By Marc Chernoff
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”
― J.K. Rowling
Our blog posts typically start with a quick intro story – a super-short narrative about something Angel and I have experienced, heard or read – that inspired us to write. And not surprisingly, based on our line of work, these stories often find their way to us through everyday interactions with our coaching/course students(of course, we always get permission before we share something publicly).
This morning I randomly received emails from three different blog subscribers (subscribe here) that basically said the same thing about three completely different articles: “The story you shared at the beginning of the post made me think differently. Thank you.”
In light of this, I just spent an hour sifting through our blog archive and re-reading the intro stories to dozens of older posts. And I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment of our subscribers. Even when taken out of the larger context of a full blog post, these quick stories pack a thought-provoking punch. So, I figured it would be a fun to re-share them with you today. I hope you appreciate them as much as I do…
- This morning, like he has every morning for the last decade, my 86-year-old grandfather picked a fresh wild flower on his morning walk and took it to my grandmother. This morning I decided to go with him to see her. And as he placed the flower on her gravestone, he looked at me and said, “I just wish I had picked her a fresh flower every morning when she was alive. She would have loved that.”
- Today, on my 47th birthday, I re-read the suicide letter I wrote on my 27th birthday about two minutes before my girlfriend showed up at my apartment and told me, ‘I’m pregnant.’ She was honestly the only reason I didn’t follow through with it. Suddenly I felt I had something to live for. Today she’s my wife, and we’ve been happily married for 19 years. And my daughter, who is now a 21-year-old college student, has two younger brothers. I re-read my suicide letter every year on my birthday as a reminder to be thankful – I am thankful I got a second chance at life.
- After injuring my back, losing my job because of it, being evicted from our apartment, moving in with Laura’s parents, nursing my five-year-old through a nearly fatal bout of strep throat, I was stuck in a tragic rut for far too long. And I was sitting on the front porch of my in-law’s house feeling sorry for myself, yet again, when my old college buddy called me crying and said, ‘Mel-Mel-Melissa, my baby girl, just died in a car wreck.’ And suddenly I felt like the lucky one.
- This morning, nearly five years after my husband’s passing, a beautiful couple and their three kids knocked on my front door. The man smiled and said, “Your husband was my heart donor. He saved my life. Not a single day has gone by that I don’t pray for him and think of you. Thank you!
- Last week, at my friend Haley’s funeral, her husband stood up to deliver her eulogy and said, “Life is the leading cause of death, and Haley LIVED her life, passionately. She died doing what she loved to do. If she didn’t do what she loved, she may not have died yesterday, but she wouldn’t have truly lived either.”
- Yesterday my sister and I were in a pretty bad car accident. Luckily both of us were wearing our seat belts and didn’t have any major injuries. My sister is and always has been Mrs. Popular – she knows everyone. I’m the complete opposite – an introvert who hangs out with the same two girls all the time. My sister immediately posted a comment on Facebook and Instagram about our accident. And while all her friends were commenting, my two friends showed up independently at the scene of the accident before the ambulance arrived.
- A good friend of mine, who graduated with honors from Cal Berkley several years ago, is now the co-founder and CEO of a successful start-up in Silicon Valley. Throughout grade school he struggled with reading and writing disabilities. He spent kindergarten all the way through 12th grade in English ESE classes. During a parent-teacher conference when he was a freshman in high school, two ESE teachers collectively informed his mom that it was highly unlikely he would ever graduate. So how did he do it? How did he push through and overcome the odds? “Affirmations,” he told me with a serious smile when I interviewed him yesterday for a side-project I’m working on. “I literally told myself that they were wrong about me. I told myself exactly what I needed to hear, every single day, to move my life forward. It may sound like a cliché to some people, but it’s not; it’s powerful stuff!”
