Lessons learned on the road to success

From the time that I was four years old, I knew that I wanted to someday build a successful business. I wanted to be rich, and I knew that working for someone else would not get me there.  

However, I had no one to guide me in what to expect or in how to prepare myself for what I would encounter along the journey. Nobody I knew had a successful business. As a result, I tended to quit on my dreams long before they had a chance to take root, sprout, and bear fruit.

Here are five lessons in perseverance I learned along the road to turning problems into profits:

“Success is never closer than when the temptation to quit is strongest.” – Brandy M Miller

Don’t quit tending the garden of dreams

I was working in a kindergarten class and the teacher wanted to let kids see how a pumpkin seed grows. She took a damp cotton cloth and put a pumpkin seed on each cloth, stuck that cotton cloth in a plastic baggie, and had the kids wear the baggie for the next ten days. Their body heat provided warmth and it created this miniature greenhouse effect.

I watched in amazement how quickly the seeds actually began to grow – growth that I’d never witnessed before because it was all taking place beneath the soil. The roots began pushing out within a few hours of having been given water to grow, but it was a full ten days before the first bit of sprouting began to happen.

The seed of any dream may start tiny, but the process for growth is always the same. The roots have to grow first before the evidence of growth, the sprout, can get the support it needs to spring up above the soil and start making itself known to the world.

From the time of sprouting to the time that a plant bears fruit depends upon the seed. Some seeds sprout up quickly, bear fruit quickly, but die off quickly, too. Other seeds may take years before that first fruit is seen, but those are the kind that last a lifetime if cared for and will bear a faithful and reliable harvest year after year.

However, to get from seed to root to sprout to fruit, the dream seed must be tended daily. It isn’t enough to drop that seed and expect it to grow on its own. It needs to be fertilized and weeds kept from it. It needs to be watered and protected from scorching heat or late frosts. It also needs to be guarded from parasites that might latch onto it and sap it of its nutrients and strength.

Success is never closer than when the temptation to quit is strongest

It was the summer before 6th grade and I was on a mountain backpacking trip that I worked all summer to earn. They took us to Pikes Peak. I wasn’t used to climbing mountains or hiking, especially not with a backpack on that weighed about as much as I did.

An hour and a half into that journey, I was ready to quit and give up. I wanted to go home. Fortunately for me, I had a guide there who told me I couldn’t turn back and I couldn’t give up. She told me to take a few moments rest and then get up and give it another go.

To my shock and amazement, the campsite appeared just about 15 minutes ahead on the trail. I’d nearly quit before reaching my goal because the road was steep, I was tired, and I couldn’t see how close I was to success!

Pride and Shame will encourage me to quit if I listen to them

Later, I was in junior high and I’d joined track and field. They’d put me in a quarter-mile race and I was literally a few feet from the goal. My lungs were burning and so were my legs.

Other girls were faster than I was and I felt I had nothing left to give. I literally walked off the race track. My attitude at the time was that if I wasn’t going to finish at least third, there was no point to finishing at all. I was too proud to accept a lesser place.

Imagine: I was just a few short feet from the finish line – and I quit.

When the coach rebuked me on Monday morning for quitting so close to the goal, I quit track and field, too. I was ashamed of my failure and too proud to admit that I was wrong. I let pride and shame lead me to give up.

Resistance is part of the process

Many times I would have a business idea and I would get excited about it and start to implement it and then I would meet resistance. Someone would tell me no or discourage me from pursuing my idea, and I would quit. I would start to doubt myself, my confidence would waiver, and I would end up abandoning the project.

I didn’t know that resistance is how strength is built. If someone goes to the gym and gets a personal trainer, the first thing that trainer is going to do is put them on a machine that offers their muscles lots of resistance. It is fighting against that resistance that causes the muscles to break down and then build back up stronger than ever.

That resistance isn’t fun, and it doesn’t feel good, but it’s a necessary part of the process. Over time, I’ve come to realize the same thing is true about any area of life. Resistance is needed to build up the strength to grow to the next level.

Destruction must come before construction can begin

There were so many times that I would set out to pursue a dream only to find my life falling apart around my ears. I could not understand it. Everything and anything that could get in the way of me doing what needed to be done would come up.

