What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Bob is a friend of mine who needed a little help. I asked Bob to describe his childhood and his parents’ attitude around money. His dad was hard working, a good earner, practical, measured on the caring, but also a pushover. He was an engineer and worked for a large corporation in sales. His mom was a planner: hopeful, elegant, insistent, giving, psychic, and blameless. In the sixties, a strong job opportunity moved the family to California where Bob’s dad bought a house. Everything changed financially. The cost of living was much higher than Utah; the budget was tight. They couldn’t go out to eat unless they’d been very careful at the grocery store.
Bob was nine and good at math. He would go grocery shopping with mom and calculate the most economic sizes to purchase. This was before food labeling stickers. They made a good team.
Having a paper route was necessary to bring in extra money, and that meant buying a bike for deliveries. But Bob’s dad wouldn’t pay for it. Bob used meager savings from his allowances, but it wasn’t enough, so his dad made up the rest as a loan. A loan! Bob felt this was pretty harsh, and was emotionally hurt that his dad would treat this transaction so commercially. To this day, he still feels the sting.
Bob had other considerations that he felt justified his feelings. Bob was born with a physical disability. Within the first six years of his life, he underwent several operations to be able to walk. He was told he’d never be able to run or participate in sports. The bike was absolutely required for his mobility and to earn money.
As a young boy, Bob delivered for four different newspaper companies over a period of eight years, through all types of weather and on Sundays. His bike was a sturdy Schwinn and held the bags for the papers. You didn’t mess with his bike; he paid for his own repairs, and learned to make some of the repairs himself. It was gold, it was awesome, and it was his!
While Bob was paying off the bike loan, his dad re-named Bob’s savings book “Bob’s Debt” to remind him of his loan. When he mentioned this, I thought to myself, “This guy really made it tough for his son. Why would anyone put a name like that on a savings book?” No sooner did that thought come and go than I received a clear, almost immediate message. He did this so his son would learn how to take care of himself, no matter what. He saw how much pain and suffering Bob went through with his disability. He didn’t want his son to be vulnerable or dependent on anyone, especially because he wouldn’t be around forever to take care of him. It was his dad’s way of making him stronger.
When I mentioned this perspective to Bob to see if it resonated, he gasped. He had held resentment towards his father around this transaction so long that he finally let the words penetrate more deeply and started to cry. Bob had always felt he was a burden to his parents and felt he caused them pain from his disability; and on some level, didn’t feel worthy of their love. All of his resentment seemed to be washed away. Reliving his story from his father’s perspective was the healing salve he needed to let go.
Eventually, that bike paid for Bob’s car. He saved all of the income he made on that bike, repaid the loan, and over time, bought a car. Again, this car was incredibly important to him. It meant he could go anywhere with anyone at any time. It meant he wasn’t inhibited by his disability and wouldn’t be a burden to his family. It meant freedom.
Years passed, Bob went to college, and his father agreed to pay if he received As and Bs. He paid him $100 for an A and $35 for a B and Bob did well. After graduation, he married, had two beautiful children, and secured a sales job in a large corporation, like his dad. He was innovative, creating unique positions for himself, and maintained his prized freedom. He was esteemed by his company’s executives, earning a handsome salary.
Bob is retired now from the corporate world, and is a business coach with incredible psychic abilities (like his mom). However, he wasn’t charging enough, and in some cases, not being paid at all. Not because he wasn’t skilled, but because of his open-heartedness. There’s a big difference between being an employee all your life versus running your own business. So we talked about worthiness, not being any trouble to anyone, and the past resentment around his dad’s toughness. Understanding and releasing that story, Bob has made a huge shift in how he sees himself in business. He has gained clarity and confidence in creating a solid, strategic plan moving forward.