Turning Life’s Messes Into Successes

Yesterday, I went boogie boarding with a friend, my credit cards and all our money tucked into a new, waterproof fanny pack. That’s right a one-piece suit, SPF 30 slathered body and fanny pack – hot!  After catching a fantastic wave and riding it to shore, I discovered the fanny pack hadn’t made it. It was dinner time and I had no money. A few miles from home, we were hungry, sandy, and broke. No Uber for us.
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At first I panicked, but as we began our journey home, we stumbled a walkway with gorgeous gardens. Though I’ve lived in Venice Beach for 20 years, I had never known about this incredible street. Some people we ran into told us about their cats, their families, and their lives. Normally, I’m in a rush and this would annoy me. But tonight, I made new friends in the neighborhood that I can borrow stuff from. Then it got even better -- the fancy hot dog stand gave us free samples!  We got thirsty and since it was on 7/11 – 7/11 was giving out free Slushies! Free! What had been a mess turned into a wonderful life affirming adventure. Plus there was extra exercise. In addition to losing money, I lost weight!
As I wrote in my book, “The Message of You,(link is external)” you can’t spell MESSAGE without a MESS. Yet again, I was reminded that when life doesn’t go the way I want it to, there’s often a gift.
A few years ago, while recording my book for Audible, I stumbled over a word and flashed back to the embarrassment of having a speech impediment as a child. I was almost in tears as the director took me aside and told me, “Last week there was somebody very famous here recording his book. The three days it should have taken took him two weeks. Why?  Because he had such a severe speech impediment we had to do it over and over and over and over. That man's name is James Earl Jones.”
I asked, "What?  Darth Vader!  The voice of CNN?  A man who makes a living by his voice can't speak?" 
"Yes, he didn't speak until he was eight. Because of his speaking problem, we kept redoing it until it was perfect.”
I couldn’t believe it.
Then, he said something very wise, "Judy, we're not successful in spite of the messes in our life.  It's because of them.  If you didn't have a problem speaking, you wouldn’t have put so much effort into it and become a professional speaker. You wouldn't have to work so hard." 
He’s right. Think about it. Some of our most successful people overcame difficult beginnings. The reason he created the happiest place on earth was probably because Walt Disney grew up in an alcoholic, abusive home.  Steve Jobs was adopted, disconnected from his family, and created gadgets that connect us all. Anybody notice that Dr. Phil, who wrote the bestselling book on weight loss, looks a little chubby?” I’m guessing his next book will be "Hair Care Tips for Men.” Or am I thinking of Donald Trump?  
OK… a little humor, but the point is if we refuse to let the messes define us, we can use them to our advantage. Your MESSage is in that story of your journey from mess to success.  When you tell THAT story, it’s The Message of You and lets everyone in on the meaning of your life.

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Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.