115. It’s true, you can’t keep a good man down.

The power of The Habit of Getting Back Up was really brought home to me about a year ago when I met Harold.

I was purchasing a couple of shirts in a downtown department store and Harold was assisting me.

Most of us have experienced the frustration of poor customer service and Harold single-handedly wiped most of my memories of those experiences from my mind by the courteous way in which he treated me.

Something about him compelled me to ask him a few questions about himself and his story, which unfolded over several return visits to make additional purchases, is a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit

Harold’s father, along with several of his friends, introduced him to beer when he was nine years old and by the time he was 11 he was drinking two cans each day with his dad.

By age 14 Harold was a full-fledged alcoholic and was expelled from school for constant disruptive behaviour. He remembers his father telling him that night to “have a couple of drinks and you’ll feel better.” By age 16 Harold had already been kicked out of two rehab centres facilities and came to fully believe that he would not see live long enough to celebrate his 20th birthday.

With no education and no marketable job skills his future looked bleak but there was a teeny spark, very deep down within him, urging him to keep trying and so he tried over and over again to quit drinking.

He would be sober for a few days and then succumb to the temptation of “just one drink” and wake up the next morning with a blistering hangover and a sense of being knocked to the ground one more time.

Each time this happened that tiny spark brightened just enough to remind him to keep fighting and he would try again.

He drifted from city to city and job to job trading his meagre skills for a few dollars and then trading those few dollars for as much alcohol as they would buy.

He repeated the cycle of quitting, drinking and vowing to beat this, quitting, drinking and vowing to beat this.

By his own admission alcohol beat him into submission more times than he can remember but to his credit he kept getting back up and trying again.

Finally, after joining his eighteenth AA group, that spark inside him suddenly developed into a full-fledged flame and he experienced his first ever full week of sobriety, and then two weeks, and then a month and, to his absolute delight a year.

He went back to school, completed his GED and started taking courses at local colleges. He constantly tried to upgrade himself by applying for better and better jobs only to deal with an endless stream of rejection.

He finally landed a position with a national chain of department stores where I met him. He has been with that company for 11 years, has achieved several promotions and is presently a department head.

He tells me that this is the first place he has ever worked where he has felt accepted by all and judged by none.

His coworkers and bosses are all aware of his past and from the day he started they provided him with nothing but encouragement.

Today, Harold leads a full life. He has a full-time job which he loves and spends most evenings attending AA meetings as both a member and as a sponsor. He has patiently guided more than a dozen alcoholics down the path to sobriety.

He also volunteers at a local homeless shelter as a counsellor and is a friend for any of the folks there who need one.

He believes The Habit of Getting Back Up – that flame that grew from a spark within him is what kept him trying over and over again he always knew that if he just bounced back one more time than he was knocked down he would eventually stay on his feet long enough to win the battle.

He has been sober now for more than 14 years. He lives in the small condo that he is working diligently to pay off and spends every waking moment, be it in work-life or in his volunteer-life, in service to others

His message to all he helps is a simple one. It doesn’t matter how often you get knocked down. What matters is that you never stay down.

The Habit of Getting Back Up gave Harold a new lease on life as it will for all who choose to adopt it.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.


114. The ground is no place to lie on.

Few of us escape this life without the need to learn the lessons taught by being knocked to the ground.

Many things can cause us to lie battered and bruised on the ground: the death of a loved one or the loss of a relationship; the collapse of a business or the disappearance of a job; the anguish of a crushing illness or the cruel disappointment of a failed cure.

Most of us know the experience of hitting the ground.

Some of us live there, broken and wounded for a very long time while others bounce back up and re-enter the flow of life bound and determined to carry on onwards and upwards.

What separates those who remain in the dirt from those who bounce to their feet is The Habit of Getting Back Up.

The Habit of Getting Back Up is deeply ensconced in all those who understand to their very core that the battle for life can only be waged while we’re on our feet.

It is not ability that gets us back up on our feet, it is determination. And determination is that priceless gift we are all born with but that sadly, some of us lose through the years.

They say the test of a person is not gauged by the number of times we hit the ground but rather by the number of times we get back up and The Habit of Getting Back Up is one that teaches us to recognize the difference between a defeat and a setback.

I was reminded of this when I heard the story of the seven-year-old granddaughter of a long-time client.

This young girl has spent more than one third of her life in Boston hospitals. She has defied the experts who told her parents that she would not live beyond the first two years of her life.

The nature of her illness is not germane to this story; her spirit is the story.

She is a veteran of more than eighteen surgeries.

Her little body has been plagued with life threatening infections so many times she now playfully tells her parents, “I’m dying again, let’s go to the hospital.”

At times her legs are so swollen and painful she can’t bear to have her clothing touch her skin.

Her parents have long lost count of the number of times their little girl has had to endure the pain and discomfort of being fed through a tube.

And each time a new situation presents itself our young lady accepts it with the stoicism of a seasoned expert, patiently waits it out and then throw herself headfirst back into her busy life, undeterred.

Her grandmother tells me she has ever heard as much as a whimper of complaint from this young angel.

She is always in a good mood.

She is always upbeat.

She always busies herself planning her future (her most recent pronouncement was that she is going to be a neuroscientist).

