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Setbacks As Opportunities

I blew out my knee when I was seventeen. My body was thrown right, my left leg locked up and I shredded my knee. I tore the cartilage along with the ligaments. Instead of playing football my junior year, I missed the rest of the season and was left with a joint that was permanently damaged.

setback

I ended up in a lengthy rehab where I learned how to stretch. Really stretch! If it hadn’t been for that injury, stretching would not have become part of my daily practice. After that type of injury, scar tissue builds up in the injured area and the only way to dislodge and break it down is through extensive stretching and physical therapy. It was through this process that I learned to love stretching. I loved how stretching changed my body and made me much more flexible and lithe. The benefits I found were not only physical but mental as well. As the body stretches so goes the mind.

As I got older, I suffered a second knee injury which led me to Pilates, a type of workout that adds flexibility to the body, improves posture and strengthens the body’s core. I was instantly hooked. Pilates combines the element of stretching along with strength training. Again, a setback led me to a new way of working out that I doubt I would have found had it not been for that injury.

Still a glutton for physical training, I took up martial arts and for many years trained every day in Aikido, a Japanese martial art which focuses on utilizing your opponent’s strength against them. Through this practice, I wrenched my back and dislocated both shoulders. This lead me to further my knowledge of the body. This time the payoff was classes in both Yoga and Gyrotonics which helped repair my shoulders.

These setbacks with my physical body helped me to adapt to setbacks I have suffered in my professional career. My physical injuries helped me learn to become resilient and helped me to look at setbacks through a different lens. In my financial career alone, I went through four major upheavals where thousands of employees were laid off, departments cut and careers terminated. I have held numerous jobs in numerous fields and have had to constantly adapt and upgrade my skills to stay current.

Because of all the upheavals, personally and professionally, I have had to reinvent myself many times over and upgrade my skills while taking jobs in fields unrelated to finance. I have suffered through periods of unemployment. However, I have always managed to create income in my life because I have created a skill set and mindset to do so. I have not been immune from experiencing failures or humiliation but I have come to accept these as part of the process.

We live in a time where we celebrate success to such an extent that we fail to realize that defeat and failure are the mother of invention. The creation of the Pilates method itself was born during Joseph Pilates internment as a prisoner of war by the British during WWI. Rather than become depressed, he worked as a nurse helping war veterans, and during this period experimented with the use of levers and pulleys from hospital beds to create a new form of exercise. Thomas Edison view of failure is poignant as he did not see things as failure but rather opportunities to do things differently.

I imagine many people today are questioning their sanity and belief system given their financial situation in the last seven years of under-performance by our economy. There are currently over 90 million people in the U.S not in the work force. With a media unwilling to report the true nature of our economy, it must be vexing to the average American to understand the economic landscape they are living in today.

The current economic doldrums not only affects the middle class but the wealthy as well. Robin Williams, prior to his death, lamented that given his economic predicament he had been forced to go back to working in sitcoms, a platform he loathed. Wall Street as well, over the last few years, has been rocked by numerous suicides due in part to the economic pressures people found themselves buried under.

None of us is immune.

It is only by understanding and going through the struggle that we come though more resilient and compassionate for our fellow human beings who may be struggling with predicaments much worse than our own. Compassion for ourselves and others combined with a healthy dose of hope and “can do spirit” goes a long way to surviving any downturn…physical, emotional or financial.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

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