Deb Sofield


The Past is a Place of Reference Not a Place of Residence

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I had a client tell me about a family situation that happened while she was in high school, in which, due to unforeseen circumstances and due to the economy, her family had to declare bankruptcy, and, in the blink of an eye, their lives had changed. Although that would be traumatic for any young person, this young lady’s parents held the family together, vowing to rebuild and continuing to provide to the best of their ability for their kids. Instead of allowing that experience to define this amazing young woman’s future, she simply used it as a place of reference in her life, and not as her residence. She picked up the pieces of her new life and put them back together again the best way she could, and, from there, she graduated high school and college and went into the work force, and a few weeks ago that young lady was crowned as our new Miss South Carolina.

I am the interview coach, and I have watched this amazing young woman pursue her dream of becoming Miss South Carolina, and after she was called to the top 16top 10top 5…the judges saw what many of us have seen in her life–a determination not to let her past define her future. And as we work together toward Miss America, this kid is going to continue to pursue the life she’s worked for and imagined. This is not a young lady who was born with a silver spoon or had parents who could pay for all her gowns and shoes and interview outfits. No, this is someone who mapped out the costs, laid out a plan, and diligently pursued every aspect of what she could control and was rewarded for it. She was considered by some to be a dark horse in the pageant, because she came with what she had–raw talent, great looks and an intelligent mind, with speaking skills to match.

I want to use the idea that your past is simply a place of reference and not a place of residence in your life…if you’ll make it so.

You and I know so many people who say they can’t go on, because of what happened in their past; it seems to be the excuse they cling to when life isn’t what they say they want. You hear these people tell you all the things they can’t do, because of some issue in their past or present that “keeps them down.”  These are folks who tell you over and over that it is always someone else’s fault. Someone else’s fault they haven’t achieved, someone else’s fault they…you can fill in the blank, because, if you’re like me, you’ve heard every excuse in the book, and, if you’re like me, you are not impressed with any of their excuses.

You know what I have always marveled at? That so many successful people I know of came from nothing–and I mean nothing. Some were orphans, others were abandoned at a young age, others didn’t have shoes or a bed or a home or anyone to check up on them, and, yet, at some point in their life, they figured out how to beat the odds. Oh, they remember their past–they just don’t let it define them, and they certainly don’t live there now.

Now I contrast that to others I know who were born with a platinum spoon in their mouth, who now “work” (and I put that in quotes) at the family business, because no one in the real world would ever hire their lazy self-absorbed, half-witted, not wanting to work self; for them, their past is a place of residence that they are unwilling to leave.

I’m sure you’ve seen both within your network or some version of these two types of people, but let me encourage you to remind them that living in the past is not great for their future.

We’ve all made mistakes, but that should not define who we are today, and, if it does, you need to close that door and throw away the key… because your past should only be a place of reference, and not your residence.

A few weeks ago, I gave a list of some of America’s most famous people who we all know and who at some point in their lives were told to pack it up and go home, because they would never make it, and, while I am sure the cemetery is filled with almost famous people today, the world is filled with those who would not give up, no matter what they were told by others, and we re-tell their stories of success, to remind our generation and the next that opportunity is what you make of it.

You have choices–everyone does. Now you may not have a lot of choices, but today you made at least 100, from getting out of bed (and for those who are still in bed–it’s my 12:00 o’clock radio show–get out of bed), to what you ate for breakfast, to what you’re doing right now, and, I’m sure by tonight you’ll make 100 more choices. Oh you’ve got choices–it’s just a matter of what you’ll do with what you’ve got.

I have a friend–nicest guy ever–who I have watched for many years who is not great at business. For a time it looked like he was doing okay, because he was using other people’s money, but, the reality is, he’s a failure, and when you ask why he hasn’t been as successful as others in his family, he always says stuff like, Well, I learned from my dad and my dad didn’t teach me and my dad this and my dad that. It is so ridiculous because, 1. His father has passed away, 2. His father was successful in business, 3. He’s lazy. He just doesn’t see it, because he keeps busy with busywork and never gets real paying work done. And we all watch as he uses all his resources to pay others to do his work, because he likes to be the boss, so he’s always broke, and has gone through hundreds of thousands of dollars, because he’s just not good at business. And now the money has run out, and he is really in a bind and hurting, because he’s too old to make the money back and too tired to work the hours needed to be successful. He is so full of self-pride that he can’t see he is not successful, because he refuses to listen to advice and the wise counsel of others. He wanted to be his own boss, because he hates being told what to do and thinks he’s smarter than everyone else, and, the worst part is, he has thrown away a major part of his life by not living up to his ability, his calling and his family heritage, because he lives in the past and makes that his current residence…and not his reference to learn from and go and do and be successful. All who know him say the same thing, It’s a shame he is such a failure, when he could have had it all.

How about you? Are you making excuses for why you’re a failure? Yes, I said the word failure, because, as hard as it is to say, I don’t know any other way to describe what you’re not doing with your life.

You were made for more than this. You live in America where anything is possible, if you’ll apply yourself to the pursuit of success in whatever field that may be. Even if your past haunts you, your future doesn’t have to be that way. Even if you come from nothing, you can create your life to be anything you want. Even if no one believes in you—remember, you were created by a loving God who knows the plans he has for you.

You have a responsibility to get going. No one is going to do it for you. Hear me, NO ONE is going to help you be outrageously successful but you. Think hard, work hard, plan wisely and move past any issue from your past that is holding you back.

Remember my favorite lines: Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today. Don’t look back, you’re not going that way. You can’t start the next chapter, if you keep re-reading the last one. You can’t reach for anything new, if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk. Accept your past without regrets, handle your present with confidence and face your future without fear. You can’t climb the ladder, if you’re still clinging to the bottom rung. Trust yourself; believe the old tried and true saying of the inspirational speaker of yesteryear,Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, a classic for those of us in the inspirational business. He was famous for saying, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

Friends you’ve got to believe, take it on faith, that if you will work hard and daily move forward, one day you will look back and see just how far you’ve come. A few weeks ago I did a show taking the theme that, the reason most people give up is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go, instead of how far they have come.

Don’t be that person that gives up–that’s not who you are, and that is certainly not who were you born to be. And I believe that, if you will just use your past as a starting point for your future, you’ll be okay.

Please don’t give up, please don’t be discouraged by what you don’t have at this moment, and please consider that you can find your path forward and walk boldly towards your reward, but you have to keep moving, keep working, keep on keeping on, because your past is simply a place of reference, and not your place of residence; because you deserve better than that.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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