Swearingen Communications Insights

Fresh ideas, seasoned perspectives, and solid marketing strategies to keep you grounded and growing.


Are You Willing to Accept These 3 Gifts? 

By Leah Swearingen, APR

Not all gifts sparkle like gold, or perfume the air like frankincense. Some seem silly, others are downright unwelcome.

This year I identified three “gifts” from my decades as a business owner that went unrecognized for years. That’s because they came packaged as hardship, challenges, or drudgery. Now I regard them among life’s best presents. They are:

1) The gift of adversity.

Mary Tyler Moore said, “You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”

That beautiful Friday in June 30 years ago quickly dissolved into one of the most traumatic mornings of my life. I loved my job as national marketing director for a major New York publishing house. I adored my boss. But as the company fought off a hostile takeover, corporate stepped in. Headquarters slashed 65 positions in San Diego. Before 10 a.m. HR crisply informed me that my job was eliminated and to clean out my desk. By noon.

I cried for a week. My stunned and shattered spirit resolved to never again subject itself to the corporate ax. It was scary and ambiguous. But I knew that I must chart my own course.

I doubt I would have developed the skills, confidence, fortitude, resourcefulness, and courage it takes to run a small business had my hand not been forced. Some wise person said that “adversity has a way of introducing a man to himself.” It’s true. We seldom grasp the breadth of our abilities unless fate steps in, disguised as misfortune.

2) The gift of hard work.

Our culture worships retirement, leisure, and working fewer hours. But I believe that most days, the outstanding women and men I’ve been privileged to serve derive deep satisfaction from what they do.

I’m not saying that there isn’t daily grunt work. Most of us put in countless tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before we achieve anything worthwhile.Yet I have many wonderful memories, and more than a few chuckles, recalling the feats and foibles that my clients and I experienced together. I am grateful for them all.

Teddy Roosevelt concurred. He said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

And finally,

3) The gift of working with others.

Americans idolize independent, self-reliant John Wayne types.

Yet, Proverbs tells us that “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens a friend’s character”. Despite what we may tell ourselves, we become masters of our professions, not in isolation, but together with one another.

We are not the sole architects of our careers. We are more like sculptors, working alongside other sculptors. It involves hand hammering and chiseling and scraping and polishing, sometimes alone, but oftentimes together. And we become better products because of it.

If you work with difficult or challenging people, think big. They might be that irritating grain of sand that forces you to grow into a more valuable and lustrous pearl.

The troubles of life show up like unwanted visitors. But through the leavening of time and our own discernment, they can transmute into some of life’s best gifts. Don’t neglect to open them!

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