I overcame wars, homelessness, deportation, sabotage and 2 Failed Businesses – With 4 Simple Steps

The fact that you’re reading this post tells me that you and I have something in common.
You see, if you’re like me, then you’re reading this blog post because you’ve had more than a few missed goals.

Some of them may have been really huge goals that you set to stretch yourself not sure you could reach them.And then there were others you were absolutely sure of reaching only to miss them because something got in the way -an obstacle, a major setback, a direct or indirect opposition.  Something prevented you from reaching your goal.

In this post, I share with you 4 easy steps that have helped me overcome some insurmountable challenges and obstacles. And I know If you apply what you’re about to learn, you will begin to see obstacles and challenges differently.

At the age of 16, I left my parents and fled to the United States during the heat of the war in Liberia.  After four years, I was deported after being denied asylum.

The official reason the judge gave?

Overstaying My Visa.

Somehow, she did not my life as being threatened  at the time of her judgement.
Till this day in 2016, I know the judge who ordered me deported was seriously in error, but I could do nothing.  I had spent the last four years up to that point in 2007, literally working for my lawyer. And I wasn’t about to continue that life in the name of filing an appeal. So when the time came, I packed up my bags and returned home to Liberia with only $200 to my name.

And I’m glad it happened the way it happened.

Now, if you were born and grew up in a third world country like Liberia where I’m from,  just recovering from civil war at the time, you’ll think that getting deported from the U.S., the land of opportunities, is probably the worst thing that could ever happen to you. That’s how many think.

But I refused to see it as such. I held my head high got on the ground and got to work. And, 7 years and 5 months later, I’ve positively impacted the lives of more people (especially youths) than I probably would ever have had I remained in the U.S. When I look at the quality of my life now, and the difference I’ve made in the lives of others, I’m glad that that judge ( I don’t even remember her name) ordered me deported!

But I just didn’t wake up one morning with the ability to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Obstacles like losing my birth mother to surgery complications when I was barely only getting to ‘know’ her. Or obstacles like losing my step-mother who raised me from the young age of 7 till the point where I became a man.

What hurt most was that I lost her to an illness that was totally manageable or even preventable had she been in another part of the world.

What about the obstacle of starting a business from scratch, and building it up to a six figure consulting business in a third world country, and then being forced to sell it due to sabotage?

When life cracks a whip and you begin to experience setbacks in business or in life, what do you do?

Do you run under the table and hide like a five year old child hiding from the sound of thunder and lightning in the tropics, or do you shake off the dust, pick up the pieces and get moving?

These are changing and challenging times. Life is difficult and setbacks are common in the great games of Life and Business.

Every person has a choice about the attitude they bring to their day and the actions they make. Those who will prosper must develop flexible optimism, resourcefulness, and persistence in the face of adversity and constant change.

Achieving your life and business goals comes down to your relationship with setbacks and failures.

The truth remains that not everyone hits gold on their first try. So when you set out to accomplish big things, you must be ready to readjust your plan more than once while maintaining focus on your end goal.

With the right attitude about the challenges you encounter, you’re bound to hit your goals every time.

We always have a choice. And the one choice you definitely have when things go bad is the choice to bounce back and overcome the setbacks and disasters.

All Successful people I know have gone through a phase of obstacles and challenges.  You’re not the first, and you WILL NOT be the last.

So whether you’ve been hit with a failed relationship or a failed business, the following pages will equip you with the knowledge and mindset you need to become a powerful force.

Get ready to re-attack your goals and dreams. Get ready to accomplish what you thought was impossible. Get ready to Bounce Back!

 

 Step 1:  Make Friends with Time.

I love one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite quotes: “This too shall pass.” When the bad thing happens, our emotions kick in, and we mistakenly think to ourselves that it is the end of the world.

But as time goes by, we start to feel really good when we recover from the traumatic event with unexpected speed.  One question I tell my clients to ask themselves when they experience setback is this: Will This Even Matter Five Years from Now? 

If the answer is yes, then it’s time to pull out the strategy guns and create a new plan. If the answer is no, I tell them to move on with their lives as they’ve only come one step closer to success.

Time is the ultimate healer. I’ve seen people undergo some of the worst tragedy and pains any human being could experience. And with time, they’ve recovered and become bigger, better and full of more life than before.

