Nothing but Problems

Nothing but Problems

From A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Nothing but Problems

The man who has no problems is out of the game.

Elbert Hubbard

On Christmas Eve 1993, Norman Vincent Peale, the author of the all-time bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking, died at age 95. He was at home surrounded by love, peace and tender care. Norman Vincent Peale deserved nothing less. His positive-thinking ministry had brought peace and renewed confidence to generations of people who realized from his sermons, speeches, radio shows and books that we are responsible for the condition we’re in. Since he felt God did not make junk, Norman reminded us that we have two choices every morning when we wake up: we can choose to feel good about ourselves or choose to feel lousy. I can still hear Norman clearly shouting out, “Why would you choose the latter?”

I first met Norman in July 1986. Larry Hughes, who was president of my publishing company, William Morrow & Co., had suggested we think about writing a book together on ethics. We decided to do that, and the next two years working with Norman on The Power of Ethical Management was one of the greatest delights I have ever had in my life.

Ever since that first meeting, Norman had a great impact on my life. He always contended that positive thinkers get positive results because they are not afraid of problems. In fact, rather than thinking of a problem as something that is negative and ought to be removed as quickly as possible, Norman felt problems were a sign of life. To illustrate that point, here is one of his favorite stories, one I have used frequently in my presentations:

One day I was walking down the street, when I saw my friend George approaching. It was evident from his downtrodden look that he wasn’t overflowing with the ecstasy and exuberance of human existence, which is a high-class way of saying George was dragging bottom.

Naturally I asked him, “How are you, George?” While that was meant to be a routine inquiry, George took me very seriously and for 15 minutes he enlightened me on how bad he felt. And the more he talked, the worse I felt.

Finally I said to him, “Well, George, I’m sorry to see you in such a depressed state. How did you get this way?” That really set him off.

“It’s my problems,” he said. “Problems—nothing but problems. I’m fed up with problems. If you could get rid of all my problems, I would contribute $5,000 to your favorite charity.”

Well now, I am never one to turn a deaf ear to such an offer, and so I meditated, ruminated and cogitated on the proposition and came up with an answer that I thought was pretty good.

I said, “Yesterday I went to a place where thousands of people reside. As far as I could determine, not one of them has any problems. Would you like to go there?”

“When can we leave? That sounds like my kind of place,” answered George.

“If that’s the case, George,” I said, “I’ll be happy to take you tomorrow to Woodlawn Cemetery because the only people I know who don’t have any problems are dead.”

I love that story. It really puts life in perspective. I heard Norman say many times, “If you have no problems at all—I warn you—you’re in grave jeopardy—you’re on the way out and you don’t know it! If you don’t believe you have any problems, I suggest that you immediately race from wherever you are, jump into your car and drive home as fast but as safely as possible, run into your house, and go straight to your bedroom and slam the door. Then get on your knees and pray, ‘What’s the matter, Lord? Don’t you trust me anymore? Give me some problems.’”

Ken Blanchard

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