Embracing the Life You Never Wanted

This guest post comes to you via Mark Hughes, author of Buzz Marketing and Sons of Grace. I had the privilege of hearing him speak at the Killer Tribes conference in Nashville last weekend – his message was both practical and inspirational. If you’d like to win a free copy of Sons of Grace, leave a comment below.

Walk into any bar, barbershop or salon and you’re guaranteed to get an earful of opinions. How many times have you heard discussions beginning with “What we ought to do is…” and how often does this talk lead anywhere?

Whether you’re leading a Fortune 500 company or work for the Post Office, you probably envision the future being different–and better than the present.

I have a friend who was an enforcer in a motorcycle gang now doing a 50 year term for murder, but we’ll get to that later.

Right now there’s a line in a movie that may capture sentiment in your life:  “I’ve finally embraced the life I never wanted.”

You didn’t intend your life to be like this.  You wanted a more compassionate spouse.  You wanted a son that didn’t die in an accident.  You wanted a sibling not affected by drugs.  You wanted a child without a disability.  I know.  I understand.

But every beginning has an ending, and every ending has a new beginning.  It can happen every day.  Tomorrow is a new beginning, and rather than rejecting the life you never wanted, we need to act like professional athletes.  We need to have the courage to play this game of life hurt—getting on the field, and playing through the pain.  Winston Churchill said, “If you’re walking through Hell, keep walking.”

My friend Ron Gruber (“The Motorcycle Gang Member” in the book Sons of Grace) had to develop this quality at an early age. Raised with a sadistically abusive father, courage was something he needed simply to make it from one day to the next:

“You see, I had to learn right out of the gate that a coward will always stop short of crossing the line, allowing himself to think, ‘Don’t do it…you might get hurt.’  For any normal person, this would be called a healthy survival instinct.  But beginning at seven, I had to learn that a winner forces himself beyond any common-sense fear to emerge victorious.  To find the courage I needed to survive, I was forced to abandon normal understanding of good and evil and race into an unfeeling zone that the average man on the street knows nothing about and, hopefully, never will.  That zone would become the major influence in the choices I made in life; both bad and, in the end, good.”

Courage isn’t the same as good judgment.  Ron’s overdeveloped sense of courage that enabled him to win respect from the wrong kinds of people, often by committing atrocious deeds eventually landing him in prison for murder.

Ron’s story seems to blow everyone away—you can read it for free here.  It teaches us some important lessons about courage:

1.    Courage is a decision. Ron brings this into focus when he talks about “crossing the line.” I like to think about this line being the border between thought and action, between what you know and what you do. If you’ve ever jumped into a cold lake then you know exactly what I mean – right before every courageous act is a moment where you understand that this move may have consequences beyond your ability to understand, and that there’s no turning back after the fact. Then you go ahead and do it.

2.    Courage means making yourself vulnerable. There’s an old adage that courage isn’t the absence of fear but the ability to persevere in the face of fear. Whatever it is that you are afraid of – public humiliation, taking a financial loss, or even death – you can’t properly exercise courage unless you expose yourself to it. After all, if you aren’t taking yourself out of your safety zone, then there really isn’t anything brave about what you are doing. But when you do make yourself vulnerable a curious thing happens: you don’t lose fear, but the fear loses its power over you. You gain power, in a sense, by renouncing control.

3.    Courage is a rare trait. There is a reason why we’re naturally drawn to leaders who display courage. It’s not easy! It is counterintuitive, and often requires us to go against the gravitational forces of everything we know.  But everyone will face situations in life that will require responding with true courage. Whether and how you choose to respond when this moment comes for you will depend on your ability to recognize courage not only where it’s already present, but where it is needed.

Have you embraced the life you never wanted—coupled with the fear that comes with it…and the courage that overcomes it?

20 Replies to “Embracing the Life You Never Wanted”

  1. I like the line that courage is a decision. Usually people think it’s a trait that some people are lucky enough to have, but anybody can have courage if they choose it.

    And this line–“I had to learn that a winner forces himself beyond any common-sense fear to emerge victorious”–leaves me speechless. That’s good stuff.

  2. Shawn, I was so curious about Mark’s book after hearing him speak at Killer Tribes. Thanks for the extra info, Mark, and the link to the chapter! I’d love to win a copy.

  3. What strange alchemy it is that turns words into courage. Thanks for the en-couragement!

  4. I think this line captures the last decade of my life perfectly: “I’ve finally embraced the life I never wanted.”

    I loved Mark’s KT talk and was curious about the book. Great post!

  5. I have a sister that is also a Little Person. She has a Harley and is a member of a motorcycle group. I have become friends with their group leader and it is an eye opener to say the least.

  6. “Embracing the life you never wanted.” I like that idea. I have done that in many ways. I didn’t dream of living in North Carolina. I didn’t dream of being a middle school teacher. I didn’t dream of most of what I have now, but I love it. God works and I follow. I didn’t expect this, but I’m okay with it. Today I am anyway.

  7. “I certainly am living a life I never wanted and I’m trying to learn to embrace it, but it is so difficult”. Thanks for this Shawn.

  8. We may not always be able to change our circumstances, but we can change how we deal with/look at them. Interesting stuff. Maybe Mark will be at next year’s conference, and I can hear him in person, too, as I’m aiming to be there! :)

  9. For the next 11 years I will be the single mother of teenagers. The love and fear that pound in my chest when I lay in bed alone in the silence after a dark day have tempted me more than once to pull the covers back over my head the next morning. Getting up — and calling back willing laughter again and again to share with my motley crew — has sometimes felt like an act of battle-worthy courage. Falling in love with the blues and greens of this place I didn’t expect to find myself has become a conscious choice and I’m looking under leaves and in the reflective pools of my 14 year old’s eyes to find pieces of hope and magic. Thank you for this affirmation for the road unexpectedly traveled.

  10. I’d love to win a copy of this book.. ANY book for that matter… I love to read.
    I believe that it takes a certain kind of person to live a life that wasn’t what they had “planned” it to be. Not everyone IS capable or willing to change off the wide path of certainty and travel down the dusty path of uncertainty, even if it IS a better life/better choice. Thank you for this today, sometime we all need a little encouragement and reassuring that the best way is not always the easy way or the way those before us have traveled.

  11. Courage . . . vulnerability. . . so powerful. Thanks for this!!! I think it, along with some of Shawn’s wisdom, will be in my sermon for our Sunday of Hope, a service to honor people who have lived with and died from cancer. Thank you.

  12. I love the point that unless you’re out of you’re safety zone, you’re not really being brave about anything you’re doing. There’s no bravery in comfort.

    I have wanted to get this book since the Killer Tribes Conference, and have it in my shopping cart along with “Buzzmarketing” (and several others). What a great lecture, and one of the high points of the day!

    Thank you for your insight, Mark!

  13. I remember Bad Ron from the old days (’84-’85ish, my late teens) back in Boone, IA when I was good buds with another SOS members daughter. She always had kind of a “little kid sister” thing with the other members but was genuinely scared of Bad Ron, and when he’d come over to the house to see her dad, she would get extremely nervous and insist we make ourselves scarce. Of course she knew about the thing that sent him to the joint.

  14. My husband and I know Ron personally. We consider ourselves very good friends as well as brothers and sister in the Lord. Ron’s testimony envelopes SO many different emotions…sadness, anger, disbelief…but most of all joy. Very much like Christ’s life. We have been truly blessed to have him in our lives. Our pastor reminds us often….”do not judge a man today – for who he was yesterday – because you’ll never know who he’ll be tomorrow”. Ron is the epitome of this. God has the ability to transform any man. Or woman, for that matter! Be blessed!

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