“Don’t complain! 80% don’t care, and the other 20% are glad it happened to YOU!” -Les Brown
I love this piece of advice. For those of you who have no idea who Les Brown is, type his name in the Youtube search bar. If you see a large, happy-looking black guy with a beard, that’s him. He has recently become one of my favorite motivational speakers, delivering sage advice with a lot of down-home humor. A can’t miss combination.
Les, like many people who’ve achieved great success, started out in pretty rough circumstances. His, I would say, were a little rougher than most. He was born on the concrete floor of an abandoned factory along with his twin brother. Their biological mother left them and six weeks later they were adopted by a young, single, working-class black woman. Les, at a young age, was misdiagnosed as being “uneducably mentally retarded” and placed in slow learner classes for the remainder of his formal education. It wasn’t until he was in his late teens that a teacher took an interest in him and encouraged him to try to be something. Long story short, Les worked very hard on his dreams and is now one of the most respected and sought-after motivational speakers on the planet.
I like Les Brown because he was never “supposed to succeed.” He wasn’t picked to be somebody. He had no obvious talents and, to top it all off, he was apparently too dumb to even learn how to read and write, according to the school authorities. Despite all this, he proved that by believing in yourself and working very hard, you can achieve your dreams.
He lives true to his word. He doesn’t complain. I can find no recordings or even rumors that Les has ever disparaged his past or his circumstances. He tackles life with the view that says “this is what’s happened, now how can I use it?” He is the ultimate anti-victim.
I’ll admit, I’ve had my pity parties. I’ve said “why me” so many times the words have blended together to make some sort of strange animal call. I’ve called to complain to friends, family, and co-workers. Most of you would say the same thing about yourselves. Have you ever been mad at the higher ups at work and let your colleagues know exactly what you thought? You ever tell your friends what your spouse did “this time?” Ever spend an hour telling your dog everything you think sucks about living in Antalya, Turkey? Okay, that last one is probably just me, but still, you guys know what I’m getting at. Complaining doesn’t help. Never has, never will.
Think about it. When’s the last time you were complaining about something and your listener said “Hey, I can solve that for you right now!” and then they do?……..Got anything?………Anything yet?……..Still thinking?…….Yeah, me neither. Never, in all the years of my whining, has anyone ever solved my problem after hearing about it. So, why did I spend so much time on this process?
I think it’s because I wanted sympathy from my listener. I wanted someone to think “yeah, Trent does have it pretty rough.” Still, I didn’t even get that much. 80% of the people I complained to felt that they had bigger problems than I was talking about, so they didn’t really care. The other 20% may have thought “Yeah, he’s got it rough.” and then their immediate follow-up thought was “Better him than me!” No sympathy!
Now, the real question: what should we do instead? Actually, that’s the easy part. All you need to do is change the word you emphasize in the question in your head. Instead of saying “Why did this happen to ME?” ask yourself “WHY did this happen to me?” You see what I did there? Instead of trying to figure out why I’m the VICTIM, I’m trying to figure out why God sent me this particular challenge. I believe that everything happens to us for a reason.
Think about this: when a child has no challenges, set-backs, or “tough love,” what does that child usually grow up to be? In my experience, not much. Whenever something even slightly bad happens, they fall apart. We’ve all seen these people. The forty-year-old person still living with their mother and never holding a steady job. Is that who you want to be? Not me. So, if God is our Father in Heaven, what does that make negative circumstances? That’s right! They are simply challenges to make us stronger.
John Maxwell uses a great expression to demonstrate this: “He who fails the most, wins.” If you can keep getting up from the ground and working your way through your personal obstacles, you will be a winner.
So the next time you feel like complaining, don’t waste your time looking for pity. Instead, go ahead and thank God for giving you some emotional exercise. He is looking out for you, so try to learn the lesson quickly and He won’t have to repeat it.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn? I’d love to hear your story…