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Turning The Tide

Your disadvantages and shortcomings can be used to turn the tables. With a little bit of reframing, you can actually turn what makes you feel insecure into an advantage.

I have three stories to share with you: one fictional story (100% made by me, pinky promise), a fable about marsupial evolution and a true story. All these stories have one thing in common. In each of them, the main character turns their flaw into an edge, an edge that proves vital to their success. Ollie the Overthinker Ollie was a kid, who suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). There are many variations of this mental illness because it manifests differently for everyone. For Ollie, OCD made him overthink everything and I mean literally everything. Should I eat the lettuce? What if it tastes bad? Okay so I won't eat it, but if I don't eat it my mom will get mad, and if my mom gets mad she will fight with dad, and then they will get a freaking DIVORCE AHHHH! But what if this lettuce has a flesh-eating bacteria?' Years of therapy, positive thinking and resilience helped Ollie manage his OCD to a point where it didn’t prevent him from enjoying his life. Ollie always wanted to be a pilot, ever since his day pretend co-piloting his uncle. Flying high and looking down the clouds was an amazing feeling. That feeling was an escape from his constant nag in his head. It was his solace in a life of agony. He enrolled himself to flight school. He did well in all of his examinations. He graduated with high distinctions. His career as a pilot was going smoothly, until his 67th flight. It was the best flight condition. Clear skies and steady winds, but unfortunately the biggest airplane malfunction in history was about to take place (if you think the story has a happy ending, you haven't watched enough Game of Thrones). Just as the plane reached the optimal altitude for the long flight, there was a BOOM. The plane gave a little shiver. The control panel stopped working. Ollie didn't know how fast or how high the plane was going. More importantly, he had no idea what went wrong. Did they lose the left engine? Did snow clutter their engine? Were they leaking? His co-pilot, a recent graduate from flight school named Paul, tried to contain himself and contact air traffic control. The radio screeched and stopped working. "I guess we can't contact air traffic control," Paul said, almost crying. "Things can't get any worse." Ollie calmly reached into his glove compartment and took out a notebook. It was titled "Over 500 Things That Can Go Wrong In This Plane". He threw the book to Paul and said, "Read scenario 298 on page 345 aloud." Paul opened the notebook with his trembling hands and realized the book contained nearly 678 emergency scenarios and what to do about them. The flight academy only taught 54 scenarios. Ollie's OCD made him constantly calculate every negative thing that can happen in a situation, which made his life a living hell, but he used his "disability" to make the most vast list of disaster scenarios and solutions. He was able to think of more ridiculous disaster scenarios than writers of a Michael Bay movie. Ollie performed each step calmly as Paul read them aloud. First, he turned off the autopilot. He didn't know how high or how low they were, so he pulled the stick to go higher. He cleaned the debris off the cockpit windows with his hand. He figured that he was still near the airport, so using his memory of the building, he maneuvered the plane to line up with the airport landing strip. Ollie couldn't slow the plane down to land, but because he thought about this scenario a million times, he knew exactly what to do. He was going to drift the plane to a stop and that’s exactly what he did. The landing was pretty rough, but everyone survived. After the landing Paul asked Ollie about his secret of staying so calm. Ollie simply said, "I spent my whole life afraid of everything. I reckon I just got tired of it, really." The Evolution of a Cute Marsupial A bear realized he wasn't fast enough to compete with his brothers and sisters for food. They would always eat the best stuff before he could reach it, so he said to himself, Well screw this. I will just eat from the tree that no one touches. So the bear started eating from the poisonous eucalyptus tree even though it made him feel sick. Over time he started enjoying the taste and adapted to digest the leaves properly. He met other bears who couldn't run fast and taught them his ways. Scientists call this family of bear, Phascolarctos Cinereus. You might know them as koalas.

Awww ....

