Having a tough time? Here’s useful help help from Antony Stagg, author of IF I CAN DO IT, YOU CAN TOO who faced the worst of times – a break-up, business fail and bereavement all at once – and thrived
Have you ever faced a situation where you have been left in a state of shock? It’s horrible isn’t it? The loss of someone suddenly, the heartbreak of a relationship breakdown, or financial ruin. It all happened to me in December 2012.
I was due to be engaged, but just a few days before I was due to depart to France, it was off- with no explanation. A couple of days later my grandmother died suddenly. Come Christmas I had a business fail that was succeeding just a month before; funding cuts destroyed my dream of helping young people into employment. At 31, I was back in my parent’s home with nothing to accompany me but the bare magnolia walls.
At 31, I was back in my parent’s home with nothing to accompany me but the bare magnolia walls.
Six months on and the challenges continued to flow, culminating in my dad being diagnosed with prostate cancer. As I slid into the sofa in desperation, a thought occurred: Write a book to understand how people overcome adversity. My purpose was to be inspired, but also to inspire others.
So I decided this was it! I didn’t know how I was going to do it – I’d never interviewed anybody like this before. Why would people speak to me? Where would I find them? How would I write it? I’m not a writer! But those doubts wouldn’t stop me. Lesson one: Don’t let any doubts affect you, you can do anything you desire and you can overcome adversity.
So I started seeking stories from people locally to where I live in Liverpool, UK. And as the journey progressed I interviewed 20 people from different parts of world including the US, UK, Kenya and India. From interviewing so many people I discovered six correlations between the people I have interviewed who have overcome tough times, they are:
1. POSITIVE PEOPLE
Surround yourself with positive people who can genuinely help guide you, people who care and want to be by your side. When writing my book I had witnessed a family rally round to support a young couple who lost their baby after eight days to a rare illness. I listened to a man who was an orphan in Kenya, who was saved by the generosity of a stranger in the US. The stranger listened, supported and reached out with such generosity that he was provided with an education. It was this stranger that has inspired him to create his own social entrepreneurship.
I learned of people consumed with alcohol and drug addiction who were saved by the positivity of people who had trodden the path before, people who could understand and empathize. When you lose the ability to think rationally, your task is to seek out positive people who understand and can guide you through the worst of times.
Positive people are important in life because they allow you to express your grief without being judged. They can lift the burden, offer encouragement, inspiration and ultimately they steer you back to a position where you feel stronger.
The second step I’ve learnt on this journey is to decide. I know it sounds simple, and it’s probably been said a million times, but deciding to overcome your challenges is an important step. There’s no doubt that the initial tsunami of emotion can strike hard, leaving you feeling angry, grieving, heartbroken and full of revenge. But when the dust has settled you need to make a decision. Are you going to decide to make a stand? Are you going to decide to fight? Are you going to decide to make a positive change?
Decision sparks clarity
Decision sparks clarity. When you decide you are making a conscious decision that you are in control. When you decide, you say to the world that the grief has subsided and you are ready to resume with your life.
In adversity lies passion, use it for good! Passion is taking the combined emotions, the pain, suffering, grief and shock and choosing to channel them into a positive quest. I met one woman whose sister committed suicide by setting herself on fire because of a forced marriage. She then channeled all of her emotion into a campaign and a charity that has changed the world. Her 12-year crusade has changed the law in the UK, making it a criminal offence to be forced into marriage. How can you use you pain to help others?
Passion helps with the healing process. Everyone I interviewed channeled their grief into new found purpose. From interviewing one man who destroyed his life with alcohol and drug abuse, his final step was to pursue suicide, but after his failed attempt, he sought to change. He found his passion in adversity and has gone on to save the lives of over a thousand people who were in the same position as he was.
One of the stories tells of a woman falling 90 feet in her car after skidding on ice. Her body was crushed, her face mangled, and a leg amputated. She was just 21. She decided she wanted to help others – then she took action. She cycled 100 miles in a day for charity. She took action by speaking to veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts to help inspire those who had lost limbs. She took action in her career to become a Vice President of a global bank. She took action to raise $100,000 for charities.
