Elvis Presley once said, “When things go wrong, don’t go with them.” Sadly ironic. One of the most musically talented men of his time, Elvis succumbed to drug abuse and died way too soon. Most anyone alive at the time would have traded places with him in a Memphis minute believing the King of Rock and Roll had it all. Near the end of his life he said, “…the image is one thing and the human being is another…it’s very hard to live up to an image,” (press conference prior to his record-breaking Madison Square Garden shows in NYC, 1972).
No doubt you, like me, are recalling the recent death of beloved comedian Robin Williams. Both Presley and Williams were wildly successful in pursuit of their life-long passions. Success and failure are defined as many ways as there are mortals. And NO ONE, no matter how beloved, gifted or happy escapes challenges, fear, insecurity or death. In fact, most will admit that the higher you climb that ladder of success, the greater the fear of falling and failing.
In The Cure for Fear I mention that we are born with only TWO fears – the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. The rest are learned. Yep, insecurity is learned. “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to,” (Williams).
Presley and Williams blessed so many. “I ain’t no saint, but I’ve tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God…I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world,” (Elvis to a reporter, 1950’s).
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” “Comedy is acting out optimism,” (Williams).
Pressley and Williams encountered fear and struggle and lots of it.
“I’ve never gotten over what they call stage fright. I go through it every show. I’m pretty concerned, I’m pretty much thinking about the show. I never get completely comfortable with it, and I don’t let the people around me get comfortable with it, in that I remind them that it’s a new crowd out there, it’s a new audience, and they haven’t seen us before. So it’s got to be like the first time we go on,” (1972 taped interview used in MGM’s documentary “Elvis on Tour“).
Both men battled addiction. “Cocaine is God’s way of saying you’re making too much money,” (Williams). “There are too many people that depend on me. I’m too obligated. I’m in too far to get out,” (Pressley).
Many folks believe they are too far into their careers to take any forks in the road – kids to put through college, a mortgage, tenure, roots. They fear the unknown and settle for boredom and the ‘comfort’ of discomfort never realizing what truly COULD have been. Easy to say. Difficult to do. Sometimes fate plays a hand (layoffs, termination, divorce, death) and they are forced to take that fork in the road without a road map.
Faith is being sure of what we hope for. But most of us are more sure of what we’re afraid of than what we hope for. In Mark Batterson’s book Wild Goose Chase he insists that “…the aversion to loss of a certain magnitude is greater than the attraction to gain on the same magnitude.” This may help “explain why people live their lives defensively…. We let our fears dictate our decisions. We are afraid of making the wrong decisions that we make no decision…..nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
What to do? Certainly the complexity of the lives and health of too-soon-departed Presley and Williams are beyond resolution here. But they do serve as examples. What can YOU do if you feel trapped in your life and/or career? Batterson suggests, “Don’t whine. Don’t complain. And don’t check out. Make the most of the situation. Do little things like they are big things. Keep a good attitude. And faithfully carry out your current obligations. If your job isn’t exciting, then bring some excitement to the job….It will open doors down the road.”
Don’t stop living life. Celebrate every victory no matter the size. They are provided to you every day. Failure can ultimately be a huge blessing. I promise it will provide some hysterical memories if you’ll just keep a sense of humor. Lighten up! Some days the lone victory is that you simply got through it.
Presley’s advice: “Fingerprints are like values–you leave them all over everything you do” and Williams: “To judge a man by his weakest link or deed is like judging the power of the ocean by one wave.” The fastest way out of your own misery is to help someone out of theirs.
If “death is nature’s way of saying, ‘your table is ready’” (Williams), prepare the best meal you can each day. The worst thing in life is to leave it too soon.
~ From the desk of Becky Morlok ~
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