The Courage to Believe

One of my favourite and perhaps most used quotes is by Henry Ford:

‘Whether you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t, you’re usually right’

I was recently asked to write a piece about hard times and the sense of hopelessness people are feeling from a Higher Perspective, and here it is. Once again I hope it inspires and serves as another reminder that no matter how hopeless, deflating or bleak our circumstances are, we always have choice and it is the choices we make each day, that shape our lives, remembering always that we are here to grow, create and experience life. Enjoy the adventure.

Back in 2008 my husband Brian was running his own panel beating business. He had served his time during the late 1980’s and worked for many years with a large and well known motor company in Dublin. During those years in Dublin Brian was highly respected for his skill and he was the ‘go to’ guy to do the job to perfection. He was also the first panel beater in Ireland to be trained in Germany on paint work & repair of Porsche 911. His reputation preceded him and he afforded a quiet confidence to continue each day to be the best he could be. In 2000 we relocated to set up home and begin our lives together in Wexford. After commuting for a couple of years he began to look for a new position closer to home. Word soon got out and he received several offers to work for other, smaller body shops not far from home. He accepted one of those offers and joined a new team in Wicklow.

One evening on his way home from work he was in a car accident. It was pretty bad smack. His car was rear ended at 70kph, the impact pushed his car over the other side of the road and he was hit a second time to the front by an oncoming car. By some miracle he was able to step out of his vehicle. The fire brigade and Garda at the scene both commented that they had seen vehicles with a lot less damage where the drivers had not been so lucky. Anyway, after 4 months he slowly began to tip away at cars again. A year later he opened a body shop from home. However working from a tiny shed at the end of one’s back garden was a long way from the state of the art, well equipped body shop he had ‘grown up’ in. He was also unknown in the Wexford area at the time, therefore, so as to acquire the work he charged very little. I remember many times looking out the living room window and seeing big lumps of tin that one could be forgiven for mistaking them for oversized squashed tins of beans being towed in for restoration and a couple of weeks later leaving the driveway, looking like brand new pristine works of fine skill that turned heads as they drove down the road. But working for pittens meant struggling to make an income. It was hard graft with little to show at the end of the week or month. Brian worked long days believing that this is what he had to do to make a living. It took a toll on his confidence. I always held the belief that he was top of his game, with regard to his skill, regardless of how dismal and miserable his working environment was. He had talent, a gift you might say. He knew cars inside out and knew what would work and how to do it. He was also an extremely hard working man. Most days meant 14/15 hours pulling and panel beating and painting those oversized tins of beans. Why did he give himself such hardship for all those years? Because, he believed that as long as he was working hard he was doing all of the right things. Regardless of the hit his confidence was taking as he yielded very little if anything by way of profit. Plus the next step was to either get another job, which was highly unlikely given it was the year the celtic tiger purred her last breath, 2008. Worse still, the dole queue. And even 14 hour days under a bean can was better than that in Brian’s eyes.

One day, we arrived home from Christmas shopping. Brian opened the post to find a whopper of a VAT bill and a bank statement. Neither were good news or a reflection of the outstanding work he was doing. At that moment, that very day he said the words I had wished he would say but never aired to him.

‘That’s it, I’m done’

They were his words. Just like that. Years of loss but trying. He was done. Admittedly in my heart I felt relief which was followed by joy and excitement of the new dawn that was about to begin. I had no idea what that was going to be or where it would take him but I knew it was better than this. As Brian felt a dismal defeat, rock bottom and miserable, I knew that he needed to see that his productivity and skill was not on the suitable platform for it to be productive and prosperous. This current platform was never going to yield self-realization. However, now, all Brian saw was doors closing. And we all know what happens when one door closes don’t we?

Over the coming days he closed shop and took care of all the administration etc necessary. And his next step was to face his dreaded fear: the social welfare line.

In that dark space, at the time Brian found it difficult to see that all of his skills and experience were transferable into something else. To him, like so many others, his skill and trade were all he ever knew. All he saw was the end of the road and the bottom of the social welfare line. As long as he chose to bang away at cars for next to nothing over the dole queue, those choices remained his only option. And until he chose differently he couldn’t see it differently.

It was probably one of the most difficult choices he has made in his career but he took the dreaded step and closed shop.

