Are overwhelming problems stopping you from pursuing important goals?
If so, I’d like to tell you about Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist and best selling author.
When he enrolled at Oxford at 17, he took up rowing and was athletic enough to compete in boat racing at the intercollegiate level.
But about the time he turned 20, he noticed he’d become a bit clumsy and even occasionally fell down. When the problem continued over the next year, a family doctor referred him to a specialist who sent him to a hospital for testing.
For two weeks, the hospital tested him thoroughly. They ran electrodes into him, injected fluid into his spine and took muscle samples. When they finished; they gave him devastating news.
He was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (often called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease).
For people suffering from ALS, the results are horrific. Within a few years, they lose use of their muscles and eventually become entrapped in a paralyzed body, dependent upon others to help them with their most basic needs, including bathroom functions.
They breathe through a hole in their throats and death often results within five years of the onset of the disease.
But at the time of his diagnosis, Hawking had fallen in love he and Jane Wilde became engaged. Despite his problems, they married, which brought him great joy but also meant instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself; he had to get a job.
To earn a living, he got a research fellowship within the Cambridge Colleges and later earned his Ph.D. and became a Cambridge Professor.
As his disabilities grew worse, housing became an obstacle. Fortunately, the Hawkings found a home near the campus that could meet his special needs and rented it.
And despite the severity of his problems, they began to raise a family that grew to three children.
The Hawkings were happy in that home and decided to buy it and fix it up, when another obstacle presented itself.
To pay for the home, they applied for a mortgage but were turned down by everyone because the severity of his health problems made him a bad risk. Even Cambridge wouldn’t loan to them. That rejection was especially hurtful to Hawking.
But with persistence, they found a lender who would loan to them and they bought the home.
As time passed, Hawking’s condition worsened and that home became largely inaccessible to him. However, he was now a well known, highly regarded Cambridge Professor.
Rather than reject him as they had before, Cambridge provided the ground floor of a house they owned that had large rooms and doors wide enough to accommodate his electric wheel chair.
Later, when Hawking could no longer feed himself or get in or out of bed without help, students lived with them rent free and assisted Jane in helping him. Eventually the students were replaced by 24 hour nursing care.
To breathe, Hawking had a tracheotomy and he could no longer speak. Yet even that didn’t stop him. A computer expert created software to run a speech synthesizer to let him communicate by using a hand switch, or by using his head or eye movements. He has spoken with a synthesizer for many years.
What is Hawking’s response to his physical problems? “I am quite often asked: How do you feel about having ALS? The answer is, not a lot. I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many.”
Despite the severity of his problems, Hawking at the age of 64 is a renowned physicist who has authored best selling books and written dozens of scientific papers. He continues to teach and as a highly popular speaker, continues to travel.
And one more thing: He and Jane have been married for over 40 years and are now experiencing the joy of being grandparents.
Success Tip of the Week: Your problems may not be as bad as Hawking’s, but still depress and overwhelm you. If you could find a little joy and a bit of self-confidence and give yourself a gentle nudge to go forward, you may be surprised at how much it will temper your negative feelings and help to lead you to the fulfillment you’ve been seeking.
In the next KazanToday, People sometimes thoughtlessly say, “Count your Blessings.” But that’s actually a very powerful statement as you’ll see when we count some.