Walking Confidently Forward

What follows is the Introduction of my new book-in-progress.  I will add further sections when each chapter is completed.

The book is about:

Walking confidently

Talking confidently

Thinking confidently

Loving confidently

Working confidently

Deciding confidently

Exploring confidently

Aging confidently

Dying confidently

These are the kinds of confidence that I wish for you and me.

Anyone who invests in their life, every day, every year, can achieve the seemingly impossible. I did this. That is why I am writing about my experiences.

 

Quotations About Confidence

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.

Norman Vincent Peale

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.

Lao Tzu

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.

Marie Curie

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

Helen Keller

 

Life for everyone is full of challenges.  Some of our challenges are normal, but others seem insurmountable.

We cannot fully prepare for the trials ahead, but how we structure our lives makes a profound difference for when we hit the crunch. Those who prepare well survive challenges far better than average.

Let me describe the worst challenge I ever encountered.

 

The Day I Virtually Died

It was Sunday, May 1, 2011 on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.  This is one of the loveliest spots on earth.

I had spent a grueling year working in a political campaign for my friend John Weston. I hoped to take a long rest when my work was finished.

As it turned out, John easily won his seat in the Canadian Parliament. But I nearly died the day before the election.

I didn’t realize how sick I was becoming. I had worked far too hard. I was constantly on the phone, attending meetings, and inspiring volunteers. This was one of my hardest jobs ever. I had no salary, almost no budget, combined with the necessity of finding dozens of enthusiastic volunteers.

I did my job through sheer force of determination. There seemed no time available to rest, or to exercise. So I gradually abandoned my daily health habits.

I started sleeping badly. I also got very short of breath.  No sleeping position seemed comfortable, whether on my back, side, or stomach.  Ultimately, I could only sleep when sitting upright in a chair.

I did not realize why – my lungs were filling up with fluid, due to severe pneumonia. Unbeknownst to me, I had small and twisted lungs from polio. This had not been diagnosed before.

I drank whiskey to help me sleep, but it only covered up my deadly symptoms. My wife Kathy noticed that I was sick and entreated me to get medical help, but I put her off. I thought it could wait a few weeks until after the election was over.

Finally, I visited my doctor near the end of April, but without any satisfactory diagnosis.  I scheduled another visit on Tuesday May 3 – but that appointment was never kept.

By Sunday morning, May 1, I was not functioning at all. Kathy persuaded me to go to our small rural hospital – her insistence saved my life.

While waiting for hospital admission, I kept nodding off to sleep. Kathy propped me up with her leg and foot so I wouldn’t fall out of the waiting room chair. Finally, I was put into bed awaiting some tests. That was my last conscious memory for nearly two months.

Kathy was not allowed to stay with me. It was quiet time in the ICU, so she went home. But while resting in my hospital bed, I virtually stopped breathing. So I nearly died, right then and there.

Paramedics rushed in to put me on life support. Kathy was informed that I was being flown by helicopter to a big hospital in Vancouver.

At Lions Gate Hospital, an immense struggle commenced to keep me alive. My lungs were overflowing with fluid from pneumonia. A mechanical breathing machine (ventilator) kept me barely breathing.

The doctors were fearful. They could hardly force enough oxygen into my lungs to keep me alive. Kathy worried that I might die. I was put into an induced coma and medically paralyzed.  The respiratory therapist explained that just twenty years ago, they would not have had the capacity to force sufficient air into lungs like mine.

Within two or three days, the doctors decided to perform a tracheotomy, which involved inserting a breathing tube into my neck. Kathy had to sign a legal waiver, due to the risk for this operation.  When they wheeled me away for surgery, Kathy wondered if she would ever see me come back alive.

During the next few weeks, my body filled up with fluids, due to the virtual shutdown of my body systems.

I had tubes and needles coming out of every part of my body. I looked weird and frightening to my family.

But Kathy never gave up hope. She stayed at my bedside, searching for any signs of life. Almost immediately she moved to her brother Allan’s house to be close to the hospital.  Our friends were praying, calling, and sending cards of encouragement.

Finally, after three horrifying weeks, the tide slowly turned in my favour. Although I was still unconscious and could not breathe without a ventilator, the medical team began to slowly lessen the medications they were using to sedate me.

