Never Play Victim

Last evening I had the privilege to hear and then meet Brian Shul. As I listened I thought this speaker’s story captures the essence of the Axiom, Never Play Victim. Here is a very abbreviated version of his bio:

Near the end of the Vietnam conflict Brian was shot down close to the Cambodian border. Unable to eject, he was severely burned in the resulting fireball. Expected to die he was flown to a military hospital where for the next year he underwent 15 major operations, was told he would never fly again, and spent more months in painful physical therapy.

Refusing to accept what the experts said about him, he went on to fly the SR-71. Still considered the most sophisticated aircraft ever built, the SR-71 required a pilot to pass the physical qualifications of astronaut training before the US Air Force would allow him the drivers seat. Brain passed with some of the highest scores recorded.

He was still told due to scar tissue, and a left hand that didn’t completely close and grip, that he couldn’t fly that high and in a pressurized suit. Maybe other planes, but not this one. But he did and went on to be one of only 93 pilots ever to sit in the drivers seat of an SR-71.

Through it all Brian learned to never accept it when someone told him “you can’t” and he refused to allow what were at times mountainous odds to discourage him. He never played victim.

Consider the team of engineers charged with doing what was considered the impossible in the early 1960s when tasked with building the SR-71. It too is a story of a group of people refusing to play victim to the lack of know how, materials, technology, time schedules and more. They simply built it. They never played victim.

How often do the minor distractions, discouragements, or barriers of our business lives stop us?

We hear so many voices telling us things like: “this project won’t be successful”….” you don’t have enough experience, ….or money… or background to run that business, you can’t apply for that job, you’d never be considered”

Yet, if we are honest with ourselves what is worse than the voices saying all those things, is when we believe those things. It’s then we are playing victim. We start to play out in head thoughts like, “it’s not fair… this wouldn’t happened back when…. Wait til I get enough money, then I’ll …..”

Or perhaps the worse I’m a victim statement of all: “it’s not my fault that….”

A story like Brian’s is the extreme, but in the extreme victory of someone like Brian we can be pointedly reminded that we never have an excuse to play victim and blame circumstances or someone else for why we didn’t, or couldn’t do something. Do it well and do it with grace, integrity, and persistence.

  1. Brad Eisenmann says:

    I enjoyed this post–especially the SR-71 pic! In fact, I may use it for a talk I’m giving on the life of Joseph. He sure would have had the temptation to play the victim after being sold into bondage by his brothers, falsely accused and sent to prison, and then forgotten in prison by the butler who had promised to help him!

  2. JFL says:

    Kevin, as a young boy, who was fixing up an old pickup, I went to a man in our city of Madison to see if he could machine a piece for the gear shifter. He had a degree in engineering and was known in our community as one who possessed special abilities in machine shop work. As I was showing him the bad part, another man who happened to be there at the same time. Said, “Don’t you know how to handle him?” I looked at him in expectation and this was his reply. “I’ve got 10 people downtown that say it can’t be done.” The machinist smiled and called him by name. Though this isn’t near the story you have shared, sometimes some of us need motivation.

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