Product of Your Desires
You hear people talk all the time about how someone is a product of his or her environment. This is almost always the case when someone has done something wrong, and the argument is used as an excuse for the person as if they had no choice in the matter other than to become what their environment leads them to be. As you may have surmised by now, and if you know me at all, I'm certain you figured out that I wholeheartedly disagree with this kind of thinking.
If this line of thinking were true, I would have dropped out of high school, got into drugs and became a full-fledged alcoholic. I would never have accomplished anything and blamed everyone and everything else for my failures, as this was what the environment that I grew up in was most conducive to producing. Now, I'm not saying that your environment has no effect on you whatsoever, but what I'm saying is that everything in life boils down to choice, and the power to choose lies within the individual.
Choice is Your Responsibility
Certain situations may greatly increase the difficulty of the choice, but the choice remains the same. The first thing a person must do is assume all responsibility for everything that has happened or has failed to happen to them. Once you adopt this as your primary philosophy for governing your life, you become empowered to see that you and you alone decide your future through the choices you make. Yes, bad things may happen to you that appear to be beyond your control (developing testicular cancer was one such occurrence for me), and you may not always be able to control those instances, but you can always control how you react to them. You can see them as learning experiences and grow from them to become something bigger and better, or you can use them as excuses that will ultimately hold you back from reaching your true potential and lead you down a path to mediocrity...or worse.
It was this attitude of believing that my choices directly impact my quality of life that helped me to fight through adversity throughout my life. As a child, I was surrounded by drinking and drug use and could have easily gone down that path myself, but I had many goals from a very young age, and through observation I knew that these things would only inhibit me from achieving what I wanted. So, I made a conscious decision, a choice, to avoid them. I also grew up poor, in an area of the state that was rife with poverty, and was led to believe that wealthy people were somehow privileged and that their success was due to their inherent advantages that I did not have access to. As I grew up and observed the people around me, however, I noticed that the harder a person worked, the more success they had, and that for the most part, successful people just worked harder than less successful people.
Hard Work Leads to Success
Of course, there are many more factors that play into economic prosperity, but I truly believe the single most important factor to be hard work, and there is no disputing the fact that hard work is a choice that anyone can make for themselves. As the words imply, hard work is difficult, and many people would rather make excuses and externalize the responsibility instead of claiming it for their own and simply owning up to the fact that their lives are substandard because they have chosen the path of least resistance and taken the easy way out. Throughout their lives, they have always made the choice that presented the least challenge and their results are clearly indicative of this. It's also much easier to temporarily escape your problems with alcohol or drugs than it is to get to work solving them, and as such, the allure for many people is one that is difficult to resist.
I have been through some shitty stuff in my life. I know what it’s like to have to wrestle a loaded gun away from the head of someone you love to prevent them from shooting themselves. I know what it’s like to have to go out into the woods in the dead of winter and have to break up branches to heat your home because there isn’t enough money to buy firewood. I know what it’s like to sit helpless in the passenger seat of a car while it careens at eighty-plus miles per hour down a dirt road crashing through the brush on the side of the road heading straight for a head-on collision with a large oak tree, with the driver so wasted drunk that he likely had no memory of it the next day. I experienced all of these things during my adolescence, and to be honest, these are far from the most difficult things I have had to deal with in my life.
I know what it’s like to contemplate suicide because my problems seemed so horrible, so insurmountable, that they appeared to have no discernible answers I could fathom. I felt completely alone in the world with them, and the only thing I desired was for the pain to stop. I know what it’s like to feel all of this on the inside and yet walk through life presenting myself on the outside as if nothing was wrong. I used to hate when people would ask me, “How are you?” and even though I knew the question was really just a greeting, it still bothered me that I felt compelled to put on a fake smile and lie by answering, “Good, how are you?” when I really wanted to reply, “Well, things are so dark and horrible right now that I was actually just contemplating what it would be like to eat a lead sandwich.”
Now, I’m not sharing these things looking for some kind of sympathy or pity. I loathe pity, and honestly there are many, many people out there that have had far rougher lives than I have. I only share these experiences so that other people that are going through tough times can relate and see that all things are possible if you’re willing to work hard enough for them and to persevere when things are at their worst. I can also say with 100% honesty that I truly feel fortunate to have experienced all of the things I have in life. Adversity makes us stronger. My biggest fear with my own children is that their lives are too easy and that they will have a very hard time coping with difficult things in life when they inevitably run into them.
I could have used all of my difficult experiences as excuses to not achieve anything, as so many people often do, but instead I chose to learn from them and used them to make myself a stronger person. I chose to use the poor choices I observed to help me make better choices. And even in my darkest times, when it seemed like there were no answers to my problems, no key to my lock, I made the choice to never take the path of least resistance and to always work hard toward achieving my goals. You can do the same. So make the choice not to be a product of your environment, but rather a product of your desires. And while I can’t promise you that it will be easy (it most certainly will not), I can promise you that it will be worth it.