It was a dark and stormy night. The tired, weather beaten man made his way to a run down Inn appropriately named “George and the Dragon’s” eatery. It was after 10 PM, but the man was cold, wet, and hungry. He took the door knocker in hand and began to rap heartily on the door. Soon a light came on and a small window in the door opened. A woman in curlers, without make up, and with bad teeth yells out, “What do you want?” The tired traveler replies, “I would like to know if I can come in for a warm bowl of soup and a kind word at this late hour, because I have been on the road all evening.” The woman snarled and said, “Look you idiot, we are closed. It is after 10 PM. Why don’t you just go on your way and stop bothering me?” The woman slams the window shut. The man, undeterred with this difficult situation knocks again on the door. The woman opens the small window and says again, in a hateful voice, “Now what do you want?” The gentleman, standing in the cold and the rain says, “I was wondering if I might have a word with George?”
Difficulties and difficult people are everywhere. I am certain that every reader has experienced many difficult situations and many people who have been less then cordial and cooperative. Such scenario’s happen, in the business world every day. Difficult people abound. Difficult situations are encountered by all of us at every turn. How do we deal with these circumstances? Do we become angry, incensed, or bitter? Do we pull our shoulders back, lift up our head and brush off the slights of others and the trying times in life? I think that is the best way to deal with difficulties. It has been said that difficulties are stepping stones to success. When we can manage the courage, the stamina, and resolve to “step above the fray”, to over come the difficulties and obstacles in our path, we become stronger individuals. We become more resolute. If you let circumstances get you down and beat you down you will most likely stay down in the dumps and wallow in your difficulties and you will let difficult people get the best of you.
How do you react to difficulties and difficult people? The fabled Aesop said, “Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass.” The Bibles says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” If we can conquer our own insecurities, and our own short comings, we are on the road to success. If we can become resolute in the face of difficulties and maintain an attitude of goodness, a desire to serve others, and to accomplish our mission, despite our difficulties and despite those who make the road hard to travel, we are on the right track. Difficulties and hardships will be our stepping stones to success.
Often, the people we have the most trouble with in life is ourselves. When you think about it clearly, all things are difficult before they are easy. When you were a baby it was difficult to crawl, to grasp things, and it was hard to learn to speak. But babies are optimistic and courageous. They keep on trying, keep on crawling, then they pull up on things, then they learn to walk, to discover, and to learn. It is the same when we go through kindergarten, elementary school, and high school, then college and then perhaps post graduate school. Each step on the road to learning is filled with problems, difficult challenges, and even difficult people. I used to read a lot when I was a pre-teen, then a teenager, about the success achieved by various leaders of the world and society. Everyone who has accomplished good things in life has been through difficulties. Difficult people sometimes make it hard on the person who is on the journey to success. The key to their success is their resoluteness. They are driven by their desire to make things happen, to do their work, to reach their goals. One of the things that helped me on my journey to success was to learn about successful people and to emulate them in a way, so as to take their good habits, and make them my own. Often, I drew strength and courage from the obstacles and difficulties that they had over come. Others who have overcome difficulties and who have mastered the art of dealing with difficult people have been and still are an inspiration to me. Many times the thrill of life comes from a difficult job well done.
When I was in Law School in the late 1970’s I recall an incident when I had to go consult with the assistant Dean of the Law School. She was a young woman who tried to dampen my spirits and challenge my dedication to learning the law. At that time in my life I had a full time job, was running an advertising business, speaking all over the United States as a Humorist, and in my third year of law school paying my own way. Because I had such a heavy and difficult load on me at that time, I asked permission to take only two courses during the summer months. This assistant Dean said to me, “I don’t believe you are serious about law school, and really don’t seem to want to apply yourself to finish the courses. If you were serious about completing your studies you would take a full load and get on with it.”
I looked her in the eye and replied, “Pardon me, but you do not have the right to tell me that I am not serious about my studies in law. I do not understand why you want to make it more difficult for me than it already is. You are challenging my commitment because the schedule that I want to have does not coincide with what you think a successful student should take on. I think you are off base, out of line, and you have no right to make the charge that I am not serious about law school. I can guarantee you that I will graduate this law school with flying colors.” I did only take two courses that summer semester. I went on to finish law school and graduated cum laude, won the American Jurisprudence award for the study of Torts, and was vice president of the Student Bar Association. As Aesop said, “Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass.” However, rising to the challenge, being resolute and firm in one’s purpose and confident in one’s own abilities also helps to make the difficulties dissolve and to silent the difficult people who try to side track you on the journey to success.
Life can be brutal and life can be beautiful. It is hard to forget but we must forget the slights that come our way, and we must persevere. It’s difficult to apologize when we are wrong but very necessary to do so. It is hard to be unselfish and to serve others but it is another ingredient of success. Sometimes we make mistakes; it is hard to avoid them. It is difficult to get out of a rut but we must keep digging until we get out. To make the best of things and the best of a difficult situation is hard, but we must do so if we want to continue to succeed. It is not easy to hold your temper, to think first and act afterwards and to maintain a high standard. But success in life demands that we do all of these things. When we make mistakes, we must accept the blame, and we must keep on keeping on. Admit your errors in life, then move on and try not to make them again. Always be charitable to others and above all be forgiving when others make mistakes that affect you. When you over come difficulties and difficult people you are on your way to achieving your goals on your journey to success. Success IS a continuing journey. We never really reach a point where we can rest on our laurels. When you encounter difficulties and difficult people on your journey, view them as stepping stones to your own success. Step over them, forgive and forget the slights you have endured, move on and keep working to become the person, family member, and employee you want to become. Problems in life and problematic people help us grow. A sign on a business executive’s desk says it all for me; “We eat problems for breakfast.” Difficulties in life and business are things that show what we are made of.