Though I do not typically acknowledge it, many observers have said that tragedy struck my life fourteen years ago at the age of twenty. I was just about to begin my senior year at the University of Florida when I incurred a high-level spinal cord injury which rendered me paralyzed from the neck down and ventilator-dependent, much like the late Christopher Reeve.
Faced with high-level quadriplegia, not to mention relying on a machine to breathe for me, it took me a while to learn how to live in this condition. I was depressed for months. I did not know what I could still do. I had to learn and focus on what I can do. What about happiness?
I eventually learned to identify with this quote from our first 1st Lady, Martha Washington, who said, “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy — in whatever situation I may be — for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
Even in my situation, despite my paralysis and ventilator, I truly believe that I am blessed in many ways (for which I am humbly grateful). I recognize that there is always someone in a more difficult situation. Consequently, happiness is a matter of perspective and a choice.
Happiness is choosing to find the positive, even in less-than-ideal situations. But what makes choosing to be happy MUCH EASIER is finding your niche — something you enjoy and that you are passionate about.
Finding your niche is even better if what you are passionate about can become a job or business opportunity. The Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Losing one’s job can be a personal tragedy. Many people have experienced job loss as a result of the poor economy in recent years. That happened to Ken Knorr, who decided that since he no longer had a paycheck, that it was time to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor. That entrepreneurial endeavor is now called THAT Company — which ranks No. 183 on the 2011 Inc. 500’s List of America’s fastest-growing private companies.
Regarding entrepreneurship, Knorr said, “There’s no greater way to be inspired than to be fired!” If what you are passionate about happens to be an unmet or underserved need in the world, or your part of the world, you could turn a personal tragedy like being fired into a business opportunity!
Personally, I am passionate about helping people (what I believe is doing God’s will). After my injury, my family and I recognized an unmet need for physical recreation and social opportunity for wheelchair users, especially power wheelchair users. This led to the development of a wheelchair bowling device called the IKAN (“I can”) Bowler that can empower its user. That also became an entrepreneurial endeavor to get wheelchair users (back) in the game of life!
Regardless of what personal tragedy you may experience, do keep in mind that a good way to emerge and find happiness is to seek a healthy perspective, and find your niche — something you enjoy and that you are passionate about.
If you are wondering why I do not typically acknowledge my injury as a personal tragedy, it is because many positives have ultimately resulted from me being paralyzed.