Input: Yu Pin
Source: By Jill Ammon-Wexler
Many claim unhappy and terrible childhood experiences “damage” people in their adult years. But is this necessarily true? Actually, just the opposite seems to be true. Intense difficulties, hardships and major obstacles are actually often major contributors to success. It’s true that difficult childhoods do leave some people wounded and disadvantaged. But for others, a tough childhood actually drives them to remarkable achievement and success!
In a classic book entitled Cradles of Eminence, researchers reviewed the childhood family life of 700 of the world’s most successful people. Their goal was to identify the early experiences that contributed to the remarkable achievements of these successful people. All of their “research subjects” are widely known for their personal accomplishments. Their names are easily recognizable: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, etc.
What they discovered is truly fascinating! Three-quarters of these successful people (525 of the 700) came from deeply troubled childhoods. They had endured extreme poverty, broken homes, and even parental abuse. Over one-fourth (199 of the 700) had to deal with very serious physical handicaps such as deafness, blindness or crippled limbs. And over 80% of those who became successful writers and playwrights had watched their own parents struggle with intense psychological dramas.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a former US “First Lady” provides an excellent example. Anna lost her parents at the age of 10, and had a very unpleasant childhood. As a young girl she was painfully aware of being very homely. And her childhood writings reveal she never had a sense of “belonging” anywhere, or to anyone. But as she matured, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt refused to remain “disadvantaged”. She hauled herself up by her own bootstraps and began to strive for a higher, more powerful consciousness.
After marrying Franklin D. Roosevelt, she ended up courageously nursing her husband through crippling polio. Then when he was elected to the US Presidency in the depth of the Great Depression, Mrs. Roosevelt quickly transformed the position of First Lady. As First Lady, she became an outspoken supporter for the disadvantaged people of all races, religions and countries. At the same time, she helped her husband manage the White House and raised six children.
After her husband’s death, she spent the remainder of her life as a highly respected American spokesperson to the United Nations. At her death, this shy, disadvantaged, homely and withdrawn young woman had become one of the most loved and respected women of her entire generation.
Why did this happen? Eleanor Roosevelt made a personal choice to lift herself beyond her perceived “limitations”. She displayed a tough, unyielding courage, tempered by remarkable self-control and self-discipline.
Obstacles and hardships do NOT have to lead to failure. Scientific evidence has proven that “well-being” is NOT always an advantage for either plants or animals. Where there is no challenge, obstacle or hardship, growth and development is often limited. Biologists refer to this as the “adversity principle”.
Consider Lou Gehrig: Lou was such a clumsy kid that the boys in his neighborhood wouldn’t let him play on their baseball team. But he tapped into his resources of inner courage and determination. Lou Gehrig is today listed in the baseball “Hall of Fame” as one of the greatest ball players of all time.
Then there was Woodrow Wilson, who couldn’t read until he was ten years old. Wilson went on in his life to become the twenty-eighth President of the United States. Thomas Edison was deaf. Booker T. Washington was born in slavery, and a “club foot” crippled Lord Byron. The famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson had tuberculosis. Alexander Pope had a hunchback. Yet each of these individuals became famous historic figures in spite of their handicaps.
Helen Keller, who could not hear or see, transformed an entire nation when she graduated with honors from college. She is still a source of inspiration for millions. Then there’s Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven began to lose his hearing in his 20s, and was completely deaf by 50. Yet he created some of the world’s most beautiful music. Beethoven was once overheard shouting at the top of his voice, “I will take life by the throat!”
Your attitude toward any perceived personal “handicap” determines its impact on your life. This IS your life! Why not make it all it can be? To become all we can be, we MUST stop making excuses. Use any personal adversity or perceived limitations to do what Beethoven did: Grab life by the throat! And this is a good day to take action to claim more of your true potential. Get past your “old stuff,” my friend, and fire yourself up! If not now, when?