Irwin Kahn from Franklin, Ohio, wrote to Dear Abby. When he was ten years old, he said, his mother sent him to a children's home. She kept his younger brother and sister, but got rid of him, and she even told him why: He was too much of a troublemaker. He was, of course, hurt by this.
He was an emotional mess for awhile and developed a severe stuttering problem. But he had been assigned a "Big Brother"
and the staff of the children's home were good people, and this
combination helped him develop some inner strength and a sense of
At age seventeen, he left the children's home
to make his way in the world. "I educated myself," he said, "overcame my
stuttering, became a successful corporate CEO, and now enjoy
multimillionaire status. I retired at 52."
What seemed a
terrible disadvantage — getting booted out at age ten, rejected by your
own mother — might have actually been to his advantage. It might have
been one of the best things that could have happened to him.
conclusion seems so much the opposite of what most people would think,
but let's look at this for a moment. Because his mom sent him away, he
came into the care of people who were devoting their lives to helping
others. He came under the influence of a Big Brother, who voluntarily
and out of genuine kindness, spent time to help a young person.
If his mother had not abandoned him, Kahn
would probably never have met these people or been influenced by them.
His mom may have been a terrible influence on him. She may have been a
cold-hearted, uncaring mother.
The actor Edward James Olmos
grew up in East L.A. and his parents divorced when he was seven. He
lived in a three-room house (including the kitchen) with a dirt floor.
Eleven people lived there.
is one of those who made the best of how things turned out. "Some
people say they didn't have a choice," he says, "They're poor or brown
or crippled. They had no parents. Well, you can use any one of those
excuses to keep your life from growing. Or you can say, 'Okay, this is
where I am, but I'm not going to let it stop me. Instead, I'm gonna turn
it around and make it my strength.' That's what I did."
SUGAR CANE SAVIOR
talking about learning to have the attitude of finding or making an
advantage out of a disadvantage. Learning to say "That's good!" no
matter what happens, and by your actions making it good. Another way of saying this is to convince yourself that, "Trouble brings the seeds of good fortune."
This is not wishful thinking or positive thinking. This is not hoping that things will magically turn out. This is a commitment to making things turn out well.
the energy crisis hit in the 1970s, Brazil was hurt badly. Oil imports
were taking half the available foreign currency, and they were heavily
in debt. The country was in serious trouble. But because of the trouble,
they had to look elsewhere for fuel. And they didn't need to look any
further than their own back yard.
One of the things
Brazil had was a huge sugar cane crop. So they used it to make alcohol,
and began converting their energy economy to burning alcohol. Today, 90%
of cars sold in Brazil run on alcohol, which burns much more cleanly
The trouble brought seeds of good fortune to
Brazil. Because alcohol became their chief fuel, air quality in their
The sugar cane is ground to a pulp, and the juice is extracted and fermented. The processing plants also had a problem: All the juiceless pulp. They had to pay garbage collectors to take it away.
again brought seeds of good fortune. Uses were found for the pulp. They
burned it and used the heat to make electricity, relieving the
necessity of building new dams on the Amazon river — dams that cause
flooding and environmental damage. And burning the pulp adds no
permanent carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, because the growing plants
absorb as much as is released in the burning. The pulp is also made
into a nutritious feed for cattle.
The idea that
trouble brings the seeds of good fortune can make itself true. If you
think you can make an advantage out of a disadvantage, you may try, and
if you try, you increase the odds of it happening.
if you close your mind to the situation — if you make up your mind it is
just bad — you are less likely to think of a way to turn it to your
You have something to gain and nothing to
lose by taking this idea — that trouble contains the seeds of good
fortune — and burning it into your mind. Make it an automatic part of
your thinking. Have it so ingrained that it is your first thought when
trouble comes your way. It will give you power to overcome difficulties
and prevent life from sinking you into the quicksand of despair.
you want to get fast results, try this: Repeat this idea to yourself,
and while you do, allow images of any trouble happening now in your life
to come into your mind's eye. Think about what has upset you lately.
Think about what bothers you. Think about anything in your life right
now you don't like. And while you do, repeat this idea steadily and
calmly and matter-of-factly.
truly don't know what good fortune may develop out of "trouble." You
don't know yet what advantages you may derive from what now seems like a
disadvantage. But commit yourself to it and you may find what you seek.
The commitment will change your mood right away, and when you actually
find an advantage, that will also improve your mood.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.