The 5 Easy Steps to Total Success

CarolinaFireJournal - Ken Farmer
Ken Farmer
05/06/2014 -

It was a dark and gloomy night. The type of night where both beast and man are both hidden away in a warm and quiet place and no one is on the streets or roads. It’s the kind of night where everything is almost too quiet. It’s the kind of night where you wonder why it is so quiet because its whisper quiet.

“I usually grab some old music like Jerry Butler or Crosby, Stills and Nash. Listening to these old songs I can travel back in time for a while and find some solace in the tunes and the words.”

This night is when you find yourself often alone and by yourself. It happens after a day of whirlwind activities where you suddenly stop and you look around and cannot figure out why there seems to be no one nearby or anywhere.

No, this is not the start of the Great American novel. It may seem that way but I am nowhere close. Instead I want to talk about the reality of life and the difficult times that come when we least expect it.

Not long ago I ran into a mental brick wall. The wall was at least 100 feet high as best I could tell and about 1000 miles long. No matter what I did, I could not find a way around it. The more I ran into it the bigger it grew. It hurt very deeply.

I had to stop and ask myself some hard questions. Why did it hurt so much; what caused this hurt and what did I do to cause it; and most importantly I wanted to know how to recover and get over the pain?

The answer had to be easy, right? I watch TV shows and the whole world is saved from extinction in 59 minutes — including commercial breaks! I know that if I run down to the local bookstore and go to the self-help section I can grab one single book, give it a quick 30-minute read and I have the answer, bang! Over and done! I have listened to those feel good pastors who say to simply pray and believe and all will be right. There is a term for all such easy answers — bull!

So what do you do? I usually grab some old music like Jerry Butler or Crosby, Stills and Nash. Listening to these old songs I can travel back in time for a while and find some solace in the tunes and the words. This only works for awhile of course.

So what are the answers? How do you “fix” such things?

Not too long ago I had a friend whose life was turned upside down by their family. Family is the one group you think will always be there for you no matter what. When we get to our lowest point, we always think that family and friends will be there for us. In this case, the family was the first one to turn on them. It hurt very deep and caused a painful and needless trip down the hall of shame and guilt.

The hall of shame and guilt is a very long and dark hallway. It seems to never end. Each step takes you down lower and lower. At some point you cry out to just simply end the pain as you have run out of solutions and become very desperate.

I recently read a book titled “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Dr. Brene Brown. She has spent a life time researching shame. In the very simplest terms she defines the two items this way:

Shame = I am bad.

Guilt = I did something bad.

What you quickly realize is that we all carry shame in our hearts and minds but we must quickly get rid of those thoughts and feelings. These are the feelings that beat us down into the ground and leave us in a pool of pain and sad feelings because we feel it will never improve.

Instead, it’s alright to carry guilt in our hearts and minds. Guilt is something we don’t like to admit but it is true sometimes. Guilt is when we break a law or commandment of some type and realize we were stupid or simply dumb.

The important difference is that you can overcome the guilt by admitting your failure or apologizing to the ones you hurt. Shame, however, just pushes you deep into the mud puddle of life and you never recover as you continue to blame yourself for all the bad things that have happened.

Remember the title? It was “5 Easy Steps to Success!” Do you wonder why I picked that title? The reason is — that is bull also. There are no five easy steps. There is no magic pill to swallow; there is no 30 minute infomercial that will fix all your woes; there is no one simple answer that is a fix for things!

But there are answers. There is a fix out there. Here is what I recommend:

Stop and Take a Deep Look at the Issue That is Hurting You
Was it a person, an event, a statement, an action? Take a hard look at that issue and ask yourself a simple question; Are you a bad person? The answer should be no. There may have been some bad results; some bad feelings, but you are NOT A BAD PERSON.

Contemplate, Pray, Think and Pause for Some Time
I am not here to select your religion or your approach to a higher power. I do know that I believe in a higher power. Take the time to talk to your higher power or to yourself. What you will find out is that times are very bad and you hurt. Things should be different but they are not. They will not get better by you crying in your beer and bemoaning the cruelties of life. They come to all of us. Dig deeper and realize you must hit the brakes on this runaway train. It will take a while for it to stop. Give it some time.

Find a Friend
You need someone who is trusted and who cares about you to listen to about things. It’s not easy and is very difficult to pour out your feelings. Find a professional person if nothing else who is neutral and will give you a balance and a reflective understanding of your pain. Do this for your own good. Besides, your insurance will probably cover it.

Slowly Climb Out of Your Hole
Don’t jump up overnight and say you are OK! You are not! You have been hurt and you have real pain. Time is the only thing that really heals your pain. You will have to accept some pain and change that you don’t want to accept. Don’t climb into a bottle of pills or alcohol. They will only be a temporary fix and will knock you deeper into that same hole. Time will fix things and allow you to accept the change or find a way to fix the problem with a fresh approach.

In closing, remember none of this is easy or simple. Life hurts sometimes. I do not suggest things will be rosy and happy again. You will always carry that pain inside you. You may never be quite the same person again. But know that you will recover and life can be acceptable and you can continue to make a difference. I am not a trained person and this may or may not work for you. Find someone to help you. Even when you don’t think you have a friend, they are there and they care about you more than you know. Just look around and reach out.

They say every one of us is a miracle. Just to be conceived and born as a human is pretty special. You are allowed a little guilt but stop feeling shame. You matter to someone and to many people that you may never even know.

Stay Safe!

Ken Farmer is Section Chief, Leadership and Fire Risk Reduction at the National Fire Academy, United States Fire Administration in Maryland. Email him at [email protected].
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