When I finally opened my eyes after six weeks, I was barely conscious.  The powerful sedative drugs – ketamine and morphine – still remained in my body. I was hallucinating. I could not talk, due to the tracheotomy.

Once the tracheotomy was reversed, respiratory therapists instructed me how to breathe again. It was a huge effort, just to breathe on my own power for 10 or 20 minutes without the ventilator.

During my six weeks of unconsciousness, my muscles had atrophied, so I could not move an arm or leg.  I couldn’t turn over, or sit up, or do anything without help.

But finally, I began an astonishingly recovery. The doctors had predicted I might need six months in hospital, but within six weeks I was ready to go home.  The hospital staff called it a miracle.

I was confined in a wheelchair and needed time to regain my full health. Gradually, I learned to stand up, and to take a few steps to the toilet, and to get into the seat of a car.

I felt like I had died, and was now coming back to life. It took nearly a year, but ultimately I rebuilt my health.  Now I am far better than before my meltdown.

I feel like a new man.

 

Facing Life Challenges with Confidence

You might wonder how I faced this challenge with any confidence.

At first I was unconscious, so I could do nothing.  However, due to my lifetime good health habits, the rest of my body was in excellent health, despite my poor lungs and pneumonia. My good general health helped me survive and recover quickly.

Due to strong relationships with my wife, family and friends, I had a powerful support group. Otherwise, I might have just died alone.

When I came out of hospital I came back to a delightful place to recover. Our house is bright and sunny. It looks out over gardens, trees, towards the Pacific Ocean.

We have invested in a healthy environment. The house was build mostly on one level and is completely handicap-accessible. So with my wife as the perfect nurse, I was in lovely place to rebuild my health.

Finally, I have a strong sense of purpose in life and thus a profound will to live. I believe in my own future and in the future of our world. That positive attitude helped restore me to health far faster than the doctors and nurses expected. They were astounded how quickly I got back my full health.

I was as well prepared as anyone could be to deal with my catastrophe.

So now, I want to explain how you too can find confidence to face your challenges, no matter how daunting. You can gradually build up solid resources, if you are willing to invest in yourself daily.

Investing in your future is the opposite of neglect. Self-care leads to contentment and pleasure, but self-neglect invites disaster.

Confidence is the opposite of fear and anxiety. It is approaching life head-on without hesitation.

This kind of confidence goes beyond skill, like playing sports or music really well.  Nor is it pride, boldness, or arrogance.

Rather, it comes by living with optimism, hope and trust. It is not just being born with the right disposition.  It grows out of habits that we form deliberately.

I have found four central ways to build confidence:

 

1.  Invest in yourself: in every dimension of your life

Caring for yourself is crucial. Self-investment produces the ultimate gifts you will ever obtain. Nothing else is as important.

However, it requires sacrifices today to produce gains tomorrow. It means slowly building up your strength and capability. Patient discipline brings lasting enjoyment.

People ruin themselves by unintentional negligence. By habitual carelessness, they become unemployed, broke, sick, and miserable.

They wrongly conclude that life is unfair. They ask: why do other people succeed?

They expect someone else to protect them from misfortune. However, no one else can assist us, if we won’t help ourselves. We shouldn’t blame God, or the government, or our families for our damaging self-neglect.

Caring for yourself continuously is better than winning a lottery, or inheriting a fortune. Even if you got millions of dollars, but lost your health and purpose in life, you would end up in despair.

Self-investment is not complicated. We need regular exercise, healthy food, and plenty of rest.  We cannot afford to get run down.  Otherwise, we cannot solve the regular problems that confront us.

We should build up our mental capacity. We need prudent rules of behaviour. We must cultivate job skills and save money regularly. Lasting financial security doesn’t arrive by chance.
We all face challenges throughout our lives.  Some problems are small enough to solve quickly.  Others are enormous. Whether large or small, most challenges are common to us all:

Succeeding in school

Nurturing physical fitness

Getting along well with other people

Finding and keeping a decent job

Saving money and avoiding debt

Maintaining a positive attitude in all situations

Overcoming bad habits and addictions

Surviving serious illness or accidents

Growing old gracefully

The Boy Scouts and Girl Guides have a famous motto: Be Prepared. Become ready for anything, for any challenge.

