Swinging back at life when it knocks you down


Two of the truest words I’ve ever heard were from a neighborhood liquor store clerk in Detroit when I was nine. It was moments after I had just gotten three quarters taken from me by a few older kids in the store. I looked with watery pupils at the clerk behind the plexiglass and he looked back at me and said “Stuff happens”, though not in those exact words. As an angry youth, I held on to those words all the way through college. As I got older and slightly more mature, I realized, as messed up as it was for that guy to say something like that to a nine year old in despair, he was right.

It’s life. Life happens. It’s unpredictable for the most part, and people from all over the world take blows of different degrees. Whether health, financial, relationships or a number of other things, there’s no shortage in what we can face in our day to day. I won’t go into the details of what I’ve been through and still deal with, that’s what I wrote Rising Higher for. However, I’m sure you have no problem thinking of past or current issues you’ve had to deal with. It’s probably easier to recall those circumstances than it is to remember what you had for breakfast today.

 Understanding and even accepting that life can smack us straight across the face without remorse is only part of the wisdom. The real wisdom is in being able to add one very important part to that sentence. 

“Stuff happens, but what matters most is how you react to it.”

Now, understanding and accepting that puts us in a much better position to not only take the hits but to throw a few punches ourselves. It’s time to regain control of our lives and stop letting circumstances dictate whether we’ll go left, right, forward or back. Consider the following if you find yourself on the losing end of this battle.


  1. Stop. Put your phone down. Close your laptop. Put your car in park. Turn off the stereo. Don’t go to the gym just yet. Just stop. Take a deep breath and gather yourself. It’s easy for most to try and get themselves busy so that they don’t have to deal with the painful silence when nothing else is going on. But at this moment, you need to calm and silence your mind. Your emotions are probably telling you that you can’t handle being alone with your thoughts. It’s a lie. What you’re feeling is likely just your body’s natural defense system flaring up because it senses your stress as a threat. Maybe a headache, fluttering stomach, sweating, tingles throughout the body or simply a boat load of irrational thoughts. Whatever the case may be, you need to take time to slow yourself down to a halt, cut off thinking about all the conclusions you’ve been drawing in your mind and take a honest to goodness deep breath. Take several.
  2. Look at the situation head on. It’s time to stop running from the “stuff” that’s happened to you, and let it know you won’t back down this time. There are some serious issues people face every day: life threatening diseases, families facing evictions, death of loved ones, the list is tremendous. But if you’re reading this, you still have breath, which means you still have the opportunity to fight until you see change in whatever situation you’re in. Having another day is like a boxer battling in the ring. He might get pummeled in the first round. He might take a beating in the second round, and the third, and the fourth. But if he can just find a way to get to his feet, get his gloves up and swing despite his opponents best efforts, he gives himself a chance to still win the fight. Even more, he puts a clear image in his opponent’s mind that nothing he does will stop him. That’s huge, especially considering that our success in these battles we face daily is heavily dependent on our state of mind. Stop running and start squaring up your opponent.
  3. Be strong. Now, don’t get confused. I’m not saying crying is prohibited or that you need to bottle up all your feelings in order to appear like nothing’s wrong. By strong I mean getting up on the days you feel beat to the ground, and going about your day the best way you possibly can. So, for example, if you have to work and are able to go, go to work, give it your full focus and knock out those hours like it’s nobody’s business. You’ll be sending a clear message to your self, subconscious and every one else that knows your situation that you won’t be beat. Also, be strong enough to be transparent about how you truly feel, and share it with someone you trust completely, which takes strength as well. When it comes to overcoming your circumstances, you don’t necessarily need to stand tall, sometimes you just need to stand up. What’s that look like? You know the days you wake up in the morning already feeling heavy before you even lift your head from the pillow? You don’t need to try and jump out of bed with a smile and do push ups. You just need to get your legs over the side of the bed and place your feet on the ground. If you can do that, you can shower, have breakfast, fix your cup of coffee or whatever it is you do in your normal routine. Take each step of the day in that fashion if that’s what will help you make progress in your day. You’re stronger than your feelings want you to believe. Find and embrace your strength.
  4. Productive fillers. Fillers are anything you do to fill the downtime in your day. At this point, you don’t need new projects and activities in your life. If their only purpose is to keep you occupied so that by the time you get home you can just get in bed, sooner or later you’ll realize this is only a bandaid on a cesarian incision. However, if you do find that staying busy is therapeutic, you can use this energy to move you forward in life while dealing with your issues. For example, working on some project at your job that you might be behind on, jumping on school or course work to lessen the load for later, precisely building on the start-up business you’ve been on and off about or finally joining a yoga class to fulfill your new year’s resolution. Reading, meditating, individual/group therapy, you can think of many more. There’s a number of productive fillers to help you not only deal with life’s uppercuts, but by growing internally you’re beginning to throw a few haymakers yourself. Work hard and work smart while you’re working on you and your response to the “stuff”.

This is the short list of how you can dust yourself off and run, walk or crawl your way toward the life you envision. If you want to read more on staying strong on your path, I explain this in greater detail in The Success Playbook. However, the keys that we covered above are a good start to finding your strength and giving life a taste of its own medicine.

It’s okay to take the hits. We all have to endure them. But at some point, we need to pick ourselves up and start making a fight out of the once lopsided battle. That time is this very moment. You may not win at every turn, but until the bell rings, swing to high heaven and see what happens. You just might land one clean on the chin and surprise your self.


Stay motivated, my friend.