We always have a choice in how we are going to respond to any situation.
Yesterday I was thrown off my game because I chose to be rattled by a text in the morning and I let it consume me for a couple of hours: I discussed it with 3 friends and commiserated with my partner. I so wanted to be right!
What a colossal waste of time!
I’m reading “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday – a book Robert Greene suggests “…should be on the bedside of every future and current leader in the world.” You can read a summary here.
The chapter is Recognize Your Power and talks about the story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. At the height of his boxing career he was wrongly accused of an horrific crime he did not commit: triple homicide. He went on trial, and a biased bogus verdict followed – three life sentences.
Once inside he informed the guards that he was not giving up the last thing he controlled – HIMSELF.
I know you had nothing to do with the injustice that brought me to jail, so I’m willing to stay here until I get out. But I will not, under any circumstances, be treated like a prisoner – because I am not and never will be powerless.
Ryan tells us that instead of breaking down – as many would have done in such a bleak situation – Carter declined to surrender the freedoms that were innately his: his attitude, his beliefs, his choices….Was he angry about what happened? Of course. He was furious….he refused to rage. He would not wear a uniform, eat prison food, accept visitors, attend parole hearings or work in the commissary to reduce his sentence.
He was determined to leave prison not only free and innocent but a better and improved man.
It took nineteen years and two trials to overturn that verdict, but when Carter walked out of prison, he simply resumed his life. No civil suit to recover damages, Carter did not even request an apology from the court. Because to him, that would imply that they’d taken something of his that Carter felt he was owed. That had never been his view, even in the dark depths of solitary confinement. He had made his choice: This can’t harm me – I might not have wanted it to happen, but I decide how it will affect me. No one else has the right.
I decide how it will affect me.
In 2004, Carter founded the advocacy group Innocence International, and often lectured about seeking justice for the wrongly convicted. In February 2014, while battling prostate cancer, Carter called for the exoneration of David McCallum, a Brooklyn man who was convicted of kidnapping and murder and had been imprisoned since 1985.
In an op-ed article in the The Daily News, published on February 21, 2014 and entitled Hurricane Carter’s Dying Wish, Carter wrote about McCallum’s case and his own life :
If I find a heaven after this life, I’ll be quite surprised. In my own years on this planet, though, I lived in hell for the first 49 years, and have been in heaven for the past 28 years. . .To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all.
I later wrote in my journal –
I allowed a text to throw me off course…emotionally adrift – NOT GOOD! Next time I see myself reacting I will take a deep breath and distance myself. Remember to respond, not react.