I would lose family or friends. I would lose – sometimes – my place to live or the vehicle I relied upon. I would have some giant bill come up that drained me of money, or I would be forced to make a move that literally cost me everything I had. I would become depressed and soon I would let that depression lead me to give up on my dream. I thought if it was causing me this much pain, it must not be meant for me.

It took me a long time and a lot of years to realize what was happening: Destruction must come before construction can begin.

My life before the dream came along was never great. It was comfortable enough, but it was the same kind of comfortable that living in a shack that’s situated on an acre of land would be. Sure, I might technically have everything I needed – but the roof leaks when it’s raining and the plumbing breaks down at least as often as it works, the lights are constantly shorting and there are drafts that ensure I was either baking or freezing most days.

Now along comes a contractor who sees my situation and promises to build my dream house for me. All I have to do is trust in that contractor. I sign the papers, promise to trust Him, and then get mad when His first order of business is to evict me from the shack along with all of the things I own!

I keep trying to get back into that shack because I’m comfortable in my discomfort. The longer I take to leave that shack behind, the farther behind He falls in His construction plans.

Eventually, I am forced out of the shack and then I get mad because He demolishes it. I give up on the contractor and I look for a new place to live, meanwhile He’s still back there building that mansion He promised me. I’m just not there to see it happening.

I wised up eventually and learned patience. I discovered that if I would trust the Contractor, the process went a lot faster and smoother than if I fought Him every step of the way.

Trusting the Process

I eventually came to realize that the trials and tests that come on the road to success are not there to harm me or to stop me. They are meant to shape and form me into the person I must become to achieve those dreams. 

Everything that’s happening to me right now is being allowed for me to transform me into the person I must become in order to take my place in the Heavens and shine like the star that I was made to be. Darkness is the canvas upon which the stars shine the brightest, and it is that shine that helps others to be able to find their way.

Above all things, I know better than to quit on your dream. My dreams were given to me, and me alone, for a reason. I am the only one who has what is needed to fulfill that vision and make it a reality.

Don’t Quit!

If you’re struggling right now, just know that I know how painful it is and how scary it can be and how discouraging and defeating it can feel. But I also know that you have what it takes to make it. What you are going through now is meant to shape and form you into the person you must become in order to make that dream a reality. It’s all part of the process. Shine on, my star! Shine on.

“Opportunity knocks once…”

I was told as a child that opportunity knocks once. I believed it because it was told to me by the people who seemed to know the most. For most of my life, I felt envious when other people’s opportunities arrived, whisking them out of their dire circumstances and to a fairy tale life of privilege, pleasure, and freedom. I wondered why that could not be me.

I was expecting opportunity to show up with fanfare and glamour, fully showered and smelling sweet, with a pretty face and neat, straight teeth. I wanted it to be dressed in finery and to pull up in a limousine whereby it would whisk me away from my life of hardship and pain and suffering to a life of privilege, pleasure, and freedom. That is exactly why I was missing out on so many hidden opportunities that were crowding around me, begging for my attention.

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The Epiphany Moment

It was a Saturday morning in early March that everything changed. I sat up in bed with a grin on my face and said, “I have problems! I have problems!!”

A dream had revealed to me a surprising truth: the problems in my life, the very things that I’d been trying to escape and chase from my life, were opportunities in disguise. In that moment, my eyes were opened to a whole new world of potentials and possibilities.

Everything in my life that I had previously grumbled and complained about was a source of a potential opportunity. Like a raw, unpolished gemstone, those things looked like ugly, heavy rocks and I’d treated them like burdens to be born. I’d resented their presence in my life, blamed them for slowing me down and stopping me from achieving my dreams, and tried so hard to get rid of them.

Now, however, my eyes saw them in a whole new light. I began cutting these things open, and I started finding the rich treasures hidden in them. I began to realize how foolish and ungrateful I’d been for envying anyone else. My life was filled with opportunities, but my expectations about how they would come packaged were blinding me to them.

