Look For The Positive

Boys Lemonade Stand

When our son Nathan was six and his brother Nolan was four, they decided to open a lemonade stand for a day with their cousins in front of our home. It was an extremely hot and humid Texas day and I felt sorry for them as they stood patiently waiting for their first customer. Time dragged on, and the situation for turning a profit looked bleak. Sweat was pouring off their faces as they continued to wait for someone to come. I couldn't take it anymore, so I drove down to their "PaPa's," who lived down the street and explained their plight. A businessman himself, my father was very sensitive to their situation. He said he would come and buy something from them.


A short time later he pulled into our driveway right beside the lemonade stand. The kids were very excited since he was their first customer of the day. The boys were surprised when he ordered four glasses of lemonade from them. As he waited for them to pour his order, Nathan said, "PaPa you are going to have to move your truck out of our driveway." A little surprised he asked, "Why do I need to move?" Nathan continued, “Because we’re expecting a lot of business here any minute."

In reality, there was no rush of business to the lemonade stand after “PaPa” moved his truck as Nathan had anticipated. The boys did have a couple of customers stop by later in the day but were disappointed after having their hopes of getting rich shattered. Most of us have had multiple experiences when our “brilliant” ideas did not work out as we had hoped and planned. After experiencing a few failures many begin to look at life through a pessimistic lens.

Harry S. Truman once said: “A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” So was the lemonade really a failure as a pessimist would view it? Not at all if viewed with the proper lens! That experience provided those boys with the opportunity to learn valuable lessons at an early age. For instance, the boys got to set up their own stand, which should have taught them some basic planning skills. They made their own signs and set their own price teaching them a little about advertising and marketing. They were able to talk business with a few adults teaching them valuable communication and sales skills. They also hopefully learned that a business location with very little traffic is usually not a good idea, even if they got a good deal on it. They also had the opportunity to learn that you would have to sell a lot of lemonade at 25 cents a glass to get rich. College students spend thousands of dollars in tuition money for the opportunity to learn the kind of lessons these boys learned that day. To go along with all the lessons learned, they were able to spend some quality time with their cousins and drink some cold lemonade on a hot day. And in the end, they both ended up working in the business world despite their initial failure. 

Unfortunately, many fail to learn lessons and view these experiences as a waste of time because no money was made. Perhaps the reason you don’t see many successful pessimists is because they are convinced that nothing they try will work, so why try! They let their lemonade stand experiences of the past kill any desire to take risks in the future. If you are to be successful in life it will most likely not happen by sitting around being pessimistic. When failure does come, we should examine closely and ask not only why they failed but also what lessons we have learned from the experience.

A few years ago a friend named Steven shared an experience he had in high school that was life changing. The year was 1976, the 200th year of our country’s existence. His best friend Brad told him about auditions that were being held for a national bicentennial choir that would perform in Washington D.C. during the celebrations. The choir would consist of a few guys and girls from each of the 50 states, so competition would be stiff. Steven told him that he didn’t want to try out because they probably wouldn’t make it anyway. Brad comment had a dramatic effect on Steven that day and he never forgot the lesson. Brad said, “Steven we have already not made it. Let’s go try out and see if we can make it.” What an incredible powerful thought. Those ideas that you feel prompted to try as part of your mission in life have already failed if they are never tried. Why not see if they will work! As it turned out, both Steven and Brad were selected to participate in the choir and made a memory of a lifetime because they tried.

How many of us never open our lemonade stands because we are so afraid they will fail? Remember they have already failed if they remain in your head and are never tried! Why not try them to see if they will work. There is, of course, a possibility that your ideas will not work out exactly the way you had hoped. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen had their manuscript “Chicken Soup For the Soul” rejected by over 140 book publishers. That is not exactly what most people would call success. However, they took the optimistic approach because they were on a mission and persevered until a publisher took a chance on their book idea. The book ended up selling over eight million copies and was translated into 41 languages. Their idea started a series of self-help books that have now sold over 100 million copies. But what if no one had ever published the books? That certainly would not mean they were failures if they learned valuable lessons from their experience. Someone has said: “The optimist, as you probably know, is a person who, when he wears out his shoes, just figures he’s back on his feet.”

Lessons Learned
• Experiences that appear to be failures are not if you learn valuable lessons in the process.
• If you do not try those things you feel impressed to try they have already failed.
• When you actually try to accomplish your dreams they may actually work, so why not try!
• It always helps to stay positive even when you are sweating and things look bad.
• If you lose time or money trying ideas that you feel are part of your mission count it as tuition.

Challenge
Make a list of the things that you feel you need to do in life. What are the risks involved in time, money etc. to implement them? Can you afford the cost of the tuition involved? Are there valuable lessons that could be learned if things didn’t work out the way you hoped?

Rise Above Adversity

 

 

Rise Above Adversity

 

In the town square of Enterprise, Alabama stands a 13-foot monument depicting a woman in a flowing gown with her arms stretched above her head holding a larger than life replica of a boll weevil. It is the only known monument in the world dedicated to an insect. A historical marker at the site reads:

Boll Weevil Monument
December 11, 1919
"In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the herald of  prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County,  Alabama."

