Ten years ago, I realized I knew a lot of people who had trouble dealing with change in their lives. I would get asked over and over, "What do you do when bad things happen, or disappointing things, unexpected and difficult things?" People wanted strategies for handling challenges in their lives.
I had grown up hearing the old adage, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade," which pretty much sums up the attitude of the ancient stoic philosophers toward the problem, but in my childhood no one who repeated these words also explained how to do it. How do you turn lemons into lemonade? So I got to work, reading all the great thinkers on the topic, and writing my own book of advice. It was called "Lemonade!" Then I changed the name to "Lemons to Lemonade" and after 24 total re-writes, it became "Plato's Lemonade Stand: Stirring Change into Something Great." Previous versions have been turned down by publishers 45 times, because they're not convinced that a practical book about the personal alchemy needed to turn something sour into something sweet will sell. I'm convinced they're wrong. And whenever I've done the ideas on retreats, people have insisted on having the book available. No one has seen the newest version yet. And I really, really like it. But I'm prepared for more lemonade making before someone in the world of publishing says, "Wait. People need this."
In the Sunday Business Section of the New York Times, Adam Bryant had a very interesting interview with the fashion designer and design mogul Diane von Furstenberg. Let me give you one Q&A:
Q. You’ve said many times that your mother was your biggest influence. What are the most important lessons you learned from her?
A. My mother was a Holocaust survivor and, having survived 13 months in the concentration camps, she taught me that fear is not an option. And no matter what happens, never be a victim. Life is a journey, and when you face obstacles the only thing you can do is accept them and embrace the reality. Very often, with things that are bad or not what you wanted, it’s your job to turn them into something positive.
I love the sentiment about accepting obstacles. Maybe the things that block your path can be taken up and assembled into just the bridge you need. That last sentence of the answer says it all:
Very often, with things that are bad or not what you wanted, it’s your job to turn them into something positive.
That's one of the enduring themes of the practical philosophers. And it's become something I believe deeply. So, when you face your next challenge, difficulty, or disappointment, get out a paring knife, some sugar, ample ice, and whatever additional spices you think you'll like, and make from the lemons that confront you some world class lemonade. Plato would have wanted it.