And each time she gets knocked to the ground she strengthens her resolve to keep fighting and to never give up.

Her grandmother believes The Habit of Getting Back Up was invented by her granddaughter and that her indomitable spirit has served as the glue that has kept her family together through seven years of panic inducing moments.

An old saying informs us that, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Well folks, she’s here.

Ready yourselves.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

113. You have to get back up every time.

My friend Irving is the most resilient person I have ever met.

I know of no one who has been knocked down as many times as Irving and yet each time he hits the ground, just like the song, he “picks himself up, dusts himself off and starts all over again.”

He is the person we are referring to when we say, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.”

When Irving was 16 he was hit by a car while walking home from football practice.

He suffered breaks to both legs and extensive damage to his lower back but, with what would become his trademark determination, he took this incident to mean nothing more than a small blip in his life, pushed himself through excruciating recovery and, the following season, helped his football team achieve a record season.

Three years later, while a student at university, he fell down a flight of stairs re-breaking one of his legs and being confined to a hospital bed with a head injury for several weeks.

Undaunted, he asked his classmates record as many of the lectures as possible and continued to work as hard from his hospital room as he had from his dorm.

Four years later, just as he was beginning his professional career, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Never allowing the smile to leave his face he underwent the requisite treatment while taking a minimum amount of time off from work.

In his early 30s a business partner fraudulently cleaned out their corporate bank account, maxed out their substantial line of credit and disappeared leaving Irving with mountain of bills to be paid and payroll obligations to be met.

Forced to put his business into bankruptcy, Irving worked two jobs, “one to pay the bills and one to save for my next business.”

A few months into his 18 hour workdays he was stricken with yet another bout of cancer causing him to lose his house. He spent the next few years fiercely fighting cancer while battling to keep a roof over the heads of his wife and three children.

Irving never complained, he simply “did what I have to do” to win both battles.

It took him more than four years but eventually he started a new business that has prospered and provides an enviable lifestyle for him and his family.

Four months ago, at age 54 he had a heart attack. A few days in hospital did nothing to daunt his spirit or dampen his enthusiasm for life. Since then he has dutifully followed the advice of his medical advisor and is working hard both in his business and on rebuilding his health.

Irving has been a lifelong practitioner of The Habit of Getting Back Up. As he explained to me one day, his guiding principle has always being a sentence he read as a young teen that indelibly imprinted itself on his mind. It read: It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down. What matters is how many times you get back up.

The Habit of Getting Back Up, as repeatedly demonstrated by Irving, teaches us that although life frequently deals us harsh lows, each punch contains within it the seeds of opportunity that are available to us should we choose to pursue them.

I mentioned earlier that I have not met a more resilient person nor have I met many who can match Irving for his infectious cheerfulness. Not only does he model The Habit of Getting Back Up for us all but he also does it each time with enviable determination and passion.

The Habit of Getting Back Up: It doesn’t separate those who can from those who can’t, it separates those who will from those who won’t.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

112. The truly humble never have to eat the pie.

Many years ago I read a quote which has stuck with me through the years. Unfortunately I cannot remember, or find, the name of its author.

The quote read: Humility is the exclusive domain of those who are self-secure, pride is the exclusive domain of all others.

The dictionary defines humility as: The quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc. Our last two discussions have been on The Habit of Humility and I received numerous calls and emails for people wishing to share the details of those they know who have done great things and have remained humble throughout.

I have heard stories of bravery, generosity, volunteering, neighbourliness and endless acts of kindness and it is indeed heartwarming to get a sense of how many people out there who do great things simply because great things need to be done and do so modestly with not only no expectation of reward but also with no desire for recognition.

We are all too familiar with the blowhards of the world. Those who magnify their accomplishments and whose stories, much like the fisherman who caught a tadpole which, after 50 retellings of the story, had turned into a great white shark, get bigger and bolder each time they are repeated.

I am a huge believer in the need and power of recognition. I’m all in favour of showering praise on those who are deserving, but like many of us, I too have become disenchanted by those who seize every opportunity to brag about all they have done and the brilliance with which they have done it.

The Habit of Humility, much like the habit of gratitude, adds to character while taking away nothing.

Many years ago I attended a seminar taught by a man who made a statement so profound that, like the quote in the opening paragraph, has stayed with me for more than 30 years.

He said, “In life, take everything you do very seriously. Take your education seriously, your career seriously, most importantly take your family and your health very seriously but whatever you do, no matter what, or how powerful the temptation, don’t ever, ever, ever take yourself seriously.”

He went on to explain what he called his Theory of Truth. It went something like this. “We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all do stupid things. We all say inappropriate things. None of us are perfect. So it is important that we accept ourselves for who we are and once we realize and understand how imperfect we are, humility becomes an easy habit to acquire.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously stated:
And the devil did grin, for his daring sin
Is pride that apes humility

And Mason Cooley, a renowned academic and aphorist summed it up with “Arrogance invites ruin; humility receives benefits.”

The Habit of Humility is important because those who practice it understand that while they know they’ve done great things, they are not made better by promoting them. By knowing in their hearts they have done what is right and what is good is all the reward they need.

The Habit of Humility tells more about the greatness of its practitioners than boasting ever will.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.