How will you react if a quote slaps you in the face?

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Cover Poppy field The Hot Mess Press

An article about how a guy called Brian Pennie overcame addiction one quote at a time gave me a lot to think about. I decided to share it because it could apply to many of life’s challenges.

Brian was hopelessly addicted to heroin, and in 2013, after 15 years, he had a near-death experience. That was when he decided to pull himself out of the gutter. Brian spent months in rehab undergoing detox and treatment. To keep his mind occupied with something other than his heroin cravings, he began to read. He focused his attention on personal growth, and that was the subject of his reading.

Since he cheated death, Brian became successful as an author, business owner and keynote speaker. He helps others with strategies to change their lives, he lectures at two Irish universities, and, at the same time, he pursues a Ph.D. Brian says his second chance at life came along with six quotes that slapped him in the face.

Quote Thomas Jefferson
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First quote by Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826)


“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” — Thomas Jefferson

Brian could have sat behind closed doors and pity himself, crying about lost years. However, Thomas Jefferson’s quote encouraged him to go and get busy. It woke him from his slumber and got the wheels rolling in reclaiming his life.

Quote Randy Pausch
Copy rights prevented the placement of an image of Randy Pausch. Here is another one of his quotes.

Second quote by Randy Pausch (23 October 1960 — 25 July 2008)


“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”―Randy Pausch

I have a favorite quote of my own: “You can have success OR excuses — but never both.” Brian noted that excuses save you from acting. However, that won’t get you anywhere. Even if lucky breaks were scarce in your life, you could make things happen. The only way to achieve both professional and personal growth is by not making excuses. This can make you reach heights you never expected, regardless of the starting point. Remember, play the hand you were dealt with, or the world will play it on your behalf.

Quote Hafiz
Copyrights prevented the placement of an image of Hafiz. Here is another one of his quotes.

Third quote by Hafiz (1315 – 1390)


“The words you speak become the house you live in.” — Hafiz

Whenever you speak to yourself, take care in your choice of words. Essentially, you are what you tell yourself. Telling yourself you suck will likely make you suck. Similarly, telling yourself you are anxious will undoubtedly make you act anxious. Phrases to remove from your conversations with yourself include those like “if only” and “I can’t.” Replace them with “I can,” “I will,” and “I choose to.” An essential positive phrase is, “let me look at this in another way.”

Instead of putting the blame for your situation on the world, use phrases to direct you to take positive action. When dealing with challenging circumstances, say, “let me figure out a way to deal with this,” rather than asking, “why me?”

Quote Paulo Coelho
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Fourth quote by Paulo Coelho (24 August 1947 (age 73 years)


“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”―Paulo Coelho

You should not fear challenging societal norms. As long as you act within the law, follow your heart and your passion. Don’t feel you should go in the direction others suggest. Go with what your gut tells you. Their love for you, along with fear, will likely have your loved ones advising you to play it safe. They might urge you to avoid taking risks.

Quote Bruce Lee
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Fifth quote by Bruce Lee (November 1940 — July 1973)


“Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” — Bruce Lee

Fear of failure reduces the potential of success because it makes you aim low. Never think you can succeed without also coping with failures along the way. Each failure teaches you something. Most importantly, big fails bring big lessons. Many people avoid taking risks because they fear the consequences and how their actions would affect others. Here’s a quote to deal with that fear: “It is far easier to ask for forgiveness than asking for permission.” Chances are, taking the risk was worthwhile.

 Zen image

Sixth quote — a Zen Proverb


“Obstacles do not block the path. They are the path.” — Zen Proverb

Use challenges as fuel — not because you want fuel, but because you need it to grow and progress in your quest to succeed. You don’t want to merely cope with life without heroin. You want to lean into hardship and adversity to propel your growth.

Summing up

When life throws a curveball in your direction, see it as an opportunity to grow instead of focusing on the setback’s severity.

Use stress to improve your non-reactivity skills.

Focus on the lessons to learn from failures.

Challenging relationships can provide practice in compassion, tolerance and even improve your skills in perspective-taking.

Challenging situations are the best fuel for growth.


Brian’s detox and recovery from many years of heroin addiction led him to turn his life around. However, his way of weathering these six quotes’ face slaps could be a lesson for anyone who is fighting the odds to succeed.

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