzineArticles reported that these two articles ranked high on the list of the most frequently read articles.

There are no shortage of those who masquerade as energy vampires sucking the life out of others. I've definitely had my share of them. They also love to play the lead role of "dream stealers," making them downright dangerous to have around.

Further research led me to a very interesting blog post by Catherine Pratt of Live with Confidence entitled "How to Deal with Negative People." Catherine does a fabulous job outlining 10 ways of dealing with negative people and how to identify them. Her article confirms that negative people are everywhere and are prone to causing us unecessary adversity, if we let them.

Food for thought: Can you identify the energy vampires in your life? If so, what will you do about them?
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Monday, July 09, 2007

The Value of Tithing

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For several months, I had been tithing just over 10 percent of my income to church and therefore to God, even when my cash inflow appeared to be drying up. It was and continues to be great practice in stretching my prosperity consciousness. When I give from the heart and not out of obligation, it not only expands my prosperity consciousness, but it also strengthens the fabric of trust that I will always be provided for. Here are some of the most amazing gifts I've received in recent months because I was in the giving and receiving mode:

1. An international newspaper ran a full page article about my aviation achievements - this form of PR came about unexpectedly from a woman who was in the audience at one of my speaking engagements. You can see it here.

2. Howard Putnam, a former CEO of Southwest Airlines and Mark Sanborn, a best-selling business author, both provided me with powerful video testimonials about my professional speaking services, giving me instant credibility.

3. Out of the blue, a subscriber sent a $100 donation through PayPal.

4. This same subscriber appears to have turned herself into a divine channel with timely ideas and suggestions because she keeps emailing them to me at just the right time!

5. A first-time client who booked me for a speaking engagement this Fall immediately hired me for another event in Las Vegas in 2008, sight unseen. This is someone who was hiring me solely on the basis of my website, without seeing or hearing me give a speech (except for the short video clips on that site). Apparently, she had enough faith to hire me for their second event in 2008! You have to wonder, how did that happen?

6. Through a referral, I met a wonderful woman who is so excited about my personal story and what I have to offer that she's already told her vast network of business and personal friends about me. This could very well lead to opportunities that might not have otherwise manifested had I not been in the giving and receiving mode.

7. The local news station offered to come to my church to interview Ryan Mathews and I about the "Flight to Hartford," giving our project more exposure than we expected. You can see it here (be sure to scroll down to the end of the article to click "Play Video").

8. Almost $8,000 was raised for the "Flight to Hartford" project. It happened easily and effortlessly, without the need for advertising or time consuming solicitation-type phone calls.

9. Several people from the blogsphere have taken it upon themselves to act as my virtual PR manager including but not limited to: Michael Werner, Aaron Potts, Rajesh Setty, Stephen Shapiro, Sharmaine, Howard Putnam, to name a few. They have been inspired to spread the word through their blogs, websites or electronic newsletters, all of which have resulted in more exposure for "Adversity University" as well as for my speaking, writing and flying endeavors. Called viral marketing, this is something that is completely out of anyone's realm of control but happens in a most magical way. It is a great example of God and the universe doing something for you that you cannot do for yourself - it happens completely on its own without you needing to do much of anything other than being true to yourself. They want to do it because they love you for who you are, not what others expect you to be. Gosh, imagine that!

Despite all of these opportunities that came my way, I have to admit that I somehow fell back into lack consciousness and stopped tithing for a few weeks. I told myself that I was giving time and energy to the church by volunteering to mow their lawn, serve as vice chairman of their multi-million dollar foundation, among other things. While giving back in this way is certainly a form of tithing, I really believe that when you give away money, it sets the universe in motion in a much more powerful way.

Why? Because the green stuff is something that isn't easily given away for some of us, especially if we are faced with one or more of the following circumstances: we aren't sure of where our next dollar is coming from, we've been hit with a major form of adversity (i.e. divorce, loss of job, major illness, etc) or if we've been taught that money is scarce. It is especially during these times that when you give away money, you are making a strong, blind declaration of faith to God and the universe that not only will you pull through hard times but you will also get back what you gave many times over.

Hey, anyone can mow the lawn. Anyone can serve time on the board of directors. That's easy stuff. But it's when you change your way of thinking and start tithing in total faith, the more it comes back to you in some form or shape. A lot of people find this to be hard to do because it is an emotional thing for them. They fear they won't have enough to pay the bills or whatnot.

Here's how to overcome this......

Give from the heart and from a place of joy; not out of obligation and/or manipulation.

Several months ago I wrote a couple of articles about the power of giving: "Greatest Secrets to Unblocking the Flow of Prosperity," and "Giving Really Does Lead to Receiving." Yes, I refer back to them from time to time to remind myself of the powerful spiritual law of giving and receiving. Like you, I am always a work in progress. I occasionally lapse back into my old way of thinking. It does happen.

Then yesterday I had the good fortune to stumble onto a most amazing YouTube video, which inspired me to write "What's Your Gift to the World?" This act instantly put me back on track and singlehandedly restored my faith. Almost without thinking, I whipped out my blue checkbook out from beneath a pile of rubble on my desk and joyfully began to tithe again.

It was the most amazing moment for me - imagine yours truly waving a checkbook in the air, excitedly proclaiming, "God, I have absolute faith in you!" Shhh...don't tell anybody about this - they'll think I'm crazy and put me in the nut house.

The point? We sometimes fall back into our old way of thinking until something magical happens, transporting us back into the giving mode again. If you have a hard time giving away money, why not start small? Give $5 or $10 or whatever amount you're comfortable with and give to a person, place or organization that has provided you with some kind of spiritual nourishment/encouragement. Regardless of where you're getting that from, give back without expecting anything in return. Just do it.