The first section of my book will describe self-investment in detail. Naturally you will want to adapt these suggestions to your unique circumstances, but you must care for yourself. Otherwise, you will experience never-ending disappointment.

Self-investment does not remove challenges, but it equips us to survive them. Self-reliance brings astonishing achievements and enduring self-assurance.

 

2. Investing in Relationships – with Everyone

Many of us don’t pay attention to our relationships. We are barely aware of how we relate. However, if we don’t pay attention to the people in our life, the outcome is unfortunate.

People think relationships happen by chance or fate. Their good relationships, and their bad ones, both seem a matter of luck.

However, if you consider the people you know, you will remember a remarkable person that is loved by everyone. You doubtless also know a problem person that nobody likes.

How did they become so likable or unlikable? Are some people just born friendly? Or, is this a character trait that can be learned?

It turns out that there are skills and habits that improve our success in relating. But it requires time and energy to nourish good relationships.

Most of us never calculate how important relationships can be to our success and happiness.

·      Finding warm friendships

·      Avoiding conflicts

·      Working cooperatively

·      Creating job success

·      Finding a mate

·      Nourishing harmonious family life

·      Becoming part of a community

·      Feeling at one with all humanity

It may not seem difficult to get along with the people we love; but actually, it requires unceasing effort. Otherwise, we may unintentionally neglect a mate, a child, a parent, or a close friend. Our relationships will always deteriorate without careful attention.

We meet potential new friends regularly, but we do not recognize this golden opportunity. The new person may seem different from us, so we hesitate to reach out. However, unless we invest in new friendships frequently, we will never have lots of friends.

We also need to build relationships with difficult people – perhaps a boss at work, an irksome neighbour, or an annoying stranger. We can turn potential enemies into something better. Some might surprisingly become your friend. I have developed friendships with former opponents.

We should focus on each person in our life, both the nice ones and those that seem dysfunctional. We should treat everyone as if they were members of our extended family.

I grew up in an extended family that had all of the usual conflicts. Some family members rarely spoke to other members. Other remained close to each other for life. That is typical in families.

As an international banker I worked with people from every continent and from most countries. I found that there are good and bad people in each country. Fortunately, I found that nice people outnumber unscrupulous people by a huge margin, once you get to know them

When we treat neighbours and strangers as potential family members, we build community – everywhere around us.

Relationship skills help us more than we can ever imagine. That is why I am devoting a major section of my book to explain this

 

3.  Building a Better World – one bit at a time

Most of us want to build a better world, although not everyone thinks this is possible.

Some people think the world is deteriorating, or about to collapse. They think desperate poverty can never be overcome. Global problems seem so overwhelming that people give up before they start. But this attitude leads to despair, not hope.

During my long life, I have heard profuse predictions of global catastrophe, but they have all been wrong.  Some like the Y2K millennium bug transfixed computer experts, but had no substance whatsoever. Other dire prognostications, like 1970’s forecast of the world running out of petroleum by 2000, was so mistaken that it is now forgotten. However, erroneous prophecies will inevitably be followed by fresh fears of destruction.

I do not question the immense global challenges ahead of us. Despite enormous progress during the past two centuries, the world still struggles to bring healing to our environment, economic progress to the poor, and peace among all nations.

How each one of us responds to these challenge matters deeply. People who regularly assist other people enjoy far greater happiness and success than do those who are passive. This has been demonstrated by professional research, such as the Grant Study at Harvard University.

Hope begins by doing whatever we can do at this moment. We need to start in small ways before attempting larger projects.

Most people could take better care of their home or apartment.  That would contribute to creating a better world already.

We might care for a garden, or for some land near us. That would help to improve the environment.

We could help our local community in social, economic or environmental projects.

Some of us might be able to work in distant places – by sending money, or by travelling to work in overseas projects.

Right at home, we can improve international relations by offering friendship to immigrants and visitors from other continents.

I believe world progress comes mostly through small steps taken by millions of individuals, like you and me.  It will take a long time to improve our world, but our ancestors have been working on this for centuries before us.

