In your journey through life, you will inevitably be confronted with valleys that appear too precarious and challenging to cross. The valley may suddenly appear as the loss of a loved one, a serious illness, a broken relationship, a financial crisis or some other personal tragedy. Whatever the cause, your normal life comes to a screeching halt and you are left standing on the edge of the valley without a seemingly rational way to get to the other side.
Every person will face what appears to be an impossible challenge or challenges during their lifetime. Fame and fortune do not provide an exemption; just think about the Kennedy family or Michael Jackson or more recently, Tiger Woods. The valleys of life will appear and how you build a bridge across will have a significant impact on the remainder of your journey.
Bridges to the other side
Sixteen years ago, our 15-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Overnight our life’s journey took a hard turn and we were faced with a critical decision for her to have surgery the next morning. We made the decision and the surgery was followed by weeks of radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Our daughter lived for an additional 27 months.
I tell this story because my family’s bridge to the other side is probably typical of many families that have faith in God. Our bridge began with faith and a true belief that God would not give us more that we could handle. We had confidence in each other, our extended family and friends, the medical team and were strengthened by the support they provided.
We went to our network and asked for help. We received help with in-home nursing care, from her school, tutors; whatever help we needed, it appeared. We had medical insurance and the financial stability to help bridge the valley. Finally, after our daughter passed we helped ourselves the most by helping others through community service, providing scholarships and sharing our blessings.
Life is a journey and not a destination. However, we have to realize that we are on a journey that is subject to change at any time. Major life changes, during your journey, can either come in the form of an opportunity or a threat. For instance, you could have a baby or lose a loved one; you could hit the lottery or your company could go bankrupt; you could get a promotion or get laid off; you could fall in love or get a divorce.
Traveling on life’s journey and successfully building bridges over the inevitable valleys requires some traveling flexibility. I would offer the following thoughts as starters:
Build your faith in God and your confidence in yourself, your family and close relationships. Having the faith that you will find a way, when it appears to be no way is a starting point.
Build a diverse network of friends and colleagues. Building a network is important, but for a network to support you in a crisis requires that you have supported the network prior to your need.
Build your financial risk protection. This would include adequate insurance, such as medical, life, property and casualty and liability coverage. Also have an emergency fund and basic estate planning documents.
Life is a journey to be enjoyed and lived to its fullest. Successfully building bridges over our valleys will make us a stronger and a better person.
Enjoy the journey.
(Michael G. Shinn, CFP, is a registered representative of securities and investment advisory services offered through Financial Network Investment Corp., member SIPC. Visit www.shinnfinancial.com for more information or to send your comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)