The more you practice this, the easier it gets. It's taken many checks, week after week, to reprogram my mindset and go from lack consciousness to one of prosperity. And you know what? It really works if you keep at it. You've seen examples of some of my own experiences. Why not see for yourself - especially when you are experiencing tough times - you'll be amazed.

Food for thought: Are you tithing your money to a person, place or organization that continually provides you with vital spiritual nourishment?
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Sunday, July 08, 2007

What is Your Gift to the World?

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You know, I want nothing but the best for those of you who are a part of the Adversity University community. I know how important your time is so I refuse to post just for the "sake of posting." That is, until I am inspired or find myself in that creative zone where the words flow from my mind to the keyboard easily and effortlessly. This causes me not to write for days or sometimes weeks, even months until BOOM, I'm hit with something I feel is worth your time.

Today I found it. I stumbled onto a YouTube video that blew me away this morning and I think it will do the same for you. It might even cause you to experience goose bumps!

While I cannot hear music or the voices behind them, I could tell how this man caused Simon Cowell, one of the judges, to cock his head curiously and bring another judge to tears (no, it wasn't Paula from American Idol but someone else from Great Britain in another TV show).

Watch their reactions when the man told them what he was going to sing. You could tell by their icy stares that they were extremely skeptical of his ability to carry it out, probably because of his appearance. Somewhat overweight with a chipped tooth and an unsmiling face, this man did not look like a star - not by a long shot. But to his credit, he did not let their looks of disapproval disintegrate his composure. In fact, he took his time, much to everyone's chagrin!

After Simon told him to "take it away when you are ready," there was an uncomfortably long period of silence. It was palpable - you could feel it - absolutely no one knew what to make of this man. During those few precious seconds of silence, you could literally "see" the oppressive sense of pressure building up all around him.

But the moment he opened his mouth, it was all over. The reaction was swift. In a matter of seconds, the energy switched from itchy, uncomfortable silence to incredible excitement. It was like pure magic.

Watching the video gave me chills and reminded me of what I experience from time to time when I am called to give a motivational speech. For those of you who know my background, I experienced an epiphany on the beach in Florida during one of my mini-vacations while working on Wall Street ("Trust that Bigger Things are in Store for You - The Beach"). It was at that moment when I realized that my gift to the world was not buying and selling stocks but using my ability to speak clearly and articulately despite being born deaf. When I am on stage, something profound takes place, just like what happened to this man you're about to watch. Like him, I become "one with the audience" and manage to convert even the harshest of skeptics into new fans, clients or even lifelong friends.

Like what happens in the video, I have seen people in the audience sit there with a smirk on their faces and folded arms. It's if they are saying, "Hey big shot, just who do you think you are? What do you have to say that would make my life better than it is already?" Despite the hurdle in overcoming these silent challenges, there is nothing more exhilarating than watching the face of these people undergo a gorgeous, divine transformation with a hearty laugh, smile or a tear because of something you just said. It's not about the standing ovations - it's about transforming lives. Isn't that what we're all here to do in the first place?

Okay, here it is:

Wasn't that incredible or what? This leads me to ask you: What is Your Gift to the World?

Think about it...... You were created for a divine purpose. You came here to carry out a specific mission. What is it?

You say you don't know? Don't despair. You really do know. The answer is inside you. All you have to do is ask your inner spirit.

Here's how you can coax it out of yourself. Ask yourself what areas you are really good in? Never mind the money-making potential. What have you done in the past that made time fly by so fast that you didn't realize what time it was when you were finished? Can you remember a time when you were a child when hours and hours went by without you noticing? You might want to review an article I wrote several months ago: "Trust that Your Passions will be Supported by the Universe." Here's another one: "Timing is Everything."

Imagine...someone like this guy who didn't fit the Hollywood stereotype of a "star" only to come on stage and blow everyone away. My God, isn't that the stuff that movies are made out of? Yet it actually happened - you saw it with your own eyes. If this guy can do the impossible, why not you? As you saw, you don't need to look like a top model, have a Ph.D, be a CEO or a celebrity to make a difference.

Dreams do come true!

Food for thought: What is your God given talent for the rest of the world? Your talents are very much needed!
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Adversity is Caused by.........

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Yes, there are circumstances outside our control causing adversity but the originator is usually YOU. Think about it.

What thoughts did you allow to circulate in your mind and what decisions did you make as a result from those thoughts? Did you take necessary action or did you procrastinate? Did you allow self defeating thoughts permeate your way of being and therefore attract a mountain of debt, the wrong people in your life or perhaps gain unwanted weight?

Among the top five ways I deal with adversity is taking responsibility. See the post about Adversity University's interactive tagging experiment here.

The above mentioned experiment is slowly but surely catching fire and I have been reading some very interesting stories from people from all walks of life about how they deal with adversity, especially if they created it themselves. Take a look at this post by Chris over at "The Philosophy of Change." Other stories/tips written by those who have participated in this experiment will be posted when the tagging project is completed.

Even though you may not know Chris personally, I trust you'll find it an interesting and honest read. He writes from the heart and shows that it is possible to rise from the mess we've made for ourselves. Chris did what was necessary to reverse the situation he found himself in. He took responsibility and owned up to the situation and then took action. He stopped drinking, changed his eating habits/exercised more and improved his income situation. Chris shows that it is possible for anyone to rise out of the ashes if they take responsibility for their lives instead pointing fingers away from themselves.

Food for thought: Taking responsibility for our lives is empowering and causes lives to change dramatically for the better!
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