I remember thinking, “Well, when you put it that way, I don’t have any problems or excuses.”
The man on stage was one of my peers in the National Speakers Association. He was sharing a powerful message about overcoming the hardships we encounter. If there was anyone qualified to speak about that subject, it was unequivocally him.
Charlie was from the Kansas City area and had graduated from Shawnee Mission High School. He then went on to the U.S. Naval Academy and earned his wings to fly. It was a dream come true for a farm kid from the Midwest.
He started flying F-4 Phantom jets and was assigned to the USS Kittyhawk. Then on his 75th combat mission over Vietnam, the dream turned into a nightmare. A surface to air missile hit his plane, and he went down over Hanoi. Charlie became a POW and was held captive for 2,103 days. He was tortured and confined in an 8-by-8 foot cell.
He deliberately paced back and forth as he retold the story from the stage. “Three steps to the wall,” he turned, “and three steps back.”
The cruelty, the loneliness, the sounds of other prisoners being beaten. Truly a horrific experience.
Capt. Charlie Plumb said the most important thing he learned was that as humans, our greatest struggle is not the confinement of an 8-by-8 foot cell, but the 8″ between our ears. What we choose to think about, the messages that we replay in our minds, and a negative perspective can captivate our spirit.
We tend to think of our circumstances much more limiting than they are. We also have the capability of focusing our God-given mindset on the good that is within and around us. Instead of dwelling on the horrors, we can be free to hope, to create, to grow, and to help our fellow prisoners.
It may be hard to see any hope in your life right now. Everything may be overwhelming. However, it’s not an 8-by-8 foot cell.
~ Steven Iwersen, CSP
Copyright 2020, Steven Iwersen. Steven is the author of Porcupine Philosophy: 365 Leadership Points to Ponder and The Porcupine Principles: How to Move Prickly People to Preferred Outcomes.