Monthly Archives: April 2009

I Cried Because I Had No Shoes…Until I Saw Someone With No Feet

A few weeks ago, I was on my way to speaking/traning engagement and I missed my flight out of Atlanta to Seattle, and with time to kill, I drove over to Barnes and Noble to rest and read.  There I sitting and couldn’t help but overhear a man on the phone desperately trying to find someone who could fax an employment application for him.  He was honest and clear about having NO money.  He seemed sincere and since in his efforts to get the job application to the potential employer.  I have an eFax account and offered to fax the application for him.  Things worked out for him and he declined my offer, which led to a conversation between us.  I went on to learn that Jim Williams is now virtually homeless after 30 years of employment in corporate America and earning a degree from GA Tech in the 1970’s. As of the day we talked, he’d lost his income, home, vehicle, and a good deal of other assets.  I know with the economic challenges our country is facing, this is not an isolated situation.  I don’t think his situation would be called exceptional in this economic environment.  However, if you were with me at the bookstore that day, you would have found Jim’s attitude to be exceptional.

You see, in the midst of these extreme and typically stressful circumstances, Jim decided to use this adversity as a sign for him to pursue his life’s passion. In between recovering financially and securing some sort of employment, Jim has gotten crystal clear on what he wants, and that is to be a writer.

His combination of “clarity” and “humility” blew me away.  While in one breath he explained his very challenging situation, in the next breath he went on to explain how losing EVERYTHING caused him to decide to search for and live through his passion as a writer and humorist.  He associated the two circumstances in his life.  I thought it incredible that he could focus, zero-in and identify his life’s calling in the midst of  incredible adversity.  He has just turned 60, and has the passion and zeal of a man a third his age.

Jim’s story is more than a story about working through adversity, though under these circumstances, that alone would have impressed me.  What inspired me and stretched my thinking was the idea that this extreme form of adversity prompted him to pursue his life’s dream.  He took his circumstances to mean it was time to get crystal clear about what he wants from life.  I know how that feels.  I am clear. I know what I want, and I’m clear on the habits of mind and behaviors that manifest all that I focus on.  However, I wish I could say with assurance that before I met Jim, I’d respond the way he did under the same circumstances.  After meeting Jim, I’m confident that I would handle adversity differently and work to seek/maintain clarity throughout my journey.

My urge to coach moved me to encourage Jim to start writing.  I was happy to learn that he has been writing in between seeking employment and getting back on his feet.  Here are the links to two of his blogs, Notes from the and The Big Boom Theory  He writes under the name Will Cantrell.

I hope Jim’s example serves you in times of struggle.  Please share ideas, comments, feedback and strategies with The Breakthrough Blog community.  Bob Proctor has a great quote, “People don’t get what they want, because they don’t know what they want.”  With that in mind, do you know what you want?  Do you have a clear mental picture?  When you’re clear on what you want, and you’ve made a decision (eliminating all options except success), then you can withstand extraordinary challenges.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How do you typically handle adversity?
  2. How do you go about finding the opportunity in adversity?
  3. What step will you take today to move you toward finding the opportunity in adversity?

Points to Consider

  1. Adversity is…don’t try to fight it, instead work on your attitude toward misfortune.  Pain is inevitable, suffering however is a choice.
  2. Recognize adversity and challenges as an opportunity to ascend to a higher level.
  3. Realize that things could be worse.  Keep the Persian Proverb in mind: “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw someone with no feet.”



Ken Williams is a speaker, trainer, author and breakthrough coach.  He is a contributing author of The Collaborative Administrator.  He is Chief Visionary Officer of Unfold The Soul, a company dedicated to helping individuals make the life they have, the life they want.  Unfold The Soul also supports teams and organizations function at peak performance.  Follow Ken on Twitter at:  Click Here to subscribe to The Breakthrough Blog.



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