Most folks recognize the importance of maintaining a positive outlook and a sense of humor for our personal and professional success. This is particularly true for those going through diagnosis, treatment, and (we hope) recovery associated with cancer. I hope this article will provide some guidance, and levity in making your challenges a little lighter.
Along with my more serious passions, I suffer from what I call “inspirology” (loosely defined as an almost obsessive focus on inspirational and motivational quotations, phrases, and clichés). I’ve collected hundreds of them, including some appearing here (within quotation marks). This keeps me occupied in retirement, and my wife Cleda is an understanding soul. I am explaining this so that others who may suffer from a similar affliction can take solace that they are not alone.
Although I wasn’t sure how to begin to explain it, I realized that “You can never discover new worlds unless you’re willing to lose sight of the shore,” and that “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.” Therefore, I decided just to jump right in. Otherwise, “A year from now I’d wish that I had started today.” I settled in with my laptop and a glass of Merlot to get started.
The Words of Others
I was struck at a young age with a concern that “sometimes your best just isn’t good enough,” and I didn’t want “the purpose of my life to be only to serve as a lesson to others.” I think this was the motivating force for me to begin looking for inspiration and guidance in the words of others.
It’s been a revelation to realize that we can actually find an inspirational saying to guide us in whatever situation we face, and for proceeding in whatever direction we choose. I found some sayings that suggest “When nothing is right—go left,” and “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Elvis Presley stated, “When things go bad, don’t go with them!” In other words, if it’s no longer fun, stop doing it.
By contrast, I soon learned that “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, as long as you keep getting back up,” and that “You never fail until you stop trying.” Confusing, but the key may be that “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go!”—What?
Some questioned that “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Others live by the phrase, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” We realize that we must work hard just to make a living, and that “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” However, we also must “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
Death, Taxes & Change
Other inspirations have influenced me, and helped to make sense of a confusing world, at various mileposts. It’s been said that “The only guarantees in life are death and taxes,” although I would add “change” to that list.
Change is inevitable, but we must learn to make changes only when they are warranted. “Nothing happens until the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change.” Changes can often be difficult to make and can cause conflicts within ourselves and for others.
At one occasion, when my brothers and I were young bucks teasing our father as being outdated, he said, “You are what I once was—I am what you soon shall be.” Change is inevitable, and “If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done.”
In addition, we are constantly in situations where we must compete with others, and, at times, we may feel that our opponents are our enemies. However, I’ve come to appreciate that “I love my competitors, because they bring out the best in me.” In dealing with these conflicts, building trust and demonstrating integrity is paramount. Integrity is not what others observe from our public behavior, but rather what drives our private behavior. As the saying goes, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”
It is so important to maintain your integrity, and always do the right thing. Remember, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.”
Be True to Yourself
Throughout your life, there will be those who find fault with anything you do. However, you must remind yourself to “Be yourself—everyone else is taken.”
Being involved in research and development (R&D) for many years, I was tasked with finding innovative ways to solve some of my industry’s most challenging problems. Some in this area ascribe to the belief that “The secret to creativity is in knowing how to hide your sources.” I don’t follow that course. Although it’s sometimes difficult to define a path to innovation, I have to keep reminding myself that in R&D, “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”
In fact, you must constantly be open to new, and at times radical, solutions, and must be able to defend your hypothesis with your colleagues, who have their own hypotheses and are not afraid to think in a different way from you. That’s great, because “If we’re both thinking alike, one of us is not thinking.”
My Top Lessons
After years of being a student of “inspirology,” I’ve finally realized that “It’s better to walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction.”
I now know that “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so be kind always.” The latter has become one of my favorite lessons. The 2 others that rank among the most important messages for me are (1) the knowledge that you must “Never forget who was there for you when no one else was,” and (2) remember that “One day you’ll just be a memory to some people—do your best to be a good one!” I have even begun to accept that one person can, in fact, make a huge difference in this world. “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”
In retrospect, I’m still not so sure what motivated me to write this off-beat article. I might have felt obligated to write it, because ultimately “I’d rather look back at my life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that,’ instead of saying ‘I wish I did that.’” Or I might have been thinking that “I should laugh at my problems—everyone else does.”
Then again, maybe I finally realized that “Every family has one weird relative—if I don’t know who it is, then it’s probably me.”
Thanks for sharing my inspirations. My hope is that we will all be able to face our challenges with strength, hope, and a sense of humor. Stay positive, my friends. And remember, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”