Just like handling any other obstacle in your job search, it is your responsibility to make sure that you work around it to make the most out of your situation.


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Bill had been a high-powered financial wholesaler for many years before his heart attack, selling financial products to other financial professionals. When I met him in Boston he had been out for only a year, and looked in perfect health. He was still young, in his late thirties, and the attack had scared him. So he had stopped drinking, dieted religiously, and exercised regularly.

It was now time for him to take those first steps toward getting back to work. Over the years I've done a lot of different things for a lot of people on disability, and it can be a humbling experience. Makes you realize firsthand the meaning of one of the many lines Clint Eastwood made famous, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Bill had been a high-powered financial wholesaler for many years before his heart attack, selling financial products to other financial professionals. When I met him in Boston he had been out for only a year, and looked in perfect health. He was still young, in his late thirties, and the attack had scared him. So he had stopped drinking, dieted religiously, and exercised regularly.

It was now time for him to take those first steps toward getting back to work. In my business, if you're not careful, you can fall into the trap of thinking that somehow, by doing the things you do, you are playing a big role in improving someone else's life. Experience has long since taught me, I'm at most a bit player in the drama of someone else's earthly existence.

I do what I do. Person A will take it and use it as one part of their overall efforts to make something great happen. Person B will ignore it and nothing happens. Person C will ignore it and make something great happen anyway. Person D might use some of it, or all of it, and something mediocre happens.

It's up to them, to you, to each of us, to be masters of our own fate. Never has this been made clearer to me than in working with people on disability. Thrown up against some of the toughest challenges any of us have to face in these closing years of the 20th century in the U.S.A., these people clearly choose from an infinitely wide range of reactions and focuses available to them, to plot the particular course that they alone will determine.

The nature and severity of the disability matters little. Those determined to get back to a productive life in the world of industry and commerce will do so, using whatever I and others might provide along the way to assist them. Those determined to devote their lives to volunteer and charitable work will do so. Those determined to achieve peace of mind without working, while enduring pain most of us can't imagine, will do so.

And those who are intent on remaining bitter, choosing to focus on the negative aspects of their experience, will find that those negative aspects occupy more and more of their daily existence. It's not my place to judge them, or try to place some moral value on anyone's choice of focus. They're taking on challenges that most of us would hope never to have to face.

But after a while, when you've gotten close to hundreds of people who have taken on these tough challenges, it becomes apparent that, even within the framework of the much narrower options available to them after a disability, it is their personal will and personal choice of focus that takes them along a specific path for which they alone are responsible.

And however grand or menial that path may seem to the outside observer, it is they alone who will determine how much satisfaction, peace of mind, joy, or frustration they will glean from it. They set their own parameters for what they will do, and what it will mean to them. At some point they come to realize that the only person who will be hurt or rewarded by their choice of focus is they themselves.

One of the most striking examples of someone who simply put his past behind him and determined to find satisfaction in a new career was a former tugboat captain, Tom A. Tom had relocated back to West Virginia after an accident, which resulted in back injuries severe enough so that he could no longer do what he loved best.

Now when you love being a tugboat captain, it's hard to find satisfaction in most other ways of living. But this fellow was determined, and he had a way of looking on the bright side. A lot of people in his situation might figure they were too specialized for anyone else to hire them, but not Tom. He agreed with me that he had in effect been managing a demanding service business that required quick thinking, dealing with all sorts of people under sometimes difficult circumstances, training others to perform at the top of their ability, and maintaining "facilities" and equipment in top condition.

As he saw it, that's precisely what is required for profitably managing many types of businesses. When he succeeded in winning an offer to manage a newly opened "super drug store" in a town 20 miles away, he jumped at it. He was still quite happy six months later. He enjoyed developing people, building their confidence, and this job gave him that opportunity, along with other challenges.

Tom and I worked by phone, so we never met personally. He told me he was small in stature, but that the fellow who hired him had told him, "You know, you're a small fellow, but you have a big spirit. The way you project energy and confidence, before I met you, I figured you were twice the size. How could I not hire you?"

The people I get to work with, like Tom, are for the most part those who have already decided that they want to make real in their lives a sense of joy, achievement, and fulfillment. They want to get back in the fracas, doing the best they can at whatever it is they are now capable of doing, willing to take whatever ups and downs come with the territory. And they've taught me a lot. Like the Silver Lining, for example.


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