Stacy Kramer’s TED Talk on the gift of surviving cancer is an extraordinary story about living and not dying. In a HuffPo editorial, she describes her brain tumor as an unexpected gift. She compares it to the uncertain, rocky road of disadvantaged students.
Kramer’s personal brand encompasses wisdom, compassion and gratitude. Her embrace of the events in her life, as well as her generous, eloquent perspective on anyone’s hard times: is as extraordinary as her survival. She doesn’t take a mawkish view about the silver lining in the black cloud, but she entertains the idea.
She makes it nearly impossible to not think of your own struggles. So I stared at my own after reading her piece. Maybe you will now stare at yours.
Consider this. We all have our struggles, some more dramatic or obvious than others. Some define us. Some are easy to see and others are hidden from view, or at least until scrutinized. Steven Hawking and Lindsay Lohan come to mind, as their personal brands emerge in some part, from their personal struggles. Hawking with his nearly incapacitating physical challenges and LiLo with what looks like her psychobiological ones.
A rare person would take on the harness of hardship willingly, or at least you would think. The personal brand of the new Pope Francis does seem rooted in poverty, chastity and obedience. Mother Teresa’s personal brand seems to be rooted in service, compassion and personal visibility (at least according to the new commentary on her life and times). Other spiritual leaders come to mind as well. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put himself in harm’s way.
But rarely would someone with a lesser calling choose to struggle, right?
All this reflection compels me to ask: am I doing anything to invite struggle or injury upon myself? Are you doing anything to cause hardship in your life?
Unintentionally making a mistake isn’t a hardship you bring onto yourself. By nature, such a mistake is akin to an accident. Like a brain tumor or being born poor: most of us have something that has happened to deprive or delay our progress.
But there are other black clouds you may have attracted. These may be casting a shadow on your personal brand.
Lying would be the darkest cloud with the most lingering shadow. It would, no matter how I stare at it, not seem to morph into something that had value, like that valued silver lining. I am watching this cloud hovering above an otherwise agile young manager at work and I know it is good for nothing. It is nothing but a career-ending injury. It is like a time bomb.
There are other dark forces you might be drawing to hover about you. When you engage in gossip, make unreasonable complaints or arguing, and steal ideas from co-workers or resources from your company.
These are not hardships in service of the greater good or a spiritual quest.
Don’t visit unnecessary ailments on yourself. You have already been “blessed” with enough shortcomings, challenges, and accidents of birth or life that you must wrestle with or try to embrace. Read Stacy Kramer’s piece and see if you are inspired to take the gifts of misfortune, and divest yourself of those behaviors casting a shadow on you.