When Bad Things Happen to Extraordinary People-Like YOU

By: Robert White Friday August 2, 2013 comments

(with thanks and an acknowledgement for the title to Rabbi Harold Kushner who wrote the best selling book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” – one of the all time great books and still available in bookstores and online.)

I had the pleasure of attending a Beverly Hills fundraiser for HealthyChild.org  I had donated 400 copies of our photo essay One World, One Child so each participant would have an expression of our shared commitment to enhance the quality of children’s lives. 


My former wife and the book’s producer, Dianna Lynn and Joe Henry, Grammy Award winning songwriter and poet joined me for the event.  Joe had generously contributed his lyrics to the book and his commitment to children matches our own.  He’s also more comfortable with the Hollywood elite and a good guide to “the scene.”

Soooooo…. let’s get this next part out of the way immediately: 


Yes, I loved meeting John Travolta and Christian Slater and Olympic Silver Medallist Cathy Rigby.  Yes, I really enjoyed being “up close” for the musical part of the show featuring Olivia Newton John, Melissa Etheridge and Sherryl Crow. 

Yes, I reveled in being part of a small audience that included Kelly Preston, Tracy Ullman and the evening’s honoree, Meryl Streep.  Yes I rubbernecked along with the rest of the crowd thus making the sincerity of my oft-repeated rant about the dangers inherent in our “celebrity culture” more than slightly suspect.  Yes, for one evening, I was a total hypocrite.

I feel better for having confessed and thank you for your patience.

healthy childHealthy Child is a non-profit dedicated to educating the public, and especially parents and other caregivers, about environmental toxins that negatively affect children’s health.  It was founded by Nancy and Jim Chuda, to honor the life of their daughter Colette who died at age 10 from a form of cancer almost certainly connected to her Mother’s exposure to pesticides while she was pregnant.

Out of this tragedy, these grief stricken parents created this wonderful organization to help all parents and all children.  The Chuda’s said:

“Of course, at the time we had all we could do just to survive the overwhelming loss.  We were dazed.  But the seed of an idea was planted; one that has actually helped us over time transform our pain into a hope that we can do something to help others avoid what we went through.”

WOW!  Jim and Nancy have converted the almost unimaginable grief and loss of losing their daughter into a commitment to children everywhere. That commitment has gained support from thousands of others and they’ve created the energy and finances to create a major child-focused charity organization.

You can learn much more by visiting http://www.HealthyChild.org

It was a truly exciting and inspiring evening and, as I winged my way back toColorado, I thought about the Chudas and the many other examples of extraordinary people who have experienced really terrible events and chose to convert their pain into something positive and of value to others. 

  • What can you and I learn from these “real life heroes” about how we handle our problems – big or small?
  • How can we use events in our lives as stepping-stones instead of allowing those events to stop us, to rob us of aliveness and cause us to function from a much less than ideal resource state?

 Unconditional Leadership

 The philosophy I’ve expressed in our Denver executive coaching, in the Lifespring, ARC and Extraordinary People seminars with over 1,300,000 participants, in my book and in my home study program “Achieving Extraordinary Success”, is that “events are just events” until you add in your personal beliefs, feelings and attitudes.  You remain in the driver’s seat, you are in charge and once the event happens, you can choose your response. 


If you can accept the premise that we can’t always control events but we can make choices about our resulting beliefs, feelings, actions, consequences and actions, then the following guidelines might be very useful in choosing to live an extraordinary life:

*** WAKE UP!!!

Expanding awareness allows you to gain a richer, deeper understanding of the events in your life.  It’s only with that awareness that learning and growth can begin.  The question “why did this happen to me?” can be asked in a whining, victim tone or it can be asked as a genuine inquiry including making a space for your own accountability.  This could represent the beginning of an incredible life adventure.  It’s a choice.  In fact, it’s your choice.

*** OWN IT 100%!!!

Our early socialization, most of our teachers, and our culture of entitlement and victimization all support our reflex to blame someone or something for the events of our life.  Real personal power comes from responsibility.  Your shift from a core belief of victim to responsible will do more to change your experience of life than anything I know. Again, it’s your choice.


Learning to notice and express your feelings is a powerful, empowering life practice.  One of our nation’s true tragedies was the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the resultant loss of 168 lives.  It pains me to use this deeply flawed man’s actions as an example and yet it is so powerful: then President Bill Clinton clearly listened to what was needed and wanted from his audience, noticed his own feelings and then went to Oklahoma City and spoke “from the heart.”  He helped all of us begin on the path of healing and completion.  We all can learn from his example as we handle the events of our lives.  We can truly communicate. Ultimately it’s another one of your choices and miracles flow when you choose to truly communicate.

To the best of my knowledge, we’ve all got only one go-around in this physical form we call “life.”  We will definitely not get out alive.  Events will happen.  It seems strategically sound to learn how to better handle those events for our own personal satisfaction and happiness. 

And, as Jim and Nancy Chuda and many others have shown us, we could choose to use those events to make a positive contribution, to do some real good in a world, our world, that increasingly needs us to choose to live an extraordinary life.

 Extraordinary Leadership

Robert White

About the Author: Robert White

Robert White is a Speaker, Author, Leadership Trainer and Executive Mentor who teaches the art and science of mastering executive challenges. He specializes in integrating a heart centered, result-oriented and transformational leadership approach to being effective. His experience includes founding and leading companies doing high-impact experiential learning events with over one million graduates.

Robert’s culture change work has been praised by corporations like JPMorganChase, Progressive Insurance, Duke Energy and The American Cancer Society.

Additionally top business experts and authors Ken Blanchard, Jimmy Calano, Kathy Gardarian, and Robert Wright, plus thousands of training and mentoring clients, have endorsed his professional knowledge and skills.

Robert authored the best-seller “Living an Extraordinary Life” available in English and Mandarin. He is a contributing author to “Being Fuller” a compilation from students of Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller and “One World, One People,” a photo journal of mankind’s journey to oneness.

Today you’ll find him speaking at conferences, hosting masterminds, mentoring today’s emerging business leaders and teaching everything he knows about fostering entrepreneurial success and building an entrepreneurial mindset in established, growth-oriented companies.

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