Never underestimate your own ability to bounce back from emotional trauma. I was in America for Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Rita that came after.

I saw the devastation first hand because I worked for one of the largest security firms at the time, and because of the emergency, I was posted to the hot spots.  But 10 years on, you will agree with me that many of the people who suffered loss then have rebuilt their lives and are moving forward.

I saw the devastation of 9/11 on CNN. And while the lives of those who died can never be replaced, you will agree with me that that the American people have long gotten over the trauma of the event.

You most likely know the two events I’m talking about. One cannot forget the horrors of September 11th and hurricane Katrina;  but as we now look back with a calmer perspective only time can provide, those  ordeals do not seem as horrifying as they did on those faithful days; do they?

Whatever it is you’re going through right now; whatever the setback is that you’ve faced, realize that it’s all only temporary; and with time, all things will gather themselves back together.

The immediate response many of us have when things go bad,  is to try to get it right as fast as possible. The problem with that approach is at the point the challenge or setback has presented itself; you’re no longer thinking and acting objectively.

Every decision you take right after things go bad will very likely be out of emotion and those decisions cannot be trusted as being the best at times.

So the first step to overcoming an obstacle is to allow some time.
Allow some time to pass so as to give you a better perspective of what’s actually happening.

Learn to  WAIT – We Achieve In Time

One of my favorite writers says “there’s no hurry on the creative plane”.

Chances are, you got into the mess in the first place because you were in a rush.

Because you were in a hurry.

And why?

Maybe because you felt you had something to prove to someone.

Or because you felt someone else was doing better than you and you had to catch up with them.

Or you felt you were getting older and time was no longer in your favor.

There could be a million reasons why we rush. But none of them is good enough. To bounce back from that failure, or setback, you need to make a major mental shift and realize that time is the only friend you’ve got.

I know this is different from conventional wisdom.

Conventionally, we hear things like “time waits for no man” and “success loves speed”; and while these may be true in some cases, what we don’t realize when ascribing to that mindset is that speed must come with a certain level of preparedness.

A common saying in Liberia is:  “if you rush, you will crush”

To bounce back, take your time to get prepared. You’re already in the mess. It probably couldn’t get any worse than it already is. And even if it could get worse than it is, will worrying and being frantic about the situation solve anything?

I watched a movie just a few months ago on the plane while flying to an event in Ethiopia called The Last Knights starring Morgan Freeman and Clive Owen. In the movie, Clive’s character is planning a reprisal attack against a corrupt minister of the empire.

The minister, expecting the reprisal attack puts spies on Clive’s character and his team – the Last Knights. Well, the knights knew the power of time and waited for almost two years before they bounced back. And when they did, they succeeded in their mission.

When I got deported from the U.S., I felt bad. For all intents and purposes, I had “failed”. But I knew that I could transform that experience into something positive.  So the first thing I did when I got back to Liberia was NOTHING.

I tried to do nothing.  I just allowed the days to pass by. I reconnected with old acquaintances and made some new ones as well.  For the next 8 months I intentionally did not try to force anything into being.  And when the time was right, things started to align themselves such that I knew it was time to start rolling again.

If you’re going to bounce back, you’re going to need to be patient. You’re going to need to spend time alone and quiet.

You’re going to need to connect with yourself and your source.

This is not a metaphysical post; but to think that everything that happens around you has no spiritual connection would be naïve.

Whatever your religion, it has a source. Connect with that source. And allow time to instruct your actions; because in the end, it’s only a matter of time before things get to where they need to be at.

 

Step 2: Reposition FEAR

I don’t know where but I do remember seeing this definition for fear:

F- false
E- evidence /expectations
A – Appearing
R – Real

In my experience, fear has been nothing more than self-talk about what could go bad. It’s usually about how people are going to look at us, and what they’re going to think.

Well, here’s news for you.

What you want to achieve in this life is really nobody’s business.  It is your business. What matters is what you think; not what others think.

I love fear because it gives me a sign that there’s still something I need to work on. So rather than allowing that fear to cripple me, I allow is to motivate and inspire me to take action. If you’re going to bounce back, you’re going to need to redefine what fear means to you.

I heard Tony Robbins once share a very powerful secret:  He said people who struggle through life, and those who succeed all experience fear. It’s just the matter of how each group sees the fear.