- My dad is a blind cancer survivor. He lost both his eyes when he was in his early 30’s to a rare form of cancer. Despite this, he raised my sister and I, and took care of my mom who was in and out of rehab for alcoholism and depression. My mom is a fully recovered alcoholic now, my sister and I have graduated college, and my parents are still together and back to being happy. I’m certain none of this would have been possible if my dad hadn’t been such a resilient, positive force in our lives. My dad’s mental strength literally saved our family.
- This past weekend I volunteered at my alma mater and gave a campus tour to a couple dozen incoming freshman. There was a young man in a wheelchair in the group who chatted with me all morning and never stopped smiling. He had a positive energy about him that was absolutely contagious. At the end of the tour I found out he had a scholarship to play basketball before a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. He told me, “It didn’t ruin my life, it just changed my circumstances. I’m happy to be here with you right now, with so many opportunities in front of me.”
- The drummer in our band, Nick, is legally deaf, and has been since he was born. But he can still hear low bass tones and feel the vibrations from the drums and other instruments. Honestly, he’s such an incredible drummer that most people don’t believe he’s deaf. Sometimes I can’t believe it myself.
- I’m sitting in my hospital bed waiting to have both my breasts removed. But in a strange way I feel like the lucky one. Up until now I have had no health problems. I’m a 69-year-old woman in the last room at the end of the hall before the pediatric division of the hospital begins. Over the past few hours I have watched dozens of cancer patients being wheeled by in wheelchairs and rolling beds. None of these patients could be a day older than 17.
- Tonight Angel and I met a family of six staying at a hotel in Miami where we were vacationing. We saw them hanging out in the lobby, sharing stories and laughing hysterically. So on our way out, we said hello to them and asked where they were from. “Oh, we’re from here,” the mother said. “Our house burned down to the ground yesterday, but miraculously, all of us made it out safely. And that makes today a day worth smiling about.
- This afternoon my teammate broke his right arm during our first game of the season. It was actually his first game in over two years, after his doctors told him that he would never play again due to knee surgery. This evening when I stopped by to see him I assumed he would be terribly upset. Instead he smiled and said, “That hour I spent on the field today was once only a dream.”
- Last week I interviewed a motel housekeeper in Miami Beach for a side project I’m working on. “Do you like your job?” I asked. To my surprise, she smiled from ear to ear and was breathless for a couple seconds. She finally collected herself and said, “I can’t believe how much I love my job! I get to make dozens of our guests happy every day and feed my two beautiful children at the same time.”
- I’m sitting here on the eighth anniversary of a dear family member’s passing, thinking about the last conversation I had with her. With a soft, weak voice she told me her only regret was that she didn’t appreciate every year with the same passion and purpose that she had in the final two years of her life, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “I’ve accomplished so much recently,” she told me. “If I had only known, I would have started sooner.”
- Yesterday afternoon my twin sister called me from her hospital room. She’s been in a coma for almost a year now. Entering the holiday season and New Year with my sister back at my side is a priceless feeling. We actually spent the entire night together, talking and laughing. She’s still weak, of course, but surprisingly coherent. But you know what the really crazy thing is? A month before my sister’s accident, we got in a ridiculous argument and didn’t speak to each other for that entire month. And today, honestly, neither one of us can even remember why we were so darn mad.
- Almost two decades ago, when I told my grandmother I was worried about taking a chance and regretting my choice, she hugged me and said, “Trust me, honey, that’s not what you’re going to regret when you’re my age. If anything, you will likely kick yourself a little for not taking more chances on the infinite number of opportunities you have today.”
- Two of my ex-coworkers actually laughed at me last year when I told them I dreamed of opening my own hair salon. When I spoke with you and Angel on a coaching call that same afternoon, Angel said something like, “We’ve known quite a few people who went after their dreams and succeeded. One thing they all had in common was they got laughed at in the process.” Well, I’m happy to say, I opened my salon six months ago and business is great!
- Last night I had a long conversation with my wise, 71-year-old dad about living and growing through adversity. One of the last things he said before we got off the phone resonated with me so much, I wrote it down: “It’s been my experience that most people aren’t truly happy until they’ve had many reasons to be sad. I believe this is because it takes all of those bad days and hardships to teach us how to truly appreciate what we have. It builds our resilience.”
