Tough Times Make Tough People

When Winfred Rembert was 19, he participated in a civil rights demonstration in Americus, GA.  The protest became violent, and Winfred was chased down a street by two counter protesters with shotguns.  Knowing he would be soon caught, he jumped in a car and drove off.  He was later captured and placed in jail.

He remained in jail for over a year with no charges filed against him.  He managed to escape from jail but was quickly recaptured.  The police took him out of town, stripped him of his clothes and prepared to lynch him.  He was partially castrated but avoided the lynching.  This was 1967 and no charges were ever brought against the police.

Winfred was returned to jail where he remained for 7 years.  While in jail, he learned how to work leather.  He made small leather items such as billfolds.  But the leather working was combined with his fondness for drawing to create a future for Winfred.  He would carve and paint pictures on leather.  Rather than capture idyllic scenes, he chose to depict scenes from his life.  His first piece sold for $300.  Eventually, his works sold for much more with the highest priced item going for $80,000.  Museums began to display his work.  You can see one of his works here:

Winfred Rembert made the most of a horrible experience.  Most of us just want to forget the difficult times in our lives.  But often these difficult times can lead to new beginnings or create value shaping events which define us.

Presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, in her book Leadership in Turbulent Times describes how Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson used challenging moments in their lives to develop their leadership skills.  They used their experience to lead our nation through some of the worst moments in our history.

When we go through tough times, we need to ask ourselves:  “How will this make me a better person?” Rather than losing faith in ourselves and begrudging our situation, we need to see the situation as an opportunity to build our character.  Spend an hour online and read about those whom you admire.  In nearly every case, you will find that they took a challenging moment to become the person we know them to be.

The best way to deal with a bad experience is to make the following promise to yourself:

  • I won’t whine.
  • I won’t be resentful.
  • I won’t blame others.
  • I will learn from this.
  • I will have faith in myself.

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“Our bad memories and our bad experiences are what make us who we are and what make us grow and allow us to learn, if we choose to see the lessons in those experiences.”
– Elijah Wood (Actor who played Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings series)

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