Friday, March 21, 2008


I have been struggling with making a post here to touch on some of the comments Petra made in her last post. I am going to share a personal story, something I am hesitant to do but it is a story that became a turning point in my life and relates to many of the frustrations that I sense in Petra's comments.

Being in a negative surrounding and around negative people is destructive and it is also contageous. If you hear things like "you can never do that" or "that can never happen" or "you aren't capable of doing more" then after awhile you start to believe it yourself. This is very tragic and sad. Whether it is on purpose or because some just think differently, to hold back or down the desire that burns inside each of us to learn and broaden our experiences and to use the intelligence and talents we hold, is a waste of the possibilities that lie within all of us. Some may say it is selfish and not responsible to want to follow your dreams and to think you can do things beyond your current surrondings. I feel just the oposite. I think it is your responsibility to find the positive things in life and pursue the possibilities that present themselves to you and become a better person, a happy person and a person that can then pass on responsibly the happiness and the possibilities to those we love and care for. We only get one chance at this life.

My story.
I am an average person in most every way. I went to University and studied History. I sense, maybe incorrectly, in the NL that a lot of emphasis is put on background, education and experience in deciding what types of work or career you may have a chance to work in. It's sort of like you are put in a "box" and to think that you would like to do something beyond what your qualifications show in that box may be very difficult. Qualifications are important here too, that's for sure, but this country was founded on the notion that it is the land of opportunity for the common person and it still remains that way today. I am living proof of this and in my job I have met hundreds of people that have their own similar story to tell.

When we hear someone tell us "you can't do that" or " Don't waste your time trying" many of us find the hair on the back of our neck go up and respond "why not?"
My "box" with my education would have been a teacher, a wonderful profession but one I did not want to do. I did have an interest in investing and finance so many years ago I got the crazy notion that I would like to work on Wall Street. I certainly did not have the formal education for that field and was young with no experience but I saw all around me people achieving things that looked beyond their possibilities so I persisted. After several resumes sent in to firms and phone calls and rejections, I did have a couple of the best known firms on Wall Street that wanted to talk to this guy who thinks he can work in that environment. They started the interviewing process to take a look. I did reasonably well at the local level and was asked to go to New York City, Wall Street, to interview with the top people in the firms. At each firm I was to talk with about 4 people who would then make the final decision. I learned a very valuable lesson that day with the help of someone at the first firm I went to. The first 3 interviews were all very positive, building up my hopes and making me feel like this was just a formality to get to know me. Then my last interview was with the president of the company. Unknown to me, It was his job to try and tear me down with negatives to see how I would react. I will never forget him looking across at me and saying " What makes you think you can do this job? You don't have the education or the experience. You may think you can do it but I don't think you can." I shrunk down in my chair and reacted as I'm sure so many others that sat there did. I lost all of my self confidence and barely uttered another word through the rest of the interview. I did not get the job but the president called me back in to his office and shared with me that this was a test and at my next interview be aware that I may be tested again and if I truly believed in myself, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Needless to say, I was offered the next job and spent the first couple of years of my career working right on Wall Street and living in New York City. To think that a young fellow that grew up on a horse farm in Pennsylvania would be walking the streets and working in the financial capital of the world to many would seem impossible.

My point in sharing a story from my life is not that getting a fancy job and earning a good living equals happiness. My point is that no one should tell you "you can't do that, or, you are not capable of something." The point is that we should always being asking ourselves "why not?" There are possibilities and positive things in life that we may be afraid to try or unsure of but if they can make us better people and give us more knowledge and fulfillment then we should say "why not?"We have not only been true to ourselves then but we can touch the lives of others in a good and positive way when we reach for the possibilities in our one and only lifetime.


Anonymous said...


I think when someone reacts negatively to something you want to do, and you answer "why not? " you are opening the door and tempting a maybe negative reaction and do-gooders advice. By using the "why not?" words you are indirectly asking for a reaction.Problem then, is you are giving the person the space to react. No advice needed? then dont create the space or open the door, so it stops them from "coming in".

Everyone in life should go after their dreams, ideals, hopes and wishes. If you don't try it, you will always be asking yourself "what if....? ", and that's probably one of the worst questions to be asking yourself.

Although this may sound harsh to others, its something I believe in. If the do-gooders and advice givers know the answers so well, why is it then that in general these advice givers seem so darn unhappy with their own life? Some people are negative out of jealousy, because someone else has had or has the guts to go and do what they would have liked to have done themselves. So if someone else is so unhappy with their own life, does it give them the right to judge someone else?

Whatever else I do with my life, I'm sure not asking myself the "what if.......?" question. I hope that others will not have to ask themselves that question either.

A good ole UK saying:

If its ain't broke, dont fix it"

jack said...

You are right. It is not worth asking most advice givers, why not. I generally meant it in the figurative sense. We walk away from those people asking ourselves "why not?"
It is odd how a lot of people have free advice to give and often times are not the kinds of people that could take advice themselves. LOL
I'm with you, it would be sad to come to the end of your days and be full of...what if's.

Laura said...

You are absolutely right here Jack. It's wonderfull to hear this life story, it's a good lesson for everyone.

I wish my parents had told me this a little more when I was growing up. But it's never to late to learn these life-lessons, right?

Thanks for sharing the story.

Anonymous said...

Petra, Jack,

you can do everything in life you want, you just have to put all your effort in it and most important: believe in it!!
Everything is possibly. Just do it.