- My mom is a healthy 55-year-old who successfully owns and operates a popular bakery downtown – a goal she’s had all her life. 15 years ago she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. In the face of possible death, she quit her store clerk job, opened the bakery, started chemo and radiation therapy, and succeeded on all fronts.
- This morning I saw an elderly woman in a wheelchair rolling down the sidewalk in the pouring rain just outside the coffee shop where I was writing. She was moving at a snail’s pace and I thought she might be struggling, so I ran out into the rain and asked her if she needed assistance or a dry resting spot. She smiled and said, “I appreciate it, but the rain feels great against my skin. I’m out here and going slow on purpose.”
- A coworker of mine died in a car accident on the way home from work last week. During his funeral several people from the office were in tears, saying kind things like, “I loved him. We all loved him so much. He was such a wonderful person.” Of course, I started crying too. But I couldn’t help but wonder if these people had told him that they loved him while he was alive, or whether it was only with death that this powerful word, “love,” had been used without question or hesitation.
- The happiest moment of my life is still that split-second a year ago when, as I laid crushed under a 2000 pound car, I realized my husband and 9-year-old boy were out of the vehicle and absolutely OK.
- “It’s been exactly ten years since my controlling, abusive ex-fiancé sold my favorite guitar which cost almost $1,000 and took me ages to save for. He sold it on the day I broke up with him. When I went to pick up my belongings, he was proud that he had sold it to a local pawnshop. Luckily, I managed to track down the guy that bought it from the pawnshop. The guy was really sweet and gave it back to me for free, on the condition that I join him on his front porch for an hour and play guitar with him. He grabbed a second guitar and we ended up sitting there on his porch for the rest of the afternoon playing music, talking, and laughing. He’s been my husband for almost nine years now, and we are happier now than ever.
- Last night I was all dressed up and waiting on my blind date to arrive. He never showed up. It made me feel ugly and unworthy and abandoned. I thought he may have seen me from a distance and bailed. All sorts of negative thoughts were running through my mind. Then, as I left the restaurant alone, I heard a little girl ask her mom if I was a princess. It made me smile and changed my mindset. I decided to walk the long way home, and I truly took it in – the fresh air, the peaceful solitude, the moonlight glistening off the sidewalk. And I realized being alone right now was exactly what I needed.
- Almost two decades ago, when I asked my grandfather for some relationship advice, he said, “Honestly, the moment I stopped trying to find the right woman, and started trying to become the right man, your grandmother walked up to me and said, ‘Hello.’”
- Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on a park bench eating a sandwich for lunch when an elderly couple pulled their car up under a nearby oak tree. They rolled down the windows and turned up some funky jazz music on the car stereo. Then the man got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side, opened the door for the woman, took her hand and helped her out of her seat, guided her about ten feet away from the car, and they slow danced to a song under the oak tree.
- My body sometimes feels sore, but it works. I don’t sleep well most nights, but I do wake up to experience another day. My wallet is not full, but my stomach is. I don’t have all the things I’ve ever wanted, but I do have everything I need. I’m thankful, because although my life is by no means perfect, it is MY life and I choose to be thankful in it, as I continue to do the best I can.
- I’m dying of Leukemia at age 18. I was sent home from the hospital for my final few weeks 156 days ago. But now I’m back at the hospital being treated again, because my doctors now believe there is hope.
- When I was 16 years old and too young to fully grasp the sensitivity of the situation, I interviewed my grandmother’s friend, JoAnn, who was terminally ill, for a school project entitled “The Speed of Life.” About five minutes into the interview I began questioning JoAnn about her illness and her life situation. “So,” I tried to delicately ask, “What is it like to wake up every morning and know that you are dying?” “Well,” she replied, “What is it like to wake up every morning and pretend that you are not?”
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