Monday, September 3, 2012

Pep Talk: "The Recipe"

How do we overcome fear and self-doubt? How do we muster courage to fight off debilitating feelings that drag our souls through muck and mire? Fear and self-doubt might permeate from a tough battle with cancer; struggles to build a successful small business, marriage or long-term relationship. The angst might have genesis in a constant battle with health issues or becoming physically fit. The challenges of life arrive, often unexpected and unwanted, in a variety of ways. The critical question becomes, how do we deal with them? Do we become victims of the circumstances of life, or students of the experiences?

The above mentioned facts of life were running through my head this past week as I slid behind the wheel of darling girlfriend’s luxury sports utility vehicle. The backseat flips down easily making it perfect for hauling stuff, and I was headed on a short, five minute, trip to Home Depot to fetch material for a home project.

With mind too fixated on the above issues affecting my life, or the lives of those dearly loved, little attention was given to what station, or content, the car radio provided. My mind was tuned, ominously, to the trials and tribulations darkening the journey like storm clouds brewing on the horizon.

Then, at exactly the right moment, words from a radio commentator’s mouth, summoned a burst of sunlight piercing the, perceived, oncoming storm and bringing hope to the soul. Hope is always a good thing. Lucky me. I hope, in reading this Pep Talk, lucky you too.

The commentator, never identified, in a calm but inspirational manner, was telling the story of a man who had endured hardship, adversity and bad luck through much of life: constant beatings from an abusive stepfather; the Indiana native quit school and left home at the age of 12; falsified birth records and used a persuasive personality to gain entrance into the U.S. Army at 15, serving honorably and completing service as a mule handler in Cuba. 

Time went on and the teenager moved south, to Alabama, and held many jobs including: steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, railroad fireman and farmer. He married, started a family, but his wife left, taking three kids and leaving this note, “I had no business marrying a no-good fellow like you who can’t hold down a job.” Ouch.

The year was 1930, the average cost of an America home was $7,000, a gallon of gas just a dime, and the now 40-year old moved to Kentucky, opened a service station where he also cooked meals for customers. The business thrived, critics praised the country fare and wondered about the secret recipe. Life was good for almost 25 years. Heck, Kentucky’s governor bestowed upon him the honorary title of “Colonel.”

But storm clouds, no fault of his own, were brewing: America’s love of the automobile and the fledging interstate highway system re-routed traffic away from the thriving business. It withered and died. The same could not be said about the now 65-year-old’s spirit.

He cooked up a bunch of his tasty chicken dishes and hit the road offering franchise opportunities to anybody who would listen. Legend has it that 1,009 folks said, “No thanks.” He persevered, continually putting fear and self-doubt aside and, finally, found a kindred spirit.

As we like to say, “The rest is history.” Kentucky Fried Chicken was born. Harlan “Colonel” Sanders with his, by now, distinctive all-white attire, hair and beard never gave up on himself and life. We shouldn’t either.

A quick trip in somebody else’s car, listening to the radio tuned to another’s person station of choice, delivered, at just the right moment, an incredible reminder to the recipe, it ain’t secret, to success in life: Hang in there!

We all have our story. We all have our struggles. This week, when the crap seems overwhelming and, while in the boxing ring we call life, temptation to throw in the surrender towel seems like the best option, pull this little reminder from the perseverance bucket. Heck, in honor of Sanders, who died in 1980 at the age of 90, order a family-size portion and share it with others considering it’s finger-lickin’ good.

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