Part 1 of 4: Solution To Overcoming Your Mental Barriers and Cultivating A Winner's Mentality
The strange secret I learned from a Senegalese taxi cab driver in Manhattan that re-wired my brain and smacked me back to reality (these words of wisdom will help you finally put aside your fears and live the life of your dreams)
It started at 2 p.m. on Saturday in New York City, in the heat of August.
The blistering sun seemed to be piercing right through my skin, completely ignoring the fact that I was sitting in the backseat of a covered taxi cab.
I guess it didn't help that I was also leaning smack dab up against the window.
In any case, I was understandably not in a good mood.
The heat only added to the anger and anxiety boiling in my brain from being stuck in weekend Manhattan traffic, where a 15 minute drive can easily turn into a 50 minute nightmare.
For a moment, I even entertained the thought that a brisk walk would get me to my destination faster than this godforsaken taxi cab.
But alas, a walk would've taken me 40-50 minutes, and a long walk with luggage in tow in 95 degree heat just didn't sound all too appealing at the moment.
I did have to come to terms, though, with the fact that time was winding down fast.
I now had less than 15 minutes until my 2:49 p.m. train to Long Island left from Penn Station.
Missing the train meant missing a ride to a relative's wedding out on the island.
And this relative was also a friend from my youth, whom I hadn't seen in over 8 years at this point. Understandably, I had zero intention of missing the festivities.
So when my seemingly knowledgeable cab driver drove 2 blocks past 34th street, where we should've made a turn, I flipped out.
I unleashed a torrent of anger, directed solely towards him.
"HEY! You missed the turn!! I thought I told you I'm going to Penn Station and that I'm running late. Are you freakin' kidding me?!?!"
He replied, "Hey man there's some traffic that way since they blocked ---"
Before he could finish his sentence, I responded with:
"I don't give a shit what they blocked off. You probably have no clue what the heck you're talking about. Do you even know where Penn Station is??"
What happened next was akin to being backhanded by an angry Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his prime, hopped up on steroids.
My cab driver screamed back with a fervent zeal that I'll remember for years to come.
"HEY, you better calm down man. Why are you so mad?? You'll catch your damn train. And if you don't, then what? What are you going to do? Huh? Huh?? What's going to happen to you if you don't catch your train? Are you going to die? Is it the end of the world? What is it??"
"You're young, man. Just chill. Everything will be OK. Be happy. You're alive. Don't worry so much. So much goes wrong in this world. You never know what can happen, and you're going to drive yourself crazy for missing a damn train?"
"It's sad, but tragedies happen all the time. For all you know man, that train could crash and you could die. Then what? Then you'll have wished you didn't make it there on time."
"You just don't get it. Life isn't always so simple. You work so damn hard for a brand new car, and then you get hit by a truck when you turn the corner. You kill yourself over a girl that you love, and then something goes wrong, and she takes all your money. You lose everything. Every moment is a blessing. Work hard, be the best you can, help your family and pray. Just pray and accept that everything happens for a reason. If you miss the train, god has a reason for it. People run like crazy to catch their plane and then it drops out of the sky. Relax, be calm, be positive.
Everything will be ok.
"And look, man. If you don't die in this crazy way, there is only one thing that will get you.
Stress. Stress is the killer."
Then, he ended with something that I'll never, ever forget.
"I saw this with my kids too. You just never know what will happen. I mean you can think life is so good, and you build a home with a beautiful wife and your kids. And then it all burns to the ground. You never know, man. Treat every moment like a blessing. Like it's your last."
I was floored.
I didn't know what to think of when he said that. I still don't.
I especially zeroed in on what he said last. I don't know for sure if the "house burning down" was just another of his examples, lost in the mix of the other points he was trying to get across.
Or if it was his reality.
And while I regret to say it, I do think that this last example was his reality. I didn't have the heart to ask further but, from the way in which he said it plus based on other things he told me, it seemed that he had lost his wife and children in a house fire.
And both in the moment, and even looking back now as I write this, I truly believe this man has seen some terrible, terrible things.
Beyond losing his whole family, I believe this man has seen more death and faced more pain than 95% of us.
That everything he loved and cherished was taken from him.
And that he realizes all he has left is himself, and the opportunity to be happy. The opportunity to enjoy life in the moment, and to treat every moment like it's his last.
What he told me about his background corroborates my understanding of his experience even more.
He told me that he originally was born in Senegal. That he was raised and lived there for quite a long time, and that he was married and had 2 boys there. And that he had now been in American for 25 years.
From what I surmised, he looked to be about late 50s, maybe early 60s. So I figured he had left Senegal in his mid-20s or early 30s. In my analysis of this conversation, I kept coming back to remembering his use of the past tense at certain times. I especially cued in on him saying that he "was married, and had 2 boys in Senegal".
It hurt to hear this, and it hurts to look back at it now. But when I combine this past tense
statement and the house fire example he gave me...a strong part of me thinks that sometime in his late 20s, before he came to America, he lost his wife and 2 boys in a fire. Otherwise, I am almost certain he would've said "I have 2 boys".
You see, behind the thin, wiry, gentle-faced Senegalese man, with curly, graying hair, I saw a man who seemed as if he had been to hell and back.
And this pain showed itself, at its greatest, during his long, powerful talk.
He was, at his core, a man who really wanted to be happy, and who really wanted to see other people happy.
And on this day, he just couldn't take seeing a young, 24 year old man like me being so stressed, worried and rushed to catch a train that may kill me for all I know.
His riveting story shocked me, and taught me an innumerable number of lessons. It was a divine miracle in my eyes to have the opportunity to hear this man talk.
This 30 minute cab ride turned out to be one of the most powerful moments of my life, and it has significantly impacted the way I think, talk, act, and live.
This man drilled into my head many things that I had heard hundreds of times, but could never apply...
He taught me that I really don't know what life will bring me, but that I will be OK in the end.
He taught me that life is a miracle, and it is something to be cherished.
He taught me to take nothing for granted, and to always be grateful for the people and things I have in my life, no matter how insignificant they may seem at times.
He taught me that I have to do my absolute best in each and every moment, and to be the best person I can be, both for myself and others.
And he taught me that everything will be OK, as long as I relax, be positive, and have faith.
That no matter what happens, I'll be OK. That when I'm facing an insurmountable task, or I feel like I can't do anything right, everything will be OK.
That there's no need to worry about things that are completely out of my control. And in doing this, I can let go.
I can let go of any pressures or insecurities, and just relax and do what I have to do to overcome my fears, follow my passions, and live the life of my dreams.
And in doing so, I can finally be happy, joyous, and free.
The way I see it, if a man who lost everything can still find a way to be happy, there's no reason I can't either, there's no reason you can't, and there's no reason anyone in the world can't. If we change the way we think, we can change our lives completely, even in the worst of circumstances.
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