"The first and best victory is to conquer self."
"Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways."
—H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Life is not always easy. In fact, it’s rarely easy. There is, however, an advantage to sorrow, a great advantage, that creative people especially know. It is the ability to take pain and turn it into art. By art, I mean painting, drawing, dance, service, job-improvement, teaching, philanthropy, writing or relationships. The beauty of pain is that it can cause me to focus on what really matters. It can cause me to look at my behavior and make changes. In fact, many creative endeavors come from a place of pain. This blog did.
I don’t want pain. I don’t welcome it or look for it. I don’t consciously try to create pain for others or for myself. Still, pain will come. Difficulties will arise. They may come from something I did or from something that was done to me. They usually come as unhappy surprises, and this adds another level of difficulty. The joy of sorrow is that I can take my pain and turn it into something powerful. No other living beings can do this. Only humans.
As a comic book reader, I know that many of the most popular superheroes were borne out of tragedy, usually a death in the family and/or being orphaned. In a more realistic story, Mitchell Siegel, 60, was killed in a robbery either from a heart attack or by being shot in the chest. His son, Jerry Siegel, it was said, used that tragedy to create a bulletproof man who has been known throughout the world for over 75 years – Superman.
One of the first comics I ever remember seeing was a Superman comic when I was about 5 years old. My mom said no. But I got some later, a lot more. And I’ve been reading comic books ever since. They have brought me a great measure of happiness and satisfaction. Today there are literally thousand of superheroes and comic books. There are writers and artists. There are also comic strips, cartoons, television shows, movies, plays, conventions, toys, and books. Millions of stories have been told. Thousands of jobs have been created and millions of dollars have been made. Comic books have helped children enjoy reading. (I was one of those children.) They gave American soldiers in Viet Nam a way to pass the time.
The artist, Joe Shuster said,
The artist, Joe Shuster said,
“In this drawing we just let our imagination run wild. We visualized superman toys, games, and a radio show - that was before TV - and Superman movies. We even visualized Superman billboards. And it's all come true.”
And all of this was birthed from one tragedy.
Well, no. That’s not completely correct. All of it was birthed from one man’s response to that tragedy. Jerry Siegel could have responded with bitterness, despair or rage. He could have used his pain to end his own life far more effectively, quickly (or slowly) than his father’s life was ended. Instead, he took his pain and created the foundation for something great.
None of us is immune to tragedy. Tragedy is awful. Tragedy is often pointless, senseless and unnecessary. The worst part of tragedy is that it often serves no purpose. But Purpose can come out of tragedy. In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen says,
But for a man with a deep-rooted faith in the value and meaning of life, every experience holds a new promise, every encounter carries a new insight, and every event brings a new message. But these promises, insights and messages have to be made visible.
Still, as I said, I don’t like pain and when it comes, it comes uninvited. I prefer joy. Sorrow propels me, but joy motivates me. To this end, I do everything I can to be happy and to have a happy life. When I’m happy, I’m more motivated and my mind is clearer. In fact, I often write to get rid of my sorrow.
The only problem with happiness is that sometimes when I’m in too good a mood, I’m not as motivated to do my work.
This is where self-discipline comes in. We all know what it feels like to not want to do our work when we feel bad, but we forget that happiness can distract us, too. So, again, the important thing is self-discipline. If I can discipline myself to write every day, then I can be master of both joy and sorrow. I can be master of both joy and sorrow.
James Allen says it best:
"Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound. The man who does not shrink from self-crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set. This is true of earthly as of heavenly things. Even the man whose object is to acquire wealth must be prepared to make great personal sacrifices before he can accomplish his object; and how much more so he who would realize a strong and well-poised life."
So, to stay in control of my emotions, I must stay in control of my actions. I need to keep my Purpose and goals in front of me constantly. The more I Get Started and Keep Going, the happier I will be, because I will realize that there is something that's just as good as happiness and that’s the satisfaction of having done my best.