Overcoming Disney

First let me explain that the title may be a bit confusing. I am not saying that we have to overcome Disney, I am pointing out that the Disney stories we grew up with, taught us that living our lives requires us to be able to overcome difficult, sometimes heart-breaking situations.

            I was in a conversation with a loved one about the difficulties in our lives. She came to a point where she said, “Life can’t be all like Disney characters.”

            I replied, “But Disney characters are all about living and coming back from difficult moments.” Think about it. Go back to your earliest Disney experiences. Bambi loses his mother and yet comes back to be the prince of the forest. Simba loses his father and has to battle Scar to regain his father’s kingdom. Cinderella is living a life at the control of her stepmother and evil step sisters, on her knees scrubbing floors well before she dances with a prince. Then there is Sleeping Beauty where she takes a bite from an apple and goes into a coma, cared for by 7 little people until she is kissed by another prince. And talking about the dwarves, how would your life be if you had to go through life named Grumpy or Dopey? How about going through life with the name Goofy or Dumbo. Now Dumbo, besides the name issues, is made fun of because of his ears only to overcome the ridicule by learning how to fly with those same ears.

            We all saw comic books with Donald Duck raising his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. Well what ever happened to their mother? How did Daisey Duck fit in to all this family controversy. Let’s not forget The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. He was put under a spell where he was to remain an ugly beast until loved by the beautiful Belle. How about the poor apprentice Mickey Mouse being abused by the sorcerer in Fantasia? Aladdin, Shrek, Peter Pan vs. Captain Hook, 101 Dalmatians, the mermaid battling with her self-image. Even the feature length movies of our youth showed us the need to deal with difficulties. Old Yeller dies in his movie, Toby Tyler runs off to the circus, three animals are lost and find their way back in Homeward Bound.

            The writers and artists at Disney never offered up a rosy world. Instead they fed us story after story of the importance of never giving up, of overcoming any obstacle that happened to cross our path. For that, we should be eternally grateful. I don’t suggest we wait around for a princess or prince to save us or for a glass slipper to fall our way. Disney’s solutions might not always be available to us in that way. What I am suggesting is that we have been surrounded throughout our youth, of stories that remind us to never give up, to fight for what you believe in, to take on all enemies, slay every dragon until your path is clear again.

            I can assure you, if my life is any example, that the Captain Hooks, Cruwella DeVils, and Ursellas of the world may be waiting for you around every corner. Just know that they have been famously overcome in the past and will be overcome by you if you never give up. As David, the main character in my books The Shepherd Chronicles, once wisely said, “As long as you’re get ups exceed you knock downs by one, you are still in the game.”

Finding your path!

Much of what I write about in my blogs does not depend on theory or fantasy. In fact, my perspective comes from my experiences and observations. I have been working full time for over 40 years and every stretch of my career has deeply involved working with others. As an observer of life, as someone that has worked on his listening skills, I have listened and interacted with people at the worst and best times of their lives. If you pay attention, you find the commonalities between people that have succeeded in life as well as those that have struggled through difficult seas.

My beliefs on what guides people to their path in life have come from those observations. Those that know me the best, from my friends to my kids, will tell you that my battles in life have been many, deep and painful. Certainly, enough to derail a person in the worst of ways. Someone asked me recently what in my life am I most proud of? My answer, that I have survived, that I am still standing. Lesser men have allowed the freight trains that run through a man’s life to take them out, to drive them to the bottom of a bottle or the point of a needle. I have always seen my most important role in life to be that of a parent and I would not allow my misfortunes to allow me be anything other than an example for them. Each time I have been knocked down, I have managed to get back on my feet. I have sailed rough seas and have always returned to the docks. Nothing stops you from doing the same.

I have tried to live by the adage that people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. In my interactions with others, I have always tried to constructively listen to their words as well as the emotions behind those words. If there is a way I could help, I did. Leaders without followers are just out for a walk and people won’t follow someone into battle that won’s stand up for them, lead them proudly. So I have always tried to lift others up at their level of need not mine.

I have also learned that belief is useless without action. I can’t say I have never procrastinated, I have and more than I should. I do, however know the feeling of pride one carries when acting on faith, pursuing a direction that no one expects and succeeding at that task. One can’t win a race they don’t enter. Taking that first step for me has always been the simple encouragement that led to the second step. The fastest way to get me involved is to tell me it can’t be done. You gotta love the challenge!

Finally, anything I do, any event that carries my name, reflects on who I am. I don’t do shabby. In writing my books, I hang on every word. We edited and re-edited my last book five times. I take pride in my home, my projects. My kids know the term, pursue excellence, as well as their own name. They have heard it often. No matter what your job, no matter how small the task, attack it with pride as if thing that carries your name was going to hang in the Louvre, as if was going to lead the Thanksgiving parade. Excellence knows no replacement.

Crossroad or Dead End

Indecision. Hesitation. Have you ever wondered what happens during the time that expires while you wait to act, to decide? Do the conditions change or the options lessen?

I am a big believer in the magic of a crossroad, the ones we encounter on an almost daily basis. A crossroad is a moment in time tied to a location where it’s impact can totally alter your path and the direction of your life. How do I know? I know because I experienced my moment over 38 years ago. Its existence is obvious to me now but was just a blip in time when it happened. At that moment, in real time, I had no idea that my actions would change everything.

Most people, in fact, almost all people side step or climb over their crossroad, not just once but many, many times. We negotiate them away, make excuses that delay our action. “I don’t have time today. My plate is full.” Or, “Maybe next week or next month or next year when life gets easier.” The funny thing about life is that it probably will never get any easier and the same excuse will surface again and again. Here is the absolute truth, your crossroad will become a dead end unless you act, unless you step out on nothing more that faith, a knowledge that your action is required with no proof, just a mysterious sense that “I need to do this!”

Opportunity does knock, just not on locked doors and closed hearts. Let’s say you get a job offer from a company you have been following for a while and applied to often. It’s exactly the job you crave, but you are dismayed to find out the location is in Birmingham, Alabama. You know nothing about the city nor know anyone that has ever been there. You only have 24 hours to make a decision. The prospect or leaving family and friends causes you extreme angst. The fear of moving to a strange land causes you to pause, just long enough to let the opportunity drift away to another applicant. What you didn’t know, couldn’t know by your choice, was that the manager of the Birmingham office is solidly connected within the company and has moved several qualified candidates though the company to the office of their choice, including your home town. In fact, the last three big promotions went to candidates that got their starts in Alabama.

While it’s true my crossroads occurred 38 years ago, I didn’t recognize it as such until seven or eight years ago. The vision of a crossroad doesn’t always come clear until many years later, until you can recognize its impact on your life.

Yes, one of the main rules in life is “belief without action guarantees defeat.” What brought my crossroad into reality was my decision to act on my opportunity, to step out and reach up above my station, beyond my plan, beyond my comfort level. I can’t even imagine what my life would have been had I not acted.

What about you? Unlock your door, open your heart, imagine all the possibilities that adorn your life’s path and when the gateway to your future swings wide open, run, don’t walk to your destiny. Like lightening, this chance may not strike twice.

© Copyright 2017 Gary Friedman Books