The Truth about Most Opportunities

The opportunities that show up dressed in finery, ready to go, and all that is needed is a hearty, “yes!” are indeed rare. They do knock only once. Why should they bother to knock more often than that? If the person behind the door doesn’t value them, they know that someone out there will.

However, most opportunities show up like beggars on the doorstep. They reek. They’re dirty. They are dressed in tattered rags. Their teeth are rotten, faces scarred and sunken. There’s nothing particularly attractive about them.

They aren’t charming or cute. They are loud, obnoxious, and rude. They don’t go away when commanded to. They linger on the doorstep, day after day, begging for attention and demanding service of their needs.

They don’t look like they’re worth anything at all. To the untrained eye, they are a parasite or a leech to be gotten rid of and destroyed. They seem to be taking up precious, valuable space that might be occupied by better opportunities.

They come disguised as disappointments, setbacks, problems, and challenges. They come hidden as poverty-stricken, uneducated masses in need of help. They come as difficult people who cause pain and grief. They come in death, in disease, in moments of sickness, sorrow, and suffering.

The Greatest Opportunities Are Hidden

I came to realize that the greatest opportunities are not the ones that come already packaged and presentable. They are the ones that come in distressing disguise, requiring work, requiring investment, requiring patience and determination to crack open, to mine and refine, to package and present.

These are the greatest treasures because they are ones which, if uncovered and put to work, will benefit the most people.  They are the ones that will have universal appeal and the solutions to those problems will be evergreen, ever fruitful, ever productive.

Once I learned to spot the hidden opportunities, I recognized the truth: There was more opportunity staring me in the face than I could ever possibly capitalize on in my lifetime. There is no shortage of opportunity in life. Everyone is given ample opportunity to prosper. It is simply that most people are not trained in how to find these hidden opportunities, seize them, and capitalize upon them.

The Mission Accepted

I took a look at the world around me, and I could now see why so many were struggling in life just as I had been. They couldn’t see the opportunities surrounding them. They didn’t know how to turn those problems into profits or to take those opportunities and make the most of them.

I set out to write a book to show them the way forward. I wanted to inspire hope in their hearts and restore their confidence in the goodness of life. I wanted them to see in themselves what I saw: a hidden gem waiting to be uncovered. I wanted to provide them the tools needed to crack open those heavy stones, extract the gem, evaluate its potential, mine it, refine it, package and present it so that everyone could benefit from the beauty and value contained inside it.

That is why I wrote Turning Problems Into Profits. That is why I sincerely hope that every person who wonders why opportunity keeps passing them by and who feels like they’ve somehow missed out on the boat bound for opportunity island will recognize that they’ve been holding a whole mountain of tickets for that boat all along. They simply could not see them for what they were because their false expectations about what the opportunity would look like were blinding them.

Take the Opportunity Challenge

Starting today, I issue a challenge: make a list of all those things that are presently in your life that you normally would complain and grumble about or wish would go away. Say thank you for each and everyone of those things, for contained inside them is an opportunity that will lead you on a path toward your dreams, and let them know that you appreciate them and the gift they are trying to give you. Repeat this exercise for the next 40 days.

Begin your gratitude list with these words, “I am so happy and grateful for the presence of (present circumstance) in my life because it is leading me on a journey to a greater, stronger, and more powerful version of myself.”

Why 40? Because it takes 27 days to form a new habit. If you do it for 40 days, you will entrench the habit of being grateful in all circumstances in your mind. Gratitude is the key that will crack open the opportunities hidden inside those people and circumstances that are currently causing you so much pain and grief. Give it a try and document it. See what happens when you do!

5 Dream Killers

  • Blame
  • Perfectionism
  • Desires for Approval & Affirmation
  • The Past
  • Negative Emotions

The Hardest Battle I Had To Fight

My 40 Year War with the Dream Killers

When I was thirteen, inspired by Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, I made this list of 100 things I wanted to do or own before my life was through. As hard as I worked, as often as I tried, I couldn’t seem to get any closer to my dreams than I was when I started. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong or why what I did wasn’t working.

Thirty years later, I look back at what was happening and it’s clear to me what was going wrong. I can see clearly every misstep I made and the reasons for those failures. I know exactly what was killing my dreams. It really came down to these five things: