I was an ironworker when the recession of the 1970s hit hard. You might not remember the long lines at the gas stations during the 1973 oil crisis; we just hoped that by the time we got to the pump it hadn’t gone dry. Many blamed the oil companies. Then there was the 1973–1974 stock market crash—ouch! At least, if you’d been invested at the time. Many blamed Wall Street. By 1975, unemployment had reached 9%. I was out of work. Many blamed the government. It seemed you couldn’t beg, borrow, or steal a job. A lot of the country’s steel mills shut down. Many blamed foreign countries. Just look at all the possible excuses I had for not having a job!
For many, complaining seemed to satisfy some strange urge and justify those existing conditions. Yet complaining does nothing to rectify one’s situation. I resisted this urge, but was still hard pressed to come up with creative ways of earning money. At the time, I was living on an overgrown old farm a mile off a dirt road. I’d been intending to clear some acreage for an orchard. That was when the idea hit. In this country there is a vanishing breed of independent people who cut pulpwood; usually salvage cuttings of diseased or wind-damaged trees or scrub pine that has overtaken old pastures. These little mom-and-pop operations only require a truck, a chainsaw, and a skid-loader, which is like a small forklift.
Well, I had an old ¾-ton 4×4 pickup and a chainsaw. I also had acres overgrown with wind-damaged southern pine. Surveying this daunting option, I decided, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Not having a regular job wasn’t any excuse for not going to work. But how on earth was I going to get all the five-foot lengths of logs to my truck? I had no tractor, mule, or skid-loader to move the heavy timber. Guess what? Yep! I had to carry or drag one log at a time and hand-load my pickup. Then I’d have to drive it to the railroad siding, where the load would be weighed and unloaded. For 2,000 pounds of pulpwood I received around $30. Do you know how many hours it takes to cut, carry, and hand-load 2,000 pounds of pulpwood? Don’t ask!
Well, the years have sped by as they always do, and I’ve not only survived, but also prospered greatly. Every day, I count my blessings and know that when things get tough, living an excuse-free life will pull me through every time. Folks often ask my advice about handling difficult situations in their lives. The best advice I can offer is something I long ago wrote on index cards and placed on the bathroom mirror and on my vehicle’s sun visor:
“Never say anything about yourself you don’t sincerely wish to come true!” This has always served me well.
Why? The more aware we are of the words we use, the plainer the connection between what we say and what happens to us. At times we don’t truly appreciate how our words express our deeply hidden subconscious programming. This deep programming affects our decisions and subsequently what happens to us. By watching what we say, we can come pretty close to predicting the things we’ll experience in life, or at least the general vibrational tone of the unfolding future events.
Back in those recessionary days of the seventies, I could have picked any argument for why I was out of work, from political corruption to the economy to foreign policy decisions. Shifting the blame and complaining is easy; maybe that’s why so many engage in it. It’s easy to convince yourself that conditions will never change, yet there’s nothing permanent except change. Knowing this, I’ve adopted two other sayings: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!” and “I’m responsible; what am I going to do about it?”
It refreshes the spirit to know there’s no one to blame for having the perfect growth experience.
Were there times when I didn’t know how I was going to make it? Absolutely! There will always be new situations arising where the outcome is unclear. Accepting full responsibility for the experience, no matter what happens, is what living an excuse-free life is about, and it’s also how we grow and prosper. Whenever I reflect on past mistakes, my self-talk is, “Hey, get over it! That’s what life is all about. It’s why they put erasers on the ends of pencils!” This life is too good to miss by whining, complaining, and blaming everyone else for doing it to you! Living an excuse-free life is just that. It sets you free from negativity and clears your mind to find solutions for the things you face. Living an excuse-free life sets you free to walk with your head up. Remember, you owe no one an apology for living life on your own terms! Live excuse-free!
Reflections from Turtle Lake