According to Tony, those who struggle through life without hitting their goals use fear as the excuse for not taking the action they need to take; whereas those who succeed use fear as the reason for taking the action they know they need to take because they’re afraid of what will be if they don’t take the action.

Let me share with you a personal experience.

In 2009, I worked as a contractor for a local bank here in Liberia.  My entire moth’s income was around $350.  That wasn’t so bad for a single guy in Liberia. But for me it was. I knew I was worth far more. The working relationship sucked, and I wanted to be my own boss.   I knew I had to quit that job. Guess what?

I was scared.

I would be losing my income.  What if things didn’t go well? What if as soon as I quit something bad happened? A whole lot of those questions were running through my head. But just as they came, I managed to counter them with another set of question on the opposite side of the “fear Pendulum”.

What will your life be like if you allow yourself to be stuck in this organization?

  • Can you handle the stress of being here for another five years?
  • What if you developed a major illness as a result of the stress?
  • Can this job give you the lifestyle you want?
  • What if you ever needed major time off, would you still have a job?

The two sets of questions were questions of fear. The only difference was: One set of questions was leading me to make excuses for not taking the action I knew I wanted, and needed to take. The other set of questions were driving me to take the actions. In the end, I allowed the second set of questions to move me into quitting the job and launching out on my own. I’ve always appreciated the day I made the decision.

The next time you’re confronted by fear, don’t attempt to resist it. Allow it to speak, and then allow your inner self to come up with the more powerful reasons why you must do what you know you need to do.

When you’re stuck by a major setback, the natural reaction is to try and avoid what led you to the set back in the first place. So let’s say you’re a guy or lady who has just suffered a divorce. And the entire experience was bitter. The automatic response you’re most likely to take would be to stay away from relationships.  The fear of going through another divorce would often suck you in so deep that you will drive every other person away- Including the person who was meant to make you happy for the rest of your life.

Or let’s say you attempted a business venture and lost everything. You own money, plus money you borrowed from other people. Once again, the   likeliest thing to do would be to chicken out of trying in business again -out of the fear of not losing money again.  But then there will also be the fear of living the life you hate, and of being a looser to quit after only one try.

Here’s a Secret You MUST keep close to your heart:

“There are always two sets of fear associated with any situation you may be faced with. The only thing that matters, is which set you allow to guide you.”

As I’ve traveled across Africa, I’ve met many successful Africans who could do far more than they’ve done already, but refuse to simply because of a certain level of fear.

This is not just in Africa; but all over the world.  People allow the wrong kind of fear to drive their actions.  They pay more attention to the type of fear that prevents them from breaking out to another level of greatness.

Don’t let that be you.

Failure is just a necessary part of success. You cannot appreciate success if you’ve not experienced failure.  So rather than feeling terrible about the fact that you’ve failed, or that you could fail,  get up shake of the dust and get rolling.

Life is like a moving vehicle with no brakes; if you spend too much time in the rearview mirror, you may hit a tree out the front window. Keep your rearview mirror smaller than your front window by using self-criticism as course correction feedback on the road to success. Identify what was done wrong, but put your focus on the future: What are you going to do to rectify the problem? How will you handle it next time?

When things go bad initially, you have feelings that everything is wrong and that nothing is going to change. The trick is to think of these thoughts as if they are being said by some external enemy whose mission in life is to make you miserable.

Once you know that this enemy is on a mission to make you miserable, you can now choose not to give him the satisfaction of seeing his desire come alive.  This means that you make the decision to feel good and take positive actions no matter what.  This enemy may choose to attack you in more ways than one; all with the intention of making you miserable. Identify the ploy, and don’t fall for the tricks.

Instead, make the decision to press forward no matter what, realizing that time is you best friend, and you DON’T need to rush at all.

Step 3: Become a Survivor

As long as you are alive, you always have options. Survivors make the best of the options they have while victims whine about how few they have.

There is ALWAYS SOMETHING you can do.

The real question is whether or not you’re committed to doing whatever it takes to find out what you can do, and then doing what it is you’ve discovered you need to do.

To bounce back, you must realize that it’s all about choices.  When you make the choice to regain your status, or even surpass your former status, the ways begin to appear.

You can’t be a quitter of you want to bounce back.  You’ve got your always build on your persevering juices.

