By Murray Devine, Central West Coast Chapter
We’ve all heard it a million times before – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However, fun fact: lemons are not naturally occurring. They were the product of mankind crossbreeding a bitter type of orange with a citron over a couple hundred years, so technically we kind of invented lemons to make lemonade. Much in the same way you now feel like your whole life is a lie, Courtney Clark’s opening session helped demystify what resilience really is and means to us personally and professionally.
Courtney first set the stage about her journey through life discussing her early aspirations to become a dancer, and it showed through her stage presence coupled with unadulterated energy and wild movements. However, when the title of a session sounds like this one, you can assume not all goes well. It didn’t. Courtney failed as a dancer, but even worse, the next decade would bring her through battles with both cancer and a brain aneurysm. Out of resilience and wisdom beyond her years, she endured through it all and out of it came two core lessons that she shared with us.
- “Your life story is about how you deal, not what you are dealt.”
To begin, Courtney used a number of analogies and stories throughout her speech to reinforce the fact that life rarely goes according to plan. Her story is indisputable proof of that, however she shared, “really successful people are the ones who have a plan and know what to do when that plan doesn’t work out.” While Courtney’s dreams of being a mother seemed to have been crushed after her diagnosis, she realized the only thing that had changed was her idea of what kind of mother she could be. This led to the adoption of her son and the creation of the family she could have, not the one she had idealized in her head.
She compared this situation to the story of the Unsinkable Molly Brown. What was remarkable about Molly Brown wasn’t that she survived the sinking of the Titanic, it was how she worked for months to ensure that every single survivor was taken care of when they returned to New York. Courtney says, “She’s unsinkable because of everything she did afterwards.”
- “We’re not entitled to easy. Find perspective.”
We all know it’s easy to get grumpy while stuck in traffic or in a grocery store line. To emphasize her second core lesson, Courtney shared the story of a friend of hers who also was undergoing treatment for cancer and how he had chosen to focus on the good that was happening in his life over the bad. He helped her realize that no one is entitled to easy, it’s a hard truth. She stressed that you hit what you’re aiming for in life, yet “we aim for 75 things in life and we’re all mad when we don’t get them.” Her advice: focus on what’s in the center of your target.
Courtney also shared that too much energy is spent during our own journey comparing it to that of others, “never compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.” It’s too easy to lose perspective in an age when we are only seeing the very best of our friends on social media and in person. “Everything looks easier when other people are doing it.”
To close, Courtney left us with an Indian parable about a farmer who went through many ups and downs in life, yet in the end his son was spared from having to go to war because of them. While her own story wasn’t an easy one, she ended by sharing what might be my favorite advice and the whole point of her session: “we’re so quick to judge our stories as good or bad, black or white. We judge our stories before they’re over, but it’s those moments, those detours, which get you exactly where you’re going.”I think in that room we were all able to find a little more perspective, and for that I thank the Unsinkable Courtney Clark.