When we work to build a better world, it spreads hope to everyone.

 

4. Believing in the Future – for yourself and for the world

I grew up in the 1950’s during a time of global fright of nuclear war. World War 2 had devastated the world during the previous decade. The two superpowers were preparing for a potential nuclear Armageddon. We doubted if our generation would ever grow up.

Since then, world tensions have decreased drastically. The 20 most powerful countries in the world have stopped threatening war against each other. We now live in an unprecedented age of peace among the great powers. There has been no such peaceful time in the past 500 years, as we have experienced since the mid 1980’s.

During each successive decade since 1950, worldwide deaths due to war and terrorism have declined enormously. The millennial generation has no memory of how violent our world was during prior centuries. Our news reports of a few deaths from terrorism get more views than thousands of war deaths received in previous times. That is why we mistakenly believe we still live in a violent world.

The G20 organization sponsors regular dialogue among the largest nations to solve the remaining conflicts. Some small countries and terrorist groups continue to wage regional wars, but the causalities are very low compared to history. There have been real crises from time to time, but none on a scale like the world wars.

However, there are still recurring predictions of world catastrophe. These make intriguing headlines and spellbinding movie plots, but real life has actually become much safer in each succeeding decade.

It is crucial for each of us to believe in a good future, both for ourselves individually, and also for the whole world. Otherwise, we could become paralyzed by gloom. Fear does not inspire progress; only confidence and enthusiasm can do that.

Many individuals will not survive until old age. Not all of us will enjoy prosperity during our lifetime. However, we should expect a better future for our family and descendants. That is how our ancestors thought. They got it right.

The survival instinct is hardwired into human DNA.  We display strong determination to succeed. Our growing concern for the environment is an example of uniting in common purpose worldwide. Most experts have come to believe that we can save the planetary environment.

Nothing builds our confidence like the study of ancient history. The dangers faced by our ancestors were devastating. Food supply through winter was a perilous question each year. The death rate from war, crime and disease was many times greater than nowadays. Few babies survived childhood hardships, and the rest typically died in their 30’s. In former centuries old age meant living to be age 40 or 50.

The average human lifespan has doubled during the last 200 years. The evidence of human progress during the past 5,000 years is overwhelming, yet few of us realize how fortunate we are.

Although no one can prove that the world will survive in the coming centuries, the odds have never been better. We may not reach Utopia soon, but the world’s long-term trend line is continuous improvement. This is abundantly clear from history.

Our attitudes are key. Fear and depression are the largest obstacles that we face globally. Everything else is manageable. Our world has sufficient resources for thousands of years, if humans cooperate wisely.

You and I cannot walk confidently forward, unless we believe powerfully in our future.

 

Preparing for the Rest of Your Life

None of us can live a perfect life, from start to finish. It is a constant learning process, starting fresh each time we stumble.

After each disappointment, we need to recalibrate the way forward. Confidence grows stronger each time we survive a major test.

When I was near death in 2011, the doctors warned Kathy that I might not survive. Or, I might stay in a wheelchair for life, and perhaps not be able to speak normally.

But fortunately, I recuperated completely. I had a wonderful wife and family at my side, plus many friends praying for my recovery.

The medical resources available to me were astounding. Twenty years ago my hospital would not have had the right equipment available to keep my lungs working, so I would have died. Due to countless improvements, the medical system our world enjoys today is marvelously better than in the 1950’s.

My lifetime has prepared me to deal with misfortunes. My determination was forged in childhood. At age five, I was caught in a mass Polio epidemic.

Many of my muscles were permanently paralyzed. My parents thought I would become an invalid.

Fortunately, I had natural optimism. I discovered that walking on crutches could be turned into an advantage – if you are willing to do battle daily. I developed surprising mental capacities and learned valuable self-discipline.

In this book I will talk about the challenges we all encounter in our lives. I will suggest strategies that help us cope, and even flourish.

As a reader, you may come from a different culture and a different continent. You may speak a different language and live under different circumstances from those I describe.

However, I am sure that you face many challenges that could be turned into opportunities to become stronger. I hope my story and examples will help you to think for yourself, to find your own strategy.

Above all, I wish you to receive the hope I send to you, for the future of our world, living together in peace.