If you looked back at your life, what would you say your number one life lesson was? That’s a deep one. Does it still serve you today? Do you see others who have not yet learned it and who will struggle? For me it was a life lesson and a business lesson. The most important learning, for me, ever.
When I was young and ambitious, I was often quite stressed out as well. I tried to force my way to success through persistence alone. It still helps me, but now my approach is different and less stressful.
Right after college, as you may know, I went for the American dream. I invested in my own business, a popular sandwich shop franchise. It seemed to be the only way to acquire a loan, even with the help of a business partner. Why? Because I was right out of college and had no track record of success. The bank counted on the franchise’s record of success.
I dreamed of being a multi-unit franchise owner. I did everything right. I did my homework. The franchise was successful, but there was still no location in my area. I researched locations. I spoke to other owners. I hired a lawyer to review the franchise agreement. Paying someone $100 per hour when I had little money seemed like a stretch, but I knew it was the smart thing to do. I did more homework than I ever did in school.
Fast forward a year and a half later: The franchise opened another location four miles down the road from me. On the same road! Yikes! It was not fair. Why would they do that to me? I’m a nice guy! My small profits faded to nil. I had to cut way back on my staff and even had to get a “day job” in order to pay my employees and not default on my business loan. Ouch!
I ended up working 90-100 hours per week at the store or seven days a week at my day job, just to stay afloat. I was mad. It just wasn’t fair. The franchise should not have allowed it. “It’s just not right,” I said over and over again. What would you do? How would you feel? I’ll bet you can relate to the feeling.
Thinking back to this, I’m reminded of something I heard from Jim Rohn. In one of his presentations, Jim talks about his mentor’s asking him to write out a list of all the reasons why he was not successful. Jim went home and made a list of every reason he was not successful. The next day he brought it back to his mentor. When Jim’s mentor reviewed it, he told him, “Jim, one problem with your list: Your name ain’t on it.”
Wow. Double Ouch! Here I was mad at everyone else, but I was the one who had created all of my circumstances. The lawyer whom I stretched myself to pay had told me that the franchise could do that. I paid him $100 an hour and chose not to listen! Though I had no business experience, I thought I knew better. Ego. Yikes. I chose the franchise. I chose the location. I made all the decisions. I created my circumstances. I am responsible. Blaming others is the easy way out. Sometimes circumstances are out of our control, but other times we put ourselves in those circumstances. [bctt tweet=”If we waste time blaming others, we are robbing ourselves of the very energy we need to get ourselves out of a challenge.” username=”DarrenLaCroix”] Are you confident enough to look for the role you played in creating your circumstance? You can be blaming or filling in the hole you dug. It’s like texting and driving: you are doing one or the other or going back and forth between the two. Either way it wastes precious energy and also brings more energy to the problem. Put ALL that energy on the solution. No one really wants to hear about your problems, unless they are waiting their turn to tell you how they have it worse. They’ll say, “that’s nothing . . . ,etc.”
I ended up selling my franchise at a loss and was happy to do so. I was told I could walk away and declare bankruptcy, but that would have followed me for years and maybe always kept a place of doubt in the back of my mind. It turned out to be a blessing. If I had not been at the lowest point of my life, I would never have tried standup which then led me to the life I love. If my dream had worked out, I might be owning several sandwich shops and maybe doing well by now, but would never have found my passion. Thank God for unanswered prayers.
“Everyone is self-made.
Only successful people are willing to admit it.”
I love this quote by a mentor, Tom. He says this one best. I’m still far from perfect. Self-responsibility is the number one life lesson for me. I’m still persistent, but now I have less stress because I do not give away my power or waste time blaming. That can be exhausting and attract to you other victims to join you in whining. Now, when challenged, I ask myself, “What did I do to cause this? What can I do to change the situation? Who can help me?”
As you may have heard, I’m working on my next big dream, creating a movie. I have been working on the screen play for seven years. It should not take that long! Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky in three days. My problem was me. I dragged it out. It was only recently that I realized I if I finished it, then I have the bigger task to sell it to a movie company. That mean failure and rejection. Ouch. What kind of inspirational speaker am I living like that. How dare I. That realization lead me to “suck it up buttercup” and get the first draft written. In a matter of two weeks I wrote 49 pages. Most scripts are about 120 pages. I had such momentum that I started on the sequel and already have 20 pages of that done. My point is, my problem was not taking 100% responsibility.
How about you? Have you learned this lesson? Have a story you would share to inspire others reading this? Any comments? Please post below!
I hope you sent this to obama! …
I always enjoy your blogs.
A profound concept, Darren! I think the most profound sentence in your blog article is when you say that the energy and time we spend blaming robs us of a resource we need to get out of a challenge. I think of it terms of being STUCK in one spot, rather than moving forward. Stuck is friction. Moving forward is traction. I am a firm believer in traction with direction. Your underlying message is the most important of all: we have a choice!
When I was faced with financial crisis, everyone around me advised me to go into bankruptcy, except one person. My Uncle who suggested I fight to pay the bills and remain solvent. I chose the “easier way” of going bankrupt and it haunted me for years afterwards. From that, I learned it is better to stand up and take responsibility for the mess you get yourself into – your choices – than it is to run away.
My biggest successes in life since that low point in my life have come from planting my feet and seeing things through to completion. There is a special power and genius that infuses your efforts when you finally grab hold of your courage and plant your flag.
On the money, Darren,
An event is an event. It is we who decide that is bad or good. The reality is that it is just a fact and once we can accept a fact, then we are in a true position to create change around it. When we are unable to accept a fact, we’re stuck in a loop. The power to change comes from acceptance. Good article!
