I want to talk to you for a few minutes about a saying I’m sure you’ve heard many times. Maybe you even use it yourself from time to time. I just heard a guy say it in an interview on NPR, and it struck me that what you’re thinking when you say it can make a huge difference in your approach to life.
The saying is “everything happens for a reason.”
People say it when something bad happens to them. Keith Miller was the guy being interviewed on NPR. He’d been a professional football player, and he’s now actually a very successful opera singer! That’s an extreme change, right? He had played for five years in the European and the Arena Football leagues, both both of which no longer exist. When the leagues went out of business, he found himself without a job. He was a fan of opera, and he went on to become one of most celebrated bass-baritones on stage. He’s singing Madame Butterfly with the Washington National Opera as I write this.
What You Say Affects What You Think!
When Miller said “everything happens for a reason,” he meant basically the same thing we mean when we say “when one door closes, another opens.” In my view, however, if we’re wired for success, we should re-write both these phrases to get them out of the passive voice. We should say them this way:
“Everything doesn’t happen for a reason, I choose the reason.”
“When one door closes, I open another.”
You Have Control When You Take Control
If we’re really going to excel in life, we need to stop thinking in terms of when something is going to happen to us, and start thinking in terms of making things happen. Which mindset you choose can make a gigantic difference in what you get from life. It made a difference of epic proportions in Keith Miller’s life, and that’s because he chose to make things happen. Here’s what he said, and if you get chance to read the whole interview, I recommend it, because he’s a very articulate guy and his story is a fascinating one. The show is in the NPR archives for March 2, 2011. Anyway, here’s what he said:
“It’s the one thing I’ve learned, is everything always happens for a reason. You know, the biggest losses that we’ve suffered, I mean, in personal life, professional football, you know, when you lose something, you have to go back and diagnose. You’re more apt to go back and diagnose the things that you did wrong, what you can improve upon. And when things go well, you don’t really at the end of the night you know, you just say, oh well, you know, thanks, that was great. You don’t take the time to really assess.
“So you really need to have speed bumps in your life to kind of say, hey, what – you know, make some adjustments, fine tune things or just, you know, change the transmission completely.”
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
I don’t know if he’s studied success systems, but that’s a great way to explain the benefit of adversity in our lives. When bad things happen, we should reflect on what happened, consider whether we could have done something better or could do something better in the future, and then make adjustments to our actions. The adjustments may just be fine tuning, or we may need to, as he said, “completely change the transmission.” It’s as though he’s been reading my journals. For example, look at steps three through seven from my previous chapter:
3. Do something!
4. Pay attention to your results
5. Multiply your successes
6. Modify or discard your failures
7. Do something else!
You’re Not the Problem, Unless You ARE the Problem!
The people who fail, who don’t grow, are often people who, when they experience a failure, either keep doing the same things that caused the failure, or simply stop trying. That leads to paralysis. Soon they feel like they can’t do anything, and that can lead to a pretty miserable life.
The people who succeed recognize that, as Zig Ziglar says, “failure is an event, not a person.” And how they think about that event makes all the difference in the world. They recognize that they can learn from failures.
When you try to do something great (that’s step three by the way: Do Something!), and you don’t succeed, you can “go back and diagnose the things you did wrong” (which is step four: Pay attention to your results). Steps five and six are what Keith called making “some adjustments, fine tune things or just …. change the transmission completely.”
Change Something, and Pay Attention!
What a great lesson! No wonder people who do really well say it’s not about winning and losing, it’s about doing! If you DO SOMETHING with your goal clearly in mind, then the failures will be lessons clearly written out for you to modify your actions in the future. If we could go through life enthusiastically doing things without worrying about whether we instantly succeed or fail, think how much we could learn! What a great mindset to teach our children. “When one door closes, I OPEN another.”
You know, I’m going to go share this idea with my daughter right now. Everything doesn’t happen for a reason, you choose the reason! And if the reason is to teach you what you need to do to succeed, you can be as wildly successful as any human being can ever hope to be.