Now here’s the magic:

Once he made the choice to go to what he saw as rock bottom he ironically began to look up. With nothing left only time, skill and experience he began to explore his options as to what next. In doing so he realised there was only one, that was to re-train. And here we go again, the fears kick in. The thoughts of sitting in a classroom after almost 20 years terrified him. There wasn’t a hope he was going to do that (at first). In the beginning he found every reason why he couldn’t do it. He had no experience with computers, he dropped out of accountancy college after 4 days post leaving cert and started his apprenticeship because he wanted to learn hands on and overall at 37 maybe, he was ‘too old’

By January 2009 he commenced the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) and built confidence in using computers. He also enrolled in a 2 year course called the IAEA to commence September 2009 and completed all the levels of the ECDL whilst waiting on his course in motor engineering to start.

While he was researching the IAEA course I ran out of fingers and toes counting the amount of people who told him that the course was extremely tough and difficult to pass. It had a very high failure rate and most people who start drop out.

Me being me I continued to remind him of who he was. I also reminded him of his star sign. He’s an Aries and Aries HAS to win!.

Over the next 2 years he tended DIT Bolton Street every week. In the meantime we extended the house and welcomed the birth of our third daughter just days before his first year exams and during it all Brian studied extremely hard. He treated learning the syllabus somewhat like a full time job and it was his responsibility to learn as much and as best as he could. He even found himself enjoying his new venture!

He completed the IAEA course in May 2011, having sat his final exams. Now, we just needed to wait for his results and hope he passed.

Overall in 2009 Brian made very tough choices which involved him closing doors to paths of hope, facing his worst nightmares and his biggest fears. He did all of this at the lowest point in his career, at a time when his confidence was at its lowest to date. It’s always challenging to step outside of one’s comfort zone, even at the best of times, even when everything is going great and we feel confident within. But when you feel lady luck has sold out on you, the wolf of fear is knocking down your door and other than that quiet little voice whispering in your heart that says ‘You’ve got this,you can do it’, stepping into the unknown is hard, but one certainty about life is that it goes on and for the love of self within your heart, you have to too. You see everyone’s got talent. I believe each and every single one of us are born with unique gifts to offer this world. We just need to find them and use them that’s all.

One day in July 2011 we were all packed up to go on holiday for a few days. As we pulled out of the drive the postman pulled up and handed Brian the post. In it were his exam results. He nervously opened that large A4 envelope, his hands were shaking in the hope to God above that he passed his exams. I held my breath and crossed my toes in some way thinking it would make a difference to his results. At that moment it flashed in my mind that lunchtime two and a half years ago when we arrived home to a very different postal delivery, the whopper VAT bill and even worse bank statement and took a moment to observe the very different man sat beside me in the car as a result of the different choices he had made. Then I went back to crossing everything in the hope and prayer that his results reflected his hard work over these last three years. Even the 3 kids stayed miraculously silent for those moments.

And there it was:

2 exams

2 Distinctions.

At that moment and forever more that was more than enough. I cried, the kids learned what distinction was and were so proud of their daddy. And Brian, well he was speechless (probably for the first time in his life!) he could not believe it. This was one of his ‘one moments in time’, that the late Whitney Houston sings about, right now he was more than he ever thought he could be and he deserved it…..but it was about to get better.

A few months later he received an email from the IAEA. It was an invite to the Annual Black Tie Dinner Dance in the UK. The reason he was invited was because they wanted to give him the ‘Dudley Hewitt Award’. This award is given to the student who achieves the most outstanding results in the written and oral examinations across Ireland and the UK. He gratefully accepted the invitation.

For the record, in short Brian set up business as a motor engineer and over the last 5 years ABC MOTOR ENGINEERS has become quite successful and I thank God everyday for the courage in Brian’s heart to move forward in the bleakest of times.

The reason for this article is not to brag about my husband, although admittedly I am extremely proud. The reason is because so often, so many people find the reasons why they can’t do a thing. So often people stay in jobs that strangles their spirit every day because their afraid. They park their dreams and believe them to be illusions and chose ‘practical’ over potential. Telling themselves that this is just what i have to do to live. What a contradiction. And worse still, we unfortunately live in a society that supports that madness.

Take it from me. Where there is a will in your heart to succeed there is always a way. You’ve just got to listen to yourself and have the courage to face and overcome your fears and know that the God given power and way to do so lies within your heart. External resources will help you but the REAL power lies within your heart and your mind. That’s the Power that creates. Be it creating joy, success, prosperity, happiness, fulfilment or something else. The fundamental thing to remember is that YOU choose, not government, nor society, nor culture, YOU! Circumstances are something that we get to create and either way, be it happy or mundane the truth is that it is our choices along the way that creates those circumstances. Even when shit happens in our lives it is not what happens but it’s what we do with what happens that determines the states of joy or limitation we create for ourselves. The truth will always remain, One way or the other by your choice, you are creating.

From your heart, my friend, choose wisely

With love and faith that you take the time to create your dreams come true…

Hilary Connor.

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