Use your passion, turn it into action and serve others.
Persistence is having the strength of will to keep pursuing a course of action that you believe in. Not to give up. One woman I interviewed persisted five times through cancer in the most sensitive areas of her body. However she decided to quit her corporate career, follow her dreams, and set up her own travel agency. She persisted through the pain, sacrifice and self-doubt to create a life of her choosing. When you have a passion and a purpose you will persist through adversity.
Persistence comes by having a passion that is greater than you fears. When you possess passion nothing can stand in the way of you overcoming adversity.
I also interviewed a woman named Eileen O’Connor who was frustrated in her career as a cashier in a supermarket. With no real direction, she left work to have children and to create a new family home.
The family home, however, was the centre of an outbreak of illness. Her husband and children were ill, waking in the middle of the night with nosebleeds and headaches. In the outbuilding, where they operated a business, their employees suffered eye infections, mental illnesses, skin rashes and headaches. In her mid-30’s, Eileen was diagnosed with breast cancer. Imagine coming home to tell your young children you have cancer. The devastating shock, and the news of other people in the village suffering the same, sparked Eileen’s quest to find answers.
Through the pain and emotion of cancer she discovered a passion to protect others
After researching, Eileen found that the illness was caused by a mobile phone mast 200m from her home. Subsequently after finding the evidence, Eileen decided to dedicate her life to saving lives and creating awareness. Twelve years on, she has been labeled the ‘Erin Brockovich’ of the UK. She has taken on the one of the largest industries in the world (telecoms) and is winning. Her phone was hacked, she was ridiculed and threatened, but ultimately her persistence to serve what is right has led to the European Commission labeling mobile phone radiation a 2b classification as possibly causing cancer.
The same steps were followed when smoking and sun beds were found to cause cancer. Summary of the five points she followed on her journey:
1, Positive People – She surrounded her self with positive people to help overcome the trauma
2, Decided – To take on the industry to have mast removed from her village. She won, it was removed
3, Passion – Through the pain and emotion of cancer she discovered a passion to protect others
4, Action – She has appeared on national news, spoken around the world and at the European Commission
5, Persistence – To have the heart to take on such a huge campaign with no funding required a passion greater than her fears
And the last step…
6. UNDERSTAND, DON’T JUDGE, AND FORGIVE
Understand people and situations; don’t judge. It’s about forgiveness. Learning not to hold onto anger and bitterness, as ultimately negative feelings affect the quality of your life.
You can’t control the actions of people or events but you can choose your response to them
In the book there was a case of a woman who lost her mother to suicide and her husband through divorce. Her own health suffered for many years after being misdiagnosed with an under-active thyroid, as her body increased from 10st to 20st. She admitted to having negative thoughts about the past and blamed others so much so that it affected her ability to move forward. Once she learned to focus on gratitude, her mindset changed. She forgave people in her heart and once she did her life improved so much so that she used her ill health to create a health and well being business and she now speaks around the world on matters of weight loss.
You can’t control the actions of people or events but you can choose your response to them
Once you are in a position to, you can forgive. You can’t control the actions of people or events but you can choose your response to them. Choose forgiveness. Life is too short, forgive, and overcome adversity.
Based in Liverpool Antony Stagg delivers inspirational career and goal-setting training to students aged between 14-19 years old. He is passionate about helping young people into employment and has one of the most viewed you tube channels in the world for interview skills. Since writing his latest book, Anthony has gone on to support a school for orphans in Nairobi, Kenya, a school which is named after the book. The rooms in the school will be named after the incredible people who have told their stories to the world in a bid to provide inspiration and to teach a philosophy to help others overcome adversity and believe in their dreams. @StaggAntony
Anthony’s book is IF I CAN DO IT, YOU CAN TOO: 20 true, graphic, emotional and inspirational stories of how to overcome adversity from Amazon