Ever heard of the Fuller Brush Man? You know, those legendary guys who came knocking on the front doors of America, selling brushes, mops and cleaners?
I was one of them, back in my early twenties.
I had just quit a job in an employment agency after four-and-a-half very long, very stressful days.
Confined for eight hours a day to an incredibly tiny cubicle, ear pressed to the phone calling through the yellow pages trying to find job listings, then on my very first interview having to lie to a girl about a fictitious job the boss had advertised to pull in applicants. (Can you say bait-and-switch?)
That girl knew I was lying, and when she walked out the door, I walked out, too, almost on her heels.
So when I started a new job selling door-to-door, it seemed like heaven in comparison. No cubical - I was outdoors in the June sunshine and balmy breezes. No telephone - I was talking to people face to face.
And no lying. If I didn't think a product measured up, I simply didn't put it in my case; I only showed what I thought was the best.
I was ecstatic from the first minute of the first day.
Every house I walked up to, my heart sang and I said over and over to myself, "I am SO-O-O-O-O-O glad to be out here and not trapped in that cubical."
I was deliriously happy to be where I was. Overjoyed to be doing what I was doing.
And sell? Man, I sold just about half of all the people I talked to. Back in the early sixties, a hundred-dollar-day was the holy grail of Fuller Brush men. Sales people would stay out till eight or nine o'clock every night trying to nail that hundred dollar mark.
But not me. I knocked off every afternoon about five or five-thirty with $120 or $130 worth of receipts in my order book.
Then, after a few weeks, something quietly changed. My sales began to sag. Each morning saw me going out a little less enthusiastic. I spent increasing amounts of time trying to figure out what was going wrong.
After a few months, I left that job, utterly disappointed in myself.
Afterwards I wondered how I could have taken something so obviously perfect for me and messed it up so badly.
In fact, that question followed me, haunted me for twenty long years. Eventually, though, I figured it out.
The secret had been right in front of my nose all those years, but just as a fish can't see the water it swims in, I had been unable to repeat that undeniable success.
My big secret? It was simple, really.
I had filled my mind with thankfulness - undiluted gratitude - unreserved joy at being right where I was, doing exactly what I was doing.
Then, twenty years later, when I started being thankful again - but deliberately, this time - my life changed back.
Suddenly, all sorts of "serendipitous" things started occurring. People I barely knew started bringing me terrific opportunities.
Mark this: Joyous stuff started happening AFTER I went back to being overjoyed with my life.
Make no mistake - there were still challenges that needed to be dealt with. But I stopped seeing "problems" as personal affronts deliberately sent by life to impede me. In fact, with the right mindset, I couldn't see problems at all. Instead, they looked like fascinating puzzles to solve and games to enjoy sorting out.
And even now, anytime I feel life becoming a bit too stressful, a bit too heavy, a bit less fun, I make myself stop and - against all logic - I start looking at all the stuff around me and calling it good.
And yes, I even make myself say, "I am SO-O-O-O-O glad to be right here, right now." And I don't stop saying that until I can feel it taking hold.
Now, I realize that on the surface, there is absolutely no logic to this practice... except for one tiny thing.
So if you decide to try this approach, do this: make a list of all your major problems and start through them, one at a time, saying, "I am so glad this is happening. This is actually very interesting now that I look at it closely, and I'm lucky to be here so I can gain some great new knowledge from this. I am SO-O-O-O-O glad."
Warning: you've got to put some real oomph into it. Some real feeling. Just saying the words without working up some enthusiasm is like writing a letter without a pen in your hand. You're going through all the motions, but no communication takes place.
So do that, and keep doing it till it starts taking hold.
How can you tell when it's taking hold?
There are two signs. First, you begin to lose that tense, blocked, frustrated feeling. And second, your life starts working FOR you instead of AGAINST you. Lots of little things start going right instead of wrong. People begin treating you like you've always wanted them to.
And you go to bed each night feeling like you've just had a wonderful day.
If you've tried and tried all the logical stuff and your life is still a mess, try being illogical. Try being thankful for everything you've got.
Including the mess.
And you'll find, just as I have, that indeed there is a miracle in every mess.