Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Overcoming your demons

Over the past few years, a number of people have shared with me the notion of the demons that hold them down. The demons vary in attribution - not enough money, not smart enough, not connected enough, etc. No matter how much I tell them that the demons can be overcome, I am told that I don't understand because my life has been so easy.

The demons also vary in intensity and combination but whatever they are, they combine to hold people back from realizing their dreams and their purpose.

I would like to share a story of someone who gave me permission to share his life story with you. I will give this person the name "Sam" for the purposes of this illustration and it is one of many examples of how people can overcome their demons.

Sam's conception was an accident. His parents lived in a small, poor rural community and Sam definitely wasn't planned. His parents made a commitment to stay together and make it work. They moved a couple of times before eventually settling down in another rural town to begin their life together. Money didn't come easily to this family but the family made do.

In the early years, Sam was a thin child, spending time here and there in the local hospital for unexplainable reasons. On more than one occasion in his life (in childhood and adulthood), Sam was believed to be dying for one reason or another. His soft bones broke easily as well and he had more than his share of broken bones. His liver and kidneys have been the impetus of more than one painful / stressful trip to the hospital for unexplainable reasons throughout his life and it has been suggested more than once that they are failing for unknown reasons. A healthy model of a human being was not an attribute of Sam.

His early home years were crowded. He lived in a very small house that was basically one room with a false wall and a couple of dividers to provide the semblance of rooms. The commode was a steel pail and running water was defined as running to the well to draw water from it.

His parents were loving but not always patient. This created a "need to please" within Sam that at times became crippling.

In a house that was smaller than 20ft by 20ft, he lived with then two siblings and his parents for the first seven and a half years of his life.

Throughout his school life in this rural town, he was often the victim of bullies. This bullying continued from grade one all the way to when he finished high school. It was something that he endured and something that took a fair amount of time to overcome when his school years ended. The impact of bullying cannot be underestimated. As he would tell you, if you feel your child is being bullied, do something about it now. He avoided many school activities throughout his school life so that he could avoid being the victim of the people who chose to belittle him because of their own pain. Such avoidance caused him to miss many opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment.

Twice in his young life, including one time on the eve of his first holy communion, pedophiles tried to share their own pain on him. Both times they were unsuccessful. However, in both situations, it caused Sam to wonder - why is this happening to him? Why does God allow this to happen to him? Maybe God doesn't even exist.

When he graduated high school, he was painfully shy, an introvert who was even picked on in college for being a combination of being intelligent and too shy.

Sam has had two mini-strokes, in 1983 and 1990. The diagnosis - unknown cause so don't worry about it. He never told his family - it seemed unnecessary.

Sam is also legally blind in one eye.

The combination of his life events and genetics left him awkward, physically small in stature, an introvert who was afraid to speak to people, a person who generally wasn't happy with himself for many reasons and because of his small stature, introversion, timidity and growing up in a family that was not wealthy, his future didn't look terribly bright.

When we see people like Sam, we may feel pity for him or wonder "Where will he end up, if anywhere at all". After all, he has been damaged beyond repair - why should anyone try to help Sam? He is probably not worth saving anyway - what difference can he make in the world with these circumstances? We are probably better off turning our back on Sam and writing him off as another lost human being.

Maybe we are like Sam, with a collection of demons similar to or different than Sam's and we use these demons to hold us back.

Let me tell you something else about Sam.

Sam's real name is Harry.

I am Sam.

When I look back on the life that I lived as a young person, I feel like I am looking at the life of a different person.

People who know me now see me as an extrovert who is as at ease in front of 15,000 people in an auditorium as he is in an intimate conversation in a coffee shop.

I have created successful companies in New York, one of the most challenging environments in North America to be successful in (especially for a small town boy).

The small, sickly, child now stands 6'3" and weighs in at 220 pounds.

I am blessed with many gifts, many opportunities, many great memories, an incredible business network, a great family, many great friends and a strong faith in God.

If you had looked at me 25+ years ago, you would not have predicted such a life for me. I know I wouldn't have.

There may be someone else that you would not predict such a life for.

Perhaps that person is you.

Perhaps you are Sam.

There is something that you need to tell the person who is like "Sam".

If they dig down deep inside, they can find the spirit that calls them to be something in life.

If they want it bad enough, it is theirs for the taking.

If their faith is strong, what they desire can become their ultimate purpose and destiny.

Their past is their past. What determines the results of the rest of their life rests on how they convert the gifts they have into actions to make a difference.

As Stephen Covey wrote, help "Sam" answer these 4 questions:

  • What are you good at? That’s your mind. (Intellectual Quotient)
  • What do you love doing? That’s your heart. (Emotional Quotient)
  • What need can you serve? That’s the body. (Physical Quotient)
  • What is life asking of you? What gives your life meaning and purpose? What do you feel like you should be doing? In short, what is your conscience directing you to do? That is your spirit. (Spiritual Quotient)

We motivate ourselves, according to Dr. Covey, with the law of the 4 L's - to live, to love, to learn and to leave a legacy.

Seek how the answers to the 4 questions overlap the 4 L's and the resulting picture will become the purpose of "Sam's" life - or yours.

No demons in your life will be strong enough to prevent you from achieving your purpose at that point.

Demons hold no power in your life. No matter what demons you have, you can find someone who has overcome the same demon.

What does this tell you? That demons are merely those things which are meant to provide you with an opportunity to gain knowledge and strength and having gained them, provide a means of using them to find your purpose and to leave a legacy.

In service and servanthood.


PS   By popular request, I am sharing a photo of the house I referred to in the article.  Maybe it was 10x20 and not 20x20.  That's me and my Dad in the photo.

First house


  1. Harry - What an amazing post! Thank you for sharing that! I don't want to use the word extraordinary to describe you because it conflicts a bit with your point a bit, but let me take a moment to say that you are EXTRAORDINARY! And it's great that you encourage others to be so!

    With much admiration,
    Liz from NYC (Now living in rural Oregon considering an entirely new path...)

  2. Harry that is one incredible story. Cudo's to you and your family. I feel blessed to have a friend like you. Be always safe and travel wisely.
    your friend

  3. Hey Liz,

    Thank you very much for your kind comment. I guess my point to people who feel that their demons are holding them back is this: "Look around you and look at the things people overcome every day in order to make a difference". Plus, I got tired of people telling me that I don't understand their demons because my life has been so perfect and pain free.

    I am glad for the pain I have experienced - it has opened my eyes, my heart and my mind and it's only been in the last few years that I REALLY embraced what I have learned.

    You have piqued my curiosity with your comment that you are considering an entirely new path. We are currently doing the same, which may include a move off the continent soon.

    We should connect soon. :-)

    Take care and thanks, Liz!


  4. Hey Gerald,

    You are very kind, my friend. Thank you for sharing this with me.

    I also feel blessed for your friendship. You have always been wonderful to me and my family!

    Take care and create a great day, Gerald!