It’s very easy to give up when things don’t go your way. We’ve all been in situations where a missed opportunity has discouraged us and made it difficult to persevere. Life is full of challenges. Nevertheless, it’s important that you keep trying. Every day you try is another chance for success.

Once you accept that you’re destined for success, giving up is no longer an option!

Instead of entertaining the thought throwing in the towel, bounce back by following these strategies to acquire the drive to persevere and achieve your goals:

  1. Analyze why you didn’t succeed. This is perhaps the most crucial step in ensuring you don’t give up easily. Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with failure, so much so that we just feel the urge to curl up and cry. However, by analyzing what actually prevented your victory, you might be surprised at how simple the fix can be.
  • Did you forget a crucial step?
  • Were external forces affecting your focus?
  • Did you prepare yourself enough for the challenge?
  • Is it something you truly wanted to pursue to begin with?
  1. Reward yourself. Even though you might not have achieved the success you were expecting, that doesn’t mean you didn’t give your 100% effort to the task. And your efforts should never go unrewarded! Reward yourself for what did go right and treat yourself to a “pick-me-up” when you’ve fallen down:
  • Treat yourself to your favorite desert.
  • Show yourself some love by getting a massage.
  • Get your car detailed. A spotless car can look brand new and might actually help you to feel brand new!
  1. Carry out activities that you do well. Often, not succeeding may cause you to shy away from ever trying something again. You can build your inner strength and confidence by performing activities that you know you’re good at.
  • Get out on the court and play some winning basketball.
  • Challenge an opponent to a game of chess.
  • Work at balancing those income and expenditure reports.
  • Do anything you know you’re good at to help build (or rebuild) your confidence.
  1. Set smaller, attainable goals. Just because you didn’t score the last time doesn’t mean you can’t score at all. Why not break up that big goal into smaller, more attainable ones? Perhaps you were overwhelmed by the task and somehow lost focus. By breaking it up into smaller goals, you’ll be more likely to achieve the big goal.

No one ever said that perseverance was easy; in fact, it can be extremely difficult to look past the mistakes, failures and under-achievements and try again. However, being able to persevere and push through until you win shows true strength and resolve.

So don’t give up too easily. You can’t win them all, but you know that you definitely have what it takes to succeed.

Once you build your confidence, drive and will power, you’ll see how easily you can develop the ability to persevere until you achieve what you set out to achieve. Nothing is impossible once you believe in yourself and allow that belief to drive you forward!

Step 4: Control What You Can

Here is something I learned a while back:

YOU CAN’T CONTROL EVERYTHING.

Your only responsibility is to —position, perform and persist.  The idea of total Security is not a fact; it is a feeling—a feeling that you can control what you do.

But this is far from reality: You don’t control all events that happen, but you do control your response to events.

You don’t control the cards you are dealt in life, but you can learn how to play even a poor hand well.  This is why Appreciate the words of Reinhold Niebuhr in the serenity prayer:

 “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Get busy changing what you can—starting with your own attitude.

In my experience, life can be pretty complicated. Although most of us have plenty to manage in our day-to-day lives—jobs, relationships, family, exercise, sleep, you name it—there are really only a few things we truly have control over. I changed my life by identifying these variables and learning how to master them. And I think you can too.

So there you have them:
Step 1 – Make Friend with Time
Step 2 – Reposition Fear
Step 3 – Become a Survivor
Step 4 – Control What You Can

These four steps may appear simple; but please do not underestimate them as they are profound mental shift that will get you back on track to reaching your goals.

Using those same steps I am not able to do what I absolutely love doing and that is to share lessons of hope and possibility with the rest of the world. My seminar and event are usually filled with young people who are being inspirited to greater heights.

And just like you’re now reading one my written works, thousands of people around the world are doing the same.I did not let my setbacks, failures and challenges keep me from living my dream and neither should you. Start applying these 4 steps today, and begin achieving your goals now.

The ball is now in your court. What will you begin to do TODAY?

Please share this post with all your network. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn.. every where. It will mean a lot to me. But more importantly, the people you share these articles with will appreciate you wholeheartedly.

With Love & Peace

Dan

11 Comments

  1. Joe May 12, 2016
    • Dan Maxwell Jr May 12, 2016
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    • Dan Maxwell Jr May 12, 2016
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    • Dan Maxwell Jr May 13, 2016
  5. Sandy June 9, 2016
    • Dan Maxwell Jr June 9, 2016
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