You’ve heard the goody two-shoes saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” It was initially used by writer Elbert Hubbard in a 1915 obituary he wrote about actor Marshall Pinckney Wilder, when he said, “He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.” Many attribute Dale Carnegie in his 1948 book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” with using the phrase, “If You Have a Lemon, Make a Lemonade.” And note that Carnegie credited Julius Rosenwald. Regardless, you get the point.
Speaking of phrases, that idiom, “goody-two-shoes” refers to an overly well-behaved, smugly virtuous person and was first used in a 1765 work entitled, “History of Little Goody Two-Shoes.” But I digress. Sort of. You see, telling someone to turn life’s hardships into lemonade is a bit of a smugly virtuous, trite, pat on the head to so many in the midst of genuine bereavement, appalling hardship, debilitating disease, financial thrashing. Easy to say, but not without sounding gratingly pious, glib and overly virtuous.
Tom V. Morris in 2019 with his book, “Plato’s Lemonade Stand” shows us that turning what Fate sends us into lemonade stands indeed can be done, and in fact, into something far more meaningful and personally innovative and rewarding, than just a lemonade stand. Disraeli taught us “There is no education like adversity.” I suppose the education he refers to is, in part, used to resiliently and with grit, transform one’s misfortune into a better life, one with a lemonade stand.
COVID-19 certainly presents us all with raw clay, harsh conditions, an experiment for us to learn to use our talents to robustly create a rewarding, refreshing “lemonade stand.”
Here’s what’s needed according to Socrates, Aristotle, Ockham and Plato from Morris’ book:
1. A strong habit of self-examination to identify you own knowledge to apply in building a better, more delightful outcome than current circumstances present
2. Adhering to “unchanging principles and eternal values” when encountering trials and contests in life
3. Build courage from which to move forward
4. Simplify our view of the complexities in our path, eliminating what’s truly unnecessary
These four elements, along with the always necessary positive visualization and self-talk, will allow you to eagerly prepare with inner calm to address the suffering brought on by coronavirus…or any other complication that Fate brings your way.
You see, perhaps what’s in the way of making lemonade is thinking we don’t have the right tools, the right equipment, this is in the way, that’s in the way. It’s the fault of this circumstance or that situation. Blame Fauci, the CDC, Birx, Trump, the W.H.O., China, or your next-door neighbor who isn’t wearing a mask. But maybe it’s none of these.
Maybe it’s the lemons! Maybe WE are the lemons. Maybe the way we think is the real obstacle to building anything good, to gaining education from adversity. Are we focusing on the beauty of the lemon? Do we understand that a lemon is a fruit that doesn’t provide instant delicious taste as soon as we bite it? Want to enjoy a lemon? It takes time and patience and must be sweetened to fully enjoy. We are on an eternal walk through life in which we are asked to find the seed of goodness in every challenge.
Can all of these hundreds, maybe even thousands of motivational sayings and quotes from the likes of Oprah Winfrey who tells us to “Turn your wounds into wisdom,” or “The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work,” from Harry Golden, to quote just a couple, be incorrect? From Moses and Jesus to Sigmund Freud, Christopher Reeve, Henrietta Szold, Anne Frank and Pat Conroy, the answer is, of course not.
So, let’s accept the fact that to survive, to thrive, we will a) fearlessly take control of our lives and b) be relentlessly risk-taking, c) NOW, not later, in d) gaining education, motivation and wisdom from our adversity, e) free of complaining, f) in a way that few others would be willing to do.
This is how to transform ourselves, lemons, into lemonade, and create a lemonade stand, in the midst of COVID-19. This is how we use the gifts we were created with, and how we bear and blossom in the face of adversity.