“If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” – James Baldwin
Every time we enter a new year, it causes me to reflect on the highs and lows of the previous year. The purpose is to see what lessons can be learned and applied in the coming year, but also to look for any markers or patterns that could possibly give me insight into the trajectory of my life. For me, a time of introspection and reflection is always a good thing. It helps me to slow down…to unpack and uncover things that get buried and lost in my mind by the constant barrage of work, schedules, texts, social media, school lunches, and overall parental “fire-fighting” that absorbs my life over the course of 365 days. Kind of like that favorite t-shirt you used to love wearing…it doesn’t take much time until it’s made its way to the bottom of the drawer, never to be heard from or seen again.
But one thing I have noticed is that, when we humans reminisce, we do one of two things: either we refuse to acknowledge our past because some of it has been marked by hurt or failure, or we look back on past events with such fondness that we think we could never reclaim that great feeling or experience going forward. It’s important that we take a more measured approach when we are reflecting on our past.
My challenge in this new year is to discover how I can make each past life experience, good or bad, have its best work for me in the here and now. What do I mean by that?
Think about it like this – what I may look back on and see as a failure may have actually benefited me in one way or another, and it’s my job to find out how. The key is to look back with the right frame of mind (and the right pair of glasses).
Now if you have read my previous blog posts, you are probably familiar with the roundabout way I ended up in Real Estate. (If you are not, then I recommend that you read this blog post or listen to this podcast). It’s been my experience that most people in Real Estate kind of “end up” in this industry. Most people don’t go to college to become a Real Estate Professional. I’m sure you’d be hard-pressed to find a 2nd grader who lists Real Estate Agent as their dream job, alongside all of their classmates who are aspiring baseball players, doctors, and firemen.
As I look back, I see that 2015 was one of the most challenging yet rewarding years of my life. In a lot of ways the entire trajectory of my life changed in the past year. But when you are smack dab in the middle of it, making daily decisions, taking each challenge and obstacle as they come, you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Now there have been many moments in my life where I sort of derailed, through complete fault of my own, what I thought to have been my trajectory. But by looking back on those failures, and choosing not to ignore them, I am able see a pattern of growth that has led me to the precipice of 2016. For the longest time I tried to rewrite my story, ashamed at how things have gone awry by my own hand. But I now realize that every experience has been the crucible in which my character has been forged. My unique outlook and perspective on life are the direct result of those past experiences. Like it or not, they have made me into the man I am today. Don’t get me wrong, THEY DO NOT define me. On the contrary, they drive me to do better. The very fact that I am where I am today proves that those experiences did not get the best of me. Because in those failures, there was always something to be learned, whether or not I wanted to admit it at the time.
For many people, it isn’t their own mistakes that dog them and kick them when they are down. It is the wrongs down to them rather than by them. Sadly, there are many who have grown up in difficult environments and, in one way or another, they allow that to determine their path. Some have had alcoholic fathers and, even though they were deeply hurt by this, continue the legacy that was passed down to them by following in their father’s inebriated and unsteady footsteps. Others choose to renounce the lifestyle they were exposed to in exchange for something better.
No matter which side of this equation you fall on, no matter how many “false starts” you have had in your career, in your relationships, there is always hope. When you look back on 2015, what do you see? How about 2010? 2001? the 90s? 80s? Do you see something that is still negatively effecting your present life? A lost job perhaps…or a failed marriage. Maybe you see the good ole’ days and fear that you “peaked” too soon. Whatever you see, it cannot define you and it cannot defeat you. It is in the past. What you can do is decide to find a way to make those experiences work FOR you rather than AGAINST you. How can you redeem that time?
I, for one, am trying everything I can. I went to broadcasting school because I thought I wanted to be on the radio. Well, $10,000 later, and 7+ years of doing a radio show without making a dime could easily have soured me on the whole idea. But instead, I have been reminded that this happened for a reason, and it is my job to use the things that I have learned to go further. That is one of the reasons I launched the Real Person | Real Needs podcast. I still have aspirations of acting and singing professionally someday, but those thoughts laid dormant for a long time. Now, as I work to build my business to one day fund those pursuits, I enjoy using my talents in the humorous marketing videos I make for my business. The point is, there is always a way to redeem your past. You just have to be willing to look back and choose to see the silver linings in those tough times.
I hope you take a moment to ask God to show you how the many ups and downs of life you’ve experienced, and the scars and bruises you’ve endured as a result, can be used to do the most good in the here and now. It is when we know who we are, and who it is that has pulled us through, that we can have a clear perspective and not be afraid of what the future holds. My prayer is that you will one day be able to echo the words of Joseph (without his technicolor dreamcoat), and say to your past failures and hurts, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
Always remember where you came from and who you were but live each day for what you became and who you are! – Nishan Panwar