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I heard that before

“Advice worth hearing one time is always worth repeating.”

One of the most cathartic moments I’ve ever experienced was the day I fondly refer to as my Independence Day. It was February 22, 2013. Dr. Smith and I had been discussing the idea of shame and its damaging effects. It wasn’t the first time he had mentioned it. In fact, we had discussed it on several prior occasions; and 2 weeks earlier, I had even written a poem which touched on that subject.

But for some reason on this particular day, it just clicked! The clarity finally came through as though someone pulled blinders from my eyes and plugs out of my ears.

As a parent, I often hoped for moments like these when I could convey wise counsel to my boys. As a son, however, there were times when I came home to tell my mom about some lesson I learned only to see her bewildered, and reminding me she had said something similar on many occasions.

As a coach, these kinds of moments are ones for which I yearn; when my client’s eyes light up after hearing prudent or astute advice. It’s an experience which not many others can surpass.

But events like these rarely happen according to plan. Why they do unfold in unpredictable ways involve a variety of reasons. One could argue that people don’t truly hear things until they are ready to receive them. It’s also probable that a familiar voice, such as a parent, friend, or coworker, borders on the verge of monotony rendering it less effective than a stranger’s voice.

There are as many reasons why our words don’t always have the impact we wish they’d have, but no matter who, how, or when words of wisdom are spoken, the most important outcome is that someone is motivated in a positive and productive way.

It’s difficult to imagine any great orator not wanting to dazzle the audience with a speech that flows like a calm river yet strikes the hearts of listeners as the crash of a tympani during a Beethoven Scherzo.

Nonetheless, the one thing we can never force is an aha moment for someone else. In fact, we cannot always control our own moments of illumination. I had one of those just the other day.

A good friend of mine has told me this story a couple of times but the other day I finally realized its impact. Several years ago, she flew to visit her family. Arriving late to depart from the airport, she was advised to carry her bag directly to the gate and check it there to avoid missing the flight. Unfortunately, she was also led to believe the gate was just up the escalator but ended up carrying her wheel-less bag across the entire terminal.

This would have been a grueling task for anyone but her luggage weighed several times more than what doctors had warned her to carry due to some previous injuries. Needless to say, the pain was excruciating and the flight was no relief from the agony.

After landing at her destination, her brother met her at the airport and asked her why she looked so miserable.

“Because I had to carry this bag across through the whole airport,” she quickly exclaimed.

“Why didn’t you check it or have a Skycap do it for you”? he replied. “You know, no one is standing there applauding you for carrying your own baggage.”

This was the fourth or fifth time I had been told this story to me, but it was the first time its meaning was revealed.

“No one is standing there applauding you for carrying your baggage.” Those words struck me not just like a mallet on a tympani but like the crash of the orchestra during Haydn’s Surprise Symphony.

Each one of us has loads of baggage and some have sadly carried it far too long. There are times when we might think it’s too much for one person or wonder why someone isn’t helping.

“Isn’t it obvious that I’m struggling,” yet there is no ovation when we finally let it go. There is no award. No memento or medal of distinction for what we thought was a selfless act. On the other hand, there are lots of people staring at us who are perplexed by our actions.

“Baggage” can be a number of things but it basically represents our past struggles; many of which are caused by the damaging thoughts we’ve come to accept about who we are. Sometimes it’s carried so long that it appears to actually be a part of who we are.

The problem with figurative baggage is that getting rid of it is not as effortless as removing your grip from the handle. It’s not as simple as setting it down or handing it to someone else. Telling people to “let it go” has to be some of the worst advice you could offer. Of course that is the appropriate action but I believe if most people really knew how to let it go, they would.

Next week, we’ll cover a few ways of letting that baggage go. However, if you’re ready to let yours go now and would rather not wait, feel free to message me.

I’d like to thank Kayvan Mazhar for the beautiful picture and if you haven’t heard Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, listen to the second movement and you’ll get a glimpse of how powerful this story was to me.

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