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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

Hang In There


This post is about persistence in the face of adversity.

Losing Everything Isn't Losing

When I was in Army Basic Training, I heard the senior drill sargeant tell a soldier "This is just a thing, and things can't hurt you." It seemed an odd thing to say. So odd that it stuck with me all these years since boot camp. I believe part of the reason was the truth in that statement. Things can't hurt you.

Does fear of losing everything paralyze you? Have you ever lost everything? I have. Well, nearly everything. I suppose, looking back at my early life, I was prepared to lose everything by growing up with so little. When I started succeeding, I didn't really know how to manage it. I appreciated having things, but that's different than knowing how to handle stuff.

Fear can be a powerful thing, but it needn't run your life. The next phase of your life often involves walking through some valley filled with fear. Don't take my word for it: Ask anyone who's been there. I see very few baby pictures that include silver spoons. Most people have earned their success, and it's required they pass through a trial that you may be facing today.

Don't Go Away 

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is continue standing. I'm not talking about sprinting, running, walking, or even crawling towards a goal. I'm talking about just getting up and facing the day ahead.

Maybe you have an unpleasant meeting today. Maybe you don't know how you're going to continue in business, keep your job, remain in a relationship, stay alive, or pay taxes (today is Tax Day in the US).

The Next Step

The next part of your life could be encumbered by stuff you currently carry around. You might need a "junkectomy" and if so, there will be collateral damage - it'll require the removal of otherwise good and right stuff in your life. But your next step may take you to heights you cannot now imagine. The path from where you now stand to where you're heading may take you through an unpleasant valley.

This happened to me. I was in the middle of a separation that would end in divorce. I lived in a little house in the middle of a 100-acre field. It was November. Depressed, I looked out back across the field to the woods filled with trees that had lost their leaves for the season. I was hurting. I said out loud "Will it ever be Spring?" I was referring more to how I felt inside than the lifeless forest outside my window. It wasn't so much a question as a prayer, not so much a prayer as my soul moaning. From inside I heard "Yes, and you cannot imagine what's coming."

Take a look at what was coming:

What To Do Today

Shine. Anyone can look like a rock star when everything's going their way. You find out what people are made of when they face adverse circumstances. Your light will shine brighter when surrounded by darkness.

Don't sleep in, get up early.

Don't mope, smile.

Don't step back, step up.

It may be winter inside, but Spring is coming. Hang in there.

:{> Andy

Published Thursday, April 15, 2010 8:00 AM by andyleonard

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Brent Ozar said:

Nice post to start the day with!

I had a junkectomy early on. I was living on the road, working for a hotel company.  I found out that the storage unit with all my stuff had been auctioned due to an accounting mixup.  At first I was sick with grief, but over a few days, I realized I couldn't even remember most of what I had in there other than Christmas plates and a cool table I got at a garage sale.  I have no idea how I even filled up a storage unit.  Suddenly, I felt liberated.  Why was I carrying around crap I couldn't even remember?

Now I look at stuff a lot differently.  Not just physical stuff, but relationships and day to day disagreements.  Life is too short to focus on junk.

April 15, 2010 7:31 AM

wnylibrarian said:

An absolutely wonderful post! It speaks of perspective and perseverance. Fantastic!

April 15, 2010 8:01 AM

Noel said:

Thanks Andy, I like the "continue standing" part.

April 15, 2010 8:08 AM

dmmaxwell said:

Had a similar experience after a rather nasty breakup and cross-state move.  My car's trunk was full of old letters, some borrowed clothing, odds and ends, etc... and stayed that way for about 6 months. :-)  Finally, that Spring, (what is it with Spring...?) I grabbed a large trash can, and started pitching.  I know exactly what you guys mean about feeling liberated.  Thanks.

April 15, 2010 8:12 AM

Joe Webb said:

Great post, Andy!

I'm reminded of a quote from Charles Swindoll "I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes."

April 15, 2010 8:21 AM

Todd M Heflin said:

Very nice Andy; thank you.

April 15, 2010 8:30 AM

Bobby Dimmick said:

You hit the nail on the head.. my family makes a point of avoiding junk..  walking in our house, you'd think we live a spartan life until you realize that the stuff we do have is of great quality.. Too often people define themselves by the junk they have laying around.. honestly, except for the laptop I usually carry around all of the time, I could do without most of the stuff I have laying around (and even the laptop can be replaced - but I have to do something for a living)..

April 15, 2010 8:58 AM

Nicholas Cain said:

I've junkectomied a couple of times. I moved countries with all that I could fit in two suitcases, and move from the east coast US to the west with what I could fit in my car. I learned that stuff is just stuff, there's more important things, after all, you can always get more stuff.

April 15, 2010 10:30 AM

SQLRockstar said:

"So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains...and we never even know we have the key" - Glenn Frey

April 15, 2010 11:17 AM

Justin Onstot said:

Excellent and timely post. Thanks for sharing the encouraging words.  

April 15, 2010 11:24 AM

Jason Volpe said:

Andy - Very inspiring write-up. Great to see you doing so well. Something like this goes a long way for some people.


April 15, 2010 9:24 PM

Kalen Delaney said:

This is wonderful, Andy! Thanks for posting. I practice the martial art of Aikido, and the first thing everybody learns is how to fall. And then how to get up again. We fall over and over and over. We say that if you fall 1000 times, you just get up 1000 times. :-)

April 16, 2010 10:31 AM

Kevin S. Goff said:

Andy, these are great words and powerful ideas.  As always, very well said!


April 21, 2010 11:07 PM

Mark Shay said:

Wow, very moving blog entry.

April 30, 2010 11:08 PM

Greg Low said:

Awesome Andy

December 20, 2012 11:00 PM

Elizabeth Priddy said:


December 21, 2012 2:15 PM

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