Admiral Horatio Nelson (AKA Most Badass Champion of the Seas)

Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758 - 1805)

This name may seem unfamiliar to you if you don't Google pointless military history instead of studying for your finals. Nelson’s name brought shudders to even Emperor Napoleon. Nelson is the most celebrated naval admiral of all time. He kicked major ass in the seas for England during the Napoleonic Era. He was responsible for whooping Napoleon's ships so hard in Egypt, that Napoleon had to cancel dates with some cute pharaohs and retreat all the way back to France. He was also quite the risk taker, and was known as "a win or die guy” (literally). His notoriously risky attitude made him lose an eye and a hand during battle. He also had sea sickness, not the best condition for an aspiring sailor.

Minus one eye and one arm, and still: Admiral Horatio Nelson, Badass Champion of the Seas

ack in those days, Classism was all the rage and it was a disgrace to be seen in public missing a limb. Only poor peasants and crappy soldiers had missing limbs. The press poked fun at Nelson for his appearance and his sea sickness: "Horatio Nelson lost that battle because he couldn't see the enemy approaching ... from his BLIND SIDE! GET IT?! 'CAUSE HE'S BLIND FROM ONE EYE! LOL!".

The press, particularly the press from countries who were enemies of England, tried to get into Nelson's head and ruin his confidence so he would stop being courageous. They failed miserably.

The Battle of Copenhagen. The English forces were outnumbered and outgunned there was no way they could win. The British Admiral Parker (Nelson's superior) signaled a retreat. He wanted Nelson to fall back with his men. Nelson simply ignored the order and attacked the Danish fleet. Obviously he whooped their ass. The press later asked Nelson why he did not follow orders to retreat. Nelson said something like, "I didn't see the retreat flares from the Admiral. It is probably because I have a BLIND SIDE!"(That’s how the phrase "turning a blind eye" came to existence). Not only did Nelson acknowledge his flaw, he owned up to it.

Even though Nelson suffered from sea sickness and a missing limb, he did not let his impairment hinder his success. He threw up every now and then and still managed to be one of the finest Admirals of all time because his love for the sea surpassed his hate for his sickness. He also died in the most heroic way possible. After defeating the joined Spanish and French fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar, an enemy sniper shot him right on the chest. Before his death he said, "I have done my duty, farewell." When the king heard of his death he said "We certainly lost more than we won."

All of us have some type of flaw, disadvantage or shortcoming. Do these things have to hinder us from being successful? Absolutely not. Nelson was poised by sea sickness, literally the worst condition an aspiring sailor could have, but he did not let that stop him from achieving what he wanted. It doesn't matter how disadvantaged you are. If your love for what you want to achieve is huge, nothing can stop you. So go to the audition that says "Seeking 6 foot tall actors" when you are only 5' 10. Attempt to write articles even if you suck at Grammar *wink*. Go try singing even if you suck. You can do anything you want. No one can stop you other than yourself.

Embrace your flaws and wear it as a badge of honor like Nelson did. He showed off the fact that he lost his arm and eye. He used to say, "I am the real Lord Nelson. Look, I have the fin." Try to change what you can, but own up to what you can't change and accept it like your height. Instead of being that short guy who broods a lot, you can change your attitude towards your height. You can be that short guy who has a positively cheerful attitude! Who wouldn't want to hang out with that cool short guy?

Look at your disadvantage from another perspective like how Ollie turned his OCD into a supercomputer to generate disaster scenarios. Try looking at your disadvantage in a different light. They can be reframed as an advantage if you look at it from the right perspective.

Ollie's experience with OCD made him literally immune to fear. When the plane was crashing, his calm and collective demeanor saved his life. If you have been a victim of a horrible incident, try to see what that incident taught you. Did a bad break up teach you who to trust? Did a traumatic incident teach you how to help someone going through the same thing? Did a bad parent teach you what not to do to your future children?

Creative Desperation is a term coined by Adryan De Groot. It’s when someone is forced to take an unorthodox approach to solve a problem. In other words: Make way out of no way. What did the Koala do to avoid walking around a lot? He took the unorthodox approach by adapting to eat from that poisonous tree no one touches. Desperation isn't always a bad thing, it forces us to be more creative.

Who says we need to turn the tables? We can just flip them!

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