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How to Turn Your Tragedy Into a Legacy

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Sometimes, life isn’t just unfair – it’s downright cruel. It punishes those who deserve reward, praises those who deserve reprimanding, and at worst – takes the lives of those who deserve living. The year after I graduated high school, my best friend of nearly a decade was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Not just any cancer – but one that’s most often diagnosed in men over the age of 60.

She biked several miles a day, trained ballet multiple days a week, and didn’t lay a finger on drugs. With an energy so addictive, you could feel it a mile away, and a laugh that echoed through the walls, she turned heads in any room she walked into. Two years later, I was traveling abroad when I got the news she was entering hospice. I booked a 15 hour flight home the next morning to go be with her and sit by her bedside.

We made jokes, caught up on the latest Beauty And The Beast remake, reminisced about embarrassing childhood pictures, retold our favorite stories, and made plans for the future. Three months later, three days before my 22nd birthday and a few months after hers, her cancer won. I watched the most incredible soul get robbed of a life and a future they deserved. And I didn’t understand why.

As many people do, I spiraled into depression for the first time the following month until one day I had a dream with her in it. The next morning, I thought of her and what would make her proud.

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” – Robert Kennedy

All of a sudden I realized I had two choices: To use her death as a reason to hold back, avoid healing, and never step outside of my comfort zone for the rest of my life or to use her death as fuel to begin living a life she’d be proud of, and make the kind of impact – and legacy – she didn’t get the chance to.

I knew what I had to do. The next day, I opened my laptop and shared my full story on social media for the first time. No walls, no barriers, no filters. Less than a year later, I’d built a six figure online business helping hundreds of other entrepreneurs grow their businesses by sharing their stories and showing up authentically and vulnerably on social media.

All because I realized I had a choice in the face of tragedy. And so do you. You can choose to let your next hardships serve as an excuse for not creating the life you want. You can choose to play the victim, and stop moving forward because life decided to hand you – or someone around you – a poor deck of cards. Or, you can be the difference.

The 1% who sees opportunity amidst the downfall. The 1% who seeks inspiration during healing. The 1% who gathers the strength to build something bigger than yourself and take one step forward when it feels like the world is pushing you three steps back. It’s up to.

Adversity is to be expected. Curveballs are thrown often. And tragedy is unavoidable – that’s why they call it tragedy. Whether the next time it’s you or someone you love facing tragedy head on, remember that joy wouldn’t be in existence without pain. If you never experience the lows, you’d never feel the beautiful, unforgettable highs. Life would be one long, dull ride.

Let yourself scream, cry, curse the world in the moment – but whatever you do, do not blind yourself from the opportunities that lie ahead tomorrow. Most times, they’re in front of you as clear as day, waiting for you to open your eyes and grab them.

“Every tragedy has a lesson equal in significance to its heartbreak.”

Allow yourself time to heal, process, and grasp what is today, then wake up tomorrow with an open heart. Be open to the idea that perhaps everything does happen for a reason, even if we cannot see it.

Open to the idea that the world only deals us cards we’re strong enough to handle. Open to the idea that pain is temporary, and time truly does heal. If you choose to, I guarantee you will come out on the other side a stronger, better version of you.

Your world may be gray, and you may feel like the weight of it is on your shoulders, but I promise, if you take one-half of a step forward every day you will heal. Not only will you heal, but you will find a way to turn your most painful chapter into your most powerful chapter.

A way to leave a bigger impact, create the life you or your loved one would be proud of, and make this world a better place.

So the next time life decides to test your strength – and it will – remember that you control what happens next. A poor deck of cards might be dealt to you at a moment’s notice, but it’s what you do with it that counts.

Lauren Raye Gordon is an international entrepreneur, brand story consultant, and speaker. At 18 she left her hometown of 600 people on a one-way ticket to Australia with $500 to her name. By 22, she built a 6-figure online business in 8 months while facing an unexpected pregnancy. Now she travels the world with her daughter educating brands and businesses on how to maximize their profit and stand out on social media through the power of brand storytelling. Consume more of Lauren's free valuable, educational content in her free online community of 5,000 entrepreneurs here.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. vipul rathod

    Nov 21, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Tragedy ultimately leads to legacy through right choices and decisions.

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Life

What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values

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Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

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