 

How can a destructive insect be a “herald of prosperity” and why would a city pay a large sum of money to import a monument from Italy in its honor?

The reason: Coffee County and the city of Enterprise were almost totally dependent on cotton crops for the welfare of their economy. In 1918, a large infestation of boll weevils destroyed a majority of the cotton crops throughout the entire region. Most of the farmers in the area were financially devastated and near bankruptcy. How then was the boll weevil seen as the “herald of prosperity” by the local residents? The answer to that question is fascinating and can teach us all valuable lessons about how to rise above the adversity that we all face at times.  

To understand the significance of the monument, it helps to know that there was a great migration to Alabama in the early 1800s. The settlers were in search of cheap fertile land to grow their crops. Included in those who came were my maternal third great grandfather, William Henry Seal, who arrived in the early 1820s from South Carolina. At the same time my paternal third great grandfather, Samuel Ross Thompson, left Georgia in the early 1820s also looking for new opportunities in Alabama.

Many of those who came in those early days did so to raise cotton on the fertile land of the south. By 1849, Alabama was leading the nation in the amount of cotton produced and became known as the “Cotton Kingdom.” Large plantations sprang up typically ranging from 500 to 1,000 plus acres which brought wealth to the owners and to the entire state. Because of cotton, Alabama became one of the ten wealthiest of the 30 states that existed at the time.  Beautiful plantation homes that still dot the area were built during this time of prosperity. All of this was made possible because slaves provided the workers for the labor-intensive cotton fields.  By the time Alabama seceded from the Union in 1861, the state population included over 435,000 slaves, nearly half of the population. After the Civil War plantation owners turned to sharecropping to provide the workers needed for cotton production.

The cotton industry continued to dominate the economy of Alabama at the turn of the century until the boll weevil infestation of 1915. The pesky insect had been migrating northward for years from Mexico until it reached the fertile cotton lands of the south. When the cotton crops of Coffee County and the city of Enterprise were destroyed, some residents gave up and left the area. Others followed the counsel given in Psalms 107:6 and “….cried unto the Lord in their trouble” and stayed. 

What happened next is a great lesson for those who seek answers from a higher source concerning the troubles we all face. Neal A. Maxwell said: "The winds of tribulation, which blow out some men's candles of commitment, only fan the fires of faith of others." It became obvious to the local farmers who stayed that things would have to be done differently since the boll weevil was not going away. In 1916, an area banker and businessman named H. M. Sessions suggested to an indebted farmer named C.W. Baston that he switch from cotton to peanut farming. C.W. did just that and with his first year’s crop was able to completely pay off  his debt. Seeing his success, other farmers planted peanuts the next year in their cotton fields. Within two years, Coffee County became the leading producer of peanuts in the nation. Many farmers became wealthy from their peanut crops and the city of Enterprise and Coffee County thrived again because of it.  

In 1917 H.M. Sessions installed a peanut sheller in the back of a mule buying facility located on Main Street in Enterprise. Latter with two of his sons the Sessions Company, Inc., was formed and began buying peanuts from the local farmers and processing it into peanut butter and refined peanut oil. Today the Sessions Company is a major employer in the area and is still located on Main Street in Enterprise. If you ever have a chance to visit the area, be sure to take the loop around Enterprise called Boll Weevil Circle. 

It was local business owner Bon Fleming who first proposed the idea of erecting a monument to pay tribute to the boll weevil for the insect’s contribution to the economy of the area. By doing so Bon and the citizens of Enterprise taught us many valuable lessons. Perhaps most of us looking back on our lives have experienced things that we would not choose to happen again for a million dollars. However, it is interesting that many of us would not trade those same experiences for a million dollars because of the things we learned going through them.

We all face adversity of various kinds and degrees in life. How you and I respond when trouble comes will often determine our quality of life. Some become better when adversity strikes while others become bitter. Adversity appears to accelerate the direction we are already headed. My ancestors lived 130 miles west of Enterprise when the boll weevil infestation hit. They were affected along with everyone else in the region. Unfortunately, at least for their financial situation, they never planted peanuts and remained very poor. However, our family learned lessons in humility from that trial. 

Lessons Learned
▪ When adversity comes we should always ask what lessons we can learn from it.
▪ Adversity can make us bitter or better and which it will be is totally up to us.
▪ We should be grateful for the adversity in life that has made us better people.
▪ It is possible to make lemonade when life gives us lemons.
▪ Sometimes we need to change the way we have done things in the past to make progress.  

Challenge
What are the boll weevils in your life that are destroying your happiness crops? It is time to build a monument to honor them. I challenge you to think of those things that have happened in your life that have brought you pain or misery. Now draw a monument of a woman in a flowing gown with her hands over her head holding a symbol of your challenge. When you have your monument drawn, write a message of gratitude to honor the pesky “insect” that taught you lessons. Next, spend some time pondering what your own version of a peanut crop will be. It is time to stop letting your boll weevils hold you back and start thinking about how to plant, harvest and sell your peanut crop.  

 

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