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 Recessionwww.notesfromtherecession.blogspot.com) and The Big Boom Theoryhttp://bigboomtheory.blogspot.com).  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: http://twitter.com/unfoldthesoul.  Click Here to subscribe to The Breakthrough Blog.



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14 responses to “I Cried Because I Had No Shoes…Until I Saw Someone With No Feet

  1. Mike Brown

    Thanks for the daily words of encouragement. I share them with my staff and even students when appropriate. Thanks again.

    • Ken

      Mike, thanks so much for the feedback. Thank you also for paying it forward by sharing with your students. It’s important for all of us to stay focused on “possibility thinking.”

  2. Mickey Grudzinski

    Inspiring. Thank you Ken, this is something that reaches deep in me now. I will begin today applying and reflecting.

  3. Ken,

    Great job at conveying this story and having us relate it to our own journeys and life adversity. Lots of food for thought, and thought for action.
    Keep doing what your doing…

  4. Carla Ploof

    Of course, I am immediately thinking how incredibly strong this man is to overcome such events and view them as an opportunity to self improve and follow his dream. I cant help but see a much bigger picture here though. How many of us would have even stopped to help? It is so much easier to just pretend we dont hear or see the unpleasantness out there around us every day. Maybe we have just become desensitized. I dont know of many people who would take the time to stop and reach out a helping hand; something that just came so naturally to you.

    So, while I read your words and hope that I would stand up and be strong IF my life were to take a drastic turn such as Jim’s, however, I am more moved by your completely unselfish gesture of kindness and will walk away from this having learned a much more valuable lesson.

    • Ken


      Your response could stand alone as a topic of discussion. Thanks for taking the time to respond so reflectively and with such vulnerability.

      For as much as Jim is going through and has gone through, I am a better man for having met him. I was a better person when I walked out of Barnes and Noble that day, and after that hour.

      I’m guessing that after engaging in this process, you are better for it too. Thanks again for sharing.

  5. Eugenia

    I am always a positive motivator to all of my friends and most of my family. I am in the middle of a transition and for one minute I felt lost. This is such an inspiring story. This has put some things back in perspective for me. I am just completing my degree, that has taken me 20 years. I am so proud of myself it was no easy task, now my job (non profit institution) is encouraging me to look for a job because of lack of funding. For one minute I was truly scared, but I know without a doubt that I will find a job, the salary I request in the city I want to live. I have what I say I have, the power of life and death is in the tongue. I appreciate you for shots in the arm, and thumps on the head. Have a “Positive Pieces” day! (my business)

  6. Ken


    I humbly receive your thanks and kind words. I had a feeling that if this man’s ongoing journey affected me as positively as it did, it may help others as well. Just got an update from Jim. He is in the process of moving. His spirits are still up and his pen is still moving…

    As for you, I am encouraged by the tenor of your response. The tools of positivity, expectancy and clarity are best utilized in the midst of adversity. What I love about your response is that you use the words “for one minute.” Our tools don’t eliminate adversity, they help us to manage, push through and overcome adversity…and the real goal is to shorten the duration we spend “lost” each time. You are clearly blazing that path in your life.

    You will absolutely FIND what you LOOK for. It’s all about clarity, imagination and then action. Your logical conscious mind will wear you down trying to make this happen. Give this task over to your subconscious mind…where limitless imagination dwells to make this happen. Tap into your childlike blissful thinking where anything is possible and create a picture of:

    What job you will find…

    What you’ll be doing…

    The income you’ll earn…

    A day in the life of Eugenia in this next stage…

    All those you’ll be helping…

    Create a movie in your mind, make yourself the star and then find that quiet space in your day when you can play that movie on the screen of your mind with no commercial interruption…you do this consistently and you will begin seeing the resources, people, places and things you need to make it happen….after that, it’s a matter of taking small actions daily and bringing it to pass…

    Please keep us posted…that’s the essence of this blog…I would encourage you to subscribe to my daily Powerful Thoughts. Go to http://www.unfoldthesoul.com and scroll down on the home page. I will be adding your quote below to our list of quotes shared with subscribers.

    “I have what I say I have, the power of life and death is in the tongue.”

    Thanks again for sharing…



  7. Nicole

    Jim’s story is certainly inspiring. His ability to focus on “his passion”, perhaps “his purpose” truly has messages for all of us. His story is an example of how life really is about choices. Each day we have the power to choose. We can choose to let challenges wear us down, or we can choose to move forward and focus on the positive, on the joy, on the glimmer… Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Serenity Prayer” and the phrase “the courage to change the things I can” makes me think about the courage it takes to find opportunity in adversity. There’s power in “I can” and I’m sure that Jim has tapped into that.

    Thanks for sharing Jim’s story. Thanks for being who you are! 🙂

    • Ken

      “Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Serenity Prayer” and the phrase “the courage to change the things I can” makes me think about the courage it takes to find opportunity in adversity.”

      Thanks for responding Nicole! The opportunity in adversity really stayed with me as I read your response and is something that I’m working to internalize. I was just telling someone yesterday that adversity is when the “rubber meets the road.” All that we do to condition and recondition our minds, thoughts and thinking is in preparation to appreciate the positive and deal better with challenging circumstances and adversity. It’s so much easier said than done, and as you said, Jim is a great model for us all in that regard. I’ve invited Jim to post a comment on the blog as many have been inspired by his journey. He is in the midst of moving and promises to post something in the next several days. Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Carllie

    Hey Kenny,
    Your website is GREAT! I tell you the quotes that you send every day are so powerful! Ah and I love how you leave some personal stuff on the twitter thing. I notice a lot of personal development people ALWAYS put things associated with their business… I know there is nothing wrong with that but I think that it is cool that you invite folks in your personal life as well. I loved the story about the shoes. I read his first blog… he is a pretty tough writer.. holds no punches. You are awesome and I am PROUD to be your sister. Love ya Carllie

  9. Ken

    Thanks so much for the feedback sis! My Twitter and Facebook posts update simultaneously. I have struggled with whether or not to keep FBook and Twitter ALL BUSINESS…when I realized that not much I do is ALL BUSINESS…my passion is people, and helping them reach new personal levels. Part of what appeals to me in this work is the “human side” of things…there is a vulnerability to it…that many can relate to…

    Thanks for visiting Jim’s blog. He does stay true to his voice…love that about him. His humor is off-beat and his thinking is quite eclectic. All this in the midst of rebuilding his entire life at age 60. He is definitely one of my inspirations.

    Folks who read this blog will always know when anyone from “way back” posts here…they start with “Hey Kenny :-).”

    Make This Moment GREAT!

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