I was at dinner with my friend Elliot the other day. He was complaining about his life and his current situation, as he often does. Elliot happens to be on the current list to be a fireman for the FDNY. Without disclosing too much about Elliot’s life I will say that his life has not been an easy one. From a very early age there always seemed to be a dark cloud that followed him around. So here we were at dinner and Elliot was asking, part rhetorically, part really wanting some kind of answer, as to why his life has been so hard. I took a breath and asked Elliot, “can I say something to you without you getting offended?” Elliot looked at me and said in straight deadpan “you’re always offensive, so go right ahead!”
With the okay I proceeded, “the reason your life has been so rough is because you are supposed to fail.” Elliot nodded slowly contemplating what I had just said. I continued “every part of your life has been designed in a way for you to give up.” As Elliot contemplated slicing his wrist with the butter knife on the table I said “but there is a caveat to what I am telling you” Elliot looking hopeful said “what is that?” I smiled at Elliot and responded “it is all a lie!”
Elliot’s life, in fact, has not been the best but it has set him up for his destiny. It has been imperfectly perfect. Having endured all the hardships and thus, providing him with the opportunity to build resilience. The fires he faced in his life gave him the courage to fight fires in other people’s life. I hold firemen in high regard. They are indeed some of the bravest people in the world. It takes a certain character to go in a burning building and try to help save someone.
While at the dinner I asked the waitress for a pencil and on a napkin I began scribbling some math that gave a number which would change his outlook on life. The number was 10,400. The breakdown I gave Elliot when he becomes a fireman is if he helps save one person every week for a year over a twenty-year career is 1,040 people. If those 1,040 people Elliot helped go on to help 5 people in their lifetime that results in 5,200 people. If those 5,200 people go on to help 2 people that number would be 10,400. I told Elliot throughout his life he will be directly and indirectly responsible for helping 10,400 lives. Elliot jaw almost hit the floor.
x 52 weeks a year
x 20 year career
x they go on to help 5 people
x they go on to help 2 people
= 10,400 lives affected by Elliot
I know many of us have felt like Elliot, insignificant, thinking the world was against us, feeling like a loser. I will tell you first hand this is a lie. I once saw a movie and it said “the greatest lie the devil ever told was that he does not exist.” In reality the greatest lie the devil ever told was that you do not matter. Your life is not an accident. The trials and tribulations you have faced or will face are designed to prepare you for what you are supposed to do in this world. It helps to write your next chapter.
In retrospect, Elliot’s life is more like a movie. He is the underdog that we root for too win. His life is like Rocky or Rudy or The Mighty Ducks. We cheer these characters on while we eat popcorn and hi-five each other. Elliot’s life just needs that happy ending to mirror those movies we love. To put this in context, life is not a movie. We do not all get happy endings. You may not go on to be a fireman like Elliot. You may never knock out Apollo Creed or go on to affect 10,000 lives, but I want you to know your life, your existence is important. You may not yet know what your life is meant for and that is okay. For starters stop believing the lie and this will eventually lead to discovering the life you were meant to live.
Don’t believe the lie!