What It Takes To Be Successful

Dear Friends,

SUCCESS.com recently posted an article by Mick Ukleja, April 18 2017 titled, 4 Powerful Habits That Will Change Your Life. He defines four points by briefly explaining the positive and negative impact of each habit. These points are:

          Embrace life, don't resist it.

          Affirm yourself, don't degrade yourself.

          Brainstorm, don't blame-storm.

          Do something, not everything. 

   In his short article, I think Mick Ukleja's four listed habits can be well applied by the average person, but they can also be taken the next step to positively impact individuals and families dealing with the challenges of special needs. 

   Embrace life, don't resist it.  One of the more common reactions to facing a disability is to see the limitations that have been suddenly placed upon life. Very naturally the focus must be on what the needs are, what adjustments must be made to routines, living arrangements, diet, personal care, outside help, therapy, medical appointments and medications, educational needs, just to start the list which often grows exhaustively long. Everything seems affected from work schedules, to how does the family take a vacation, to rearranging the furniture in the house to accommodate special equipment, wheelchairs, mobility, and general function. For some, whole cabinets must be cleared to make room for medications and special diet foods.

   In the midst of all this planning, preparation and effort it's easy to lose sight of the abilities of an individual and the joy that can accompany life. When my son Matthew was born and diagnosed with a rare disorder my wife asked our older son Adam, then a teen and disabled, what advice he would give us for raising Matthew. Adam's written response was, "Do not feel sad for the disabilities, for us it is life. We have a life to live." 

   I had to learn at times to stop, take a deep breath, and realize the great things I was seeing, learning and experiencing in a life I didn't expect. Seeing how my two sons embraced life with passion, how they interacted with their siblings, their smiles, their laughter, how hard they would work to express themselves, allowed me to better embrace their lives along with my own, and to appreciate what I was living more than wishing for a cure.

   Affirm yourself, don't degrade yourself.  If you were ever the last person chosen for a team in gym class, like I was, then maybe you can relate to this. I was tall and uncoordinated as a teen, everyone thought I should excel at basketball but the truth was I was better at tripping over my own feet then I was at shooting the ball into the basket. I remember feeling like, "well, this is the poor team that's stuck with Wulfie." Years later I participated in a church volleyball team, a sport that I really enjoyed and which I played fairly well.  One time the leader chose two men to choose players for their teams, a first that they had done this. One dear friend turned to me and she said, "Oh I hate this, it's like being back in junior high school, I was always the last one chosen." It surprised me because I always saw her as agile and athletic, but I had to laugh because I felt the same way. I was surprised how very old feelings from youth resurfaced in what I was expecting to be just a friendly game. 

   The point I make is that how we feel about ourselves in what we can't do or are not good at should not take precedence over the things we can do and are good at. For an individual living with a disability or a family caring for a loved one with special needs, it's so important to focus on the abilities and talents, the expressions of thankfulness, appreciation and love over what the struggles are. Everyone has things they cannot do or are not very good at, it's just not always obvious. 

   Brainstorm, don't blame-storm.  Anger and disappointment over any situation does nothing to resolve it or make it better. We all know that, yet it's one of our easiest and most natural human reactions. How much better to focus our attention on "how can we make this work" rather than thinking "this isn't fair, why did this happen to me..." or "I can't deal with this, I'm outa here." 

   It takes effort, believe me it took me years to understand this at the level I do now. I've waded through my share of discouragement as a father, as a man, as a human being. A lot of us guys are "fixers" by nature, that's what we do. Doesn't mean we're always good at it, but we see a problem and we try to fix it. If I could revisit myself back over the years, I would tell myself, "No point in getting mad, work on a solution, get advice, get help, do whatever it takes but you can make it work."

   If you are an individual faced with personal challenges, it's so easy to say, "who did this to me?" We can better apply our energies to searching ideas and maybe discovering ways to make life function on an improved level. A hundred years ago wheelchairs were ugly, clumsy contraptions not meant to take one out into the world. Now we have motorized chairs, finely balanced and weighted chairs to enable the person to play sports, and even chairs that can climb stairs. Innovation and improvements come from the simplest beginnings of brainstorming. 

Do something, not everything. I've often felt like I will never live long enough to do all the things I want to do. This probably was more of a reality once I hit the 50 year mark. Maybe it's time to start thinking more about what I can accomplish in my lifetime rather than what I might miss out on. I will never be able to do everything on my list, I would guess that's true for most people, and perhaps especially for those individuals dealing with special needs. 

   In my speaking and coaching I will often challenge people to define precisely what things they can do very well. Perhaps someone is really good at writing encouraging notes to people, another can prepare a spectacular meal, and someone else is a gifted artist. Pouring ourselves into something we can do just may provide us with a greater satisfaction of a life well lived, rather than feeling the loss over those things we will never do. I believe this is so important for anyone dealing with any kind of special needs. It is the joy of feeling successful over something in which we can whole-heartedly apply ourselves. 

   I never did become a great basketball player, though I have enjoyed playing it from time to time, in fact I once coached a youth basketball team which I thoroughly enjoyed. Sure, as a kid I had daydreams of being celebrated winning the game with the most awesome slam dunk ever... but that wasn't reality. I have a wheelchair-bound friend who plays basketball better than I could ever even daydream about. 

   Success in anything doesn't come easy, we all know it takes determination, hard work, persistence, and time. This is true no more and no less in the special needs community. And we all need encouragement to truly succeed, along with someone who believes in us. These are great tools to use for ourselves and to encourage others, in embracing life, positive affirmations, brainstorming new ideas, and celebrating the accomplishments made, whether small or great. 

My best,


Brian Wulf