Nobody expects to become sick and “disabled” at 37 years-old. That’s EXACTLY what happened to me. When it did, I was almost completely home-bound for well over a year. I blamed everyone and everything for my circumstances. I was completely broke as I’d used what 401K money I had as a down payment on my house (a house I really could not have afforded to begin with). Living on Social Security and simply “existing” in a state of constant pain and a drug induced haze, I was SO angry at the world! I was angry at my employer for not understanding my illness, angry at what I call God for giving me this illness that “took away” my ability to help and heal others, angry at the doctors who did not know how to help me, angry at my family and friends for not understanding my situation, and the list goes on.
Eventually I realized that sitting in a home I couldn’t afford and living a “non-life” were decisions I had made and that I needed to take responsibility for. I did sell my home at a loss and moved in to an apartment my family had built for me on the second story of my brother’s lake home. I decided that “fighting” my illness was only making things worse. It was time to eliminate negatives from my life, and the word “fight” IS a negative. Instead, I began “negotiating” with my illness. I slowly began to push the physical boundaries I had believed existed. As I did so, those boundaries began to give way. I realized that my ability to heal others had not been “taken away” at all! In fact, before my illness, I could only heal one person at a time. Now, I have the wisdom, experience, and platform to heal THOUSANDS at a time!
My book “Nothing but Respect – A True Victim-to-Victory Story” was first published in April of 2012. After the first edition won an International Award, I decided to release a second, more polished, version. That is coming out on October 20th. I touch thousands of people each day through all of my social media outlets and I’m HEALING people again!
Yes; I lost over 2 years of my life as I sat around feeling sorry for myself and my circumstances. When I accepted responsibility for creating those circumstances and the decision to change them, my life became one filled with joy and passion! Without all of the adversity I have faced, I would never have discovered the person I am beneath all of the “labels” that were stripped away, I would never have known my own INNER strength, and I would never have had to courage to walk away from a job that was not serving me to pursue a career that is my passion.
With Unconditional Love and Gratitude,
Whenever you mention Jim Rohn – I light up like a Christmas tree. Sorry he is no longer with us, but his story of how he got started as speaker has always enthralled me. Just by chance, he spoke to a group of businesspersons and one in the audiance was so impressed with his business philosophy that he was invited to speak to his sales people. He always said he knew nothing about the bible but he always brought out small bits of wisdom from it that related to life. I still think that after all those years that I still have notes of what he had said.
Darren, when I saw the title of this tid-bit, I thought: “The #1 lesson in life? I know what I believe to be the #1 lesson in life, and I bet it’s not what Darren thinks it is…” So I read on. Turns out, we do agree! The way you explained this concept is slightly different than how I’d explain it — but I quickly realized that you were essentially saying the same thing I believe to be life’s most important lesson, and that is (in my words) that we are responsible for our life. I remember going through a period that to this day I can still say was the worst time of my life. I was SO miserable. I blamed everything and everyone, and I didn’t understand why it was taking so long for someone to come pull me out of the misery, or make it go away. I remember the day I finally realized what my mom had been trying to tell me all those years when she’d say, “stop being a victim!” I realized that only I could pull me out of the misery. At first I cried. This wasn’t going to be an easy feat, and it also meant I had no one else to blame when things didn’t go right. After I had a good cry and felt sorry for myself for awhile, something clicked/flipped/turned in my head and a huge sense of relief washed over me. I realized that being responsible for my life was a blessing — I GET to have control over my life, I get to make the decision to be happy, I don’t have to wait for someone to come pull me out of my misery, I don’t have to depend on anyone else to make me happy. And when I make good decisions, I get to take credit for them! This was before I was even 21 years old, but I wish I’d had this epiphany around age 5. Yes, it is hard sometimes to admit when I am wrong, or hold myself accountable for the things that happen to me – or the things that don’t happen to me. But taking responsibility for my life and who I am and the things I experience brings with it an amazing freedom, too. Last thing I want to say is I’ve noticed that the more I take responsibility for all aspects of my life, the better my life gets. Very interesting how that works…
Thank you for letting us know about the typo. It has been corrected.
Darren, I agree that self responsibility the the number one life lesson! Our world would be a lot different if more people learned that lesson.
Many thanks for sharing your pains and growth with us.
At age 54 I found myself standing on the basketball floor in the Joyce Arena on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. The date was May 18, 2013 and it was 11:15 in the morning. I can remember keenly everything about the day. The occasion was the graduation ceremony for the Mendoza College of Business. I was standing at the foot of the steps leading up onto the platform where graduates were being handed their diplomas. I was next in line and was being awarded a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Administration. I had gone back to school to attain this education so I could gain the knowledge and contacts needed to further the work of the School of Life Foundation which I had founded a few years earlier. This is a nonprofit entity aimed at teaching character education to at-risk youth who are dropping out of school with the goal to assist them in completing graduation. As I looked up at the large Jumbotron at the top of the arena I saw my image. At that moment, I had a distinct impression that my life was about to change forever. The walk across that stage lasted “27 Seconds” and indeed, those “27 Seconds” changed my life!
Since that day my organization has experienced many wonderful successes! You can point much of the success back to that “27 Seconds” at Notre Dame that was a defining moment in my life. What I truly learned, though, is that it was not the “27 Seconds” that changed my life forever. It was what I did with my life afterwards that changes my life each and every day. I took the knowledge, contacts and experiences at Notre Dame and use it to lift the lives of others. You see, if you wish to change your life in a positive way, then simply change the life of another person. I know without a doubt that when you lift the lives of those people around you, then your own life is automatically lifted up.
I can understand every word you have written. Almost everyone would have gone through an incident in life similar to what you have stressed. I too have had such experiences and have learnt the hard way that if someone is coming back at me, the first thing I have started looking at is did I provide them such an opportunity? Thanks for the article.
A self-made man? Yes, and one who worships his creator.