This famous phrase is encouraging optimism and a positive attitude in the face of adversity. It inspires people to make the best of the negative situations.
After all, if life would be easy in every single moment, we wouldn’t grow. However, sometimes this quote is easier said than done. In reality, not all people adapt and cope up as easy as others might do.
So when life gives us sourness, difficulties, and negativities, what should we do?
Former United States Ambassador to Estonia | Past Secretary of Commerce for the state of North Carolina | Businessman | Featured in, “Come On, America: The Inspirational Journey of Ambassador Dave Phillips“
Keep knocking on doors — all you need is one to open
Every individual goes through adversity in their lives. I don’t care if you’re rich, poor, black, white, handicapped, star athlete, executive, addict, scholar, or a high school dropout.
Our problem is that most people focus on what hasn’t gone right for them and whine about it—and miss the unique opportunities for success they do have.
My wife Kay gave me a plaque inscribed, “No Whining.” That has been my motto my whole life and I keep it on my desk, should I ever forget it.
As far back as I can remember, I have always looked for the silver lining (even when those clouds were saturated and rolling out thunder and lightning). You see, my left foot was deformed at birth––to the point that numerous childhood surgeries could not correct it. When I was a freshman in high school, they finally amputated it.
However, the years of disappointing surgeries, crutches, physical pain, and wearing a special built-up shoe never deterred my social interaction. No, I couldn’t play football, basketball or baseball like my classmates, but I could be the equipment manager and still be involved with the team and the team spirit. I found other opportunities to actively compete with others in ways that I excelled. I became a skeet champion, outshooting more experienced and older shooters. I just did not let anything hold me back.
Even the bullying I faced as a child made me stronger, more determined. I learned to stand up for myself.
There are always lessons to be learned with adversities, and challenges often lead to opportunities. In all my years, I’ve learned there are many different roads that can lead to success. I’ve always said, “Keep knocking on doors. All you need is one to open.” The whole world is an opportunity.
Perhaps it was because of my own disability, I was so deeply honored and committed to the success of the Special Olympics World Games for 1999, of which I served as chairman. Those Special Olympians touched my heart and still do today. It was an amazing time in my life. The Special Olympians showed such amazing courage, strength, and positive energy that was so inspirational and continues to impact me today.
Through them and my own life, I’ve learned no matter what adversity we’ve faced, we need to find the confidence to show up in our lives, look each other in the eye, smile, and start a conversation—even and especially with those who might disagree with us! It’s that simple.
Have the confidence to be visible in your real life, not just online. Take an interest in the person standing right next to you. Make a face-to-face connection and remember that no matter what your favorite news source is or who you follow on social media, we’re all human beings on the same planet, dealing with adversity, and trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got.
Dr. Catherine Jackson, BCN, BCC, BC-TMH
Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Board Certified Neurotherapist |
Founder, Dr. J’s Holistic Health and Wellness
Change your mindset and focus on all the good you already have
When life gives you lemons as it sometimes will, turn it into gratitude. We have a tendency to complain and be upset when things do not go our way. Instead of focusing on the “lemons” change your mindset and focus on all the good you already have.
Also, focus on what you can learn from the seemingly negative situation. Often the positive mindset of focusing more on what you are grateful for and less on what isn’t happening attracts more good in your life.
The brain literally produces more dopamine, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter, when we express gratitude. Even if what you wanted doesn’t happen, a gratitude-filled mind will allow you to be more open to other opportunities and feel more positive emotions while experiencing challenges.
Business Success & Professional Coach | Inspirational Speaker |
Author, PeacePower Profits: Why You Don’t Have It, How To Get It
Every experience in life is not to be wasted
We’ve heard it said repeatedly, and perhaps it also is your personal experience: life is filled with vicissitudes. Many people ride the waves allowing it to affect the quality of their lives whether up or down. But despite the circumstances that present themselves, life can be quite enjoyable even in the face of pain and disappointments.
This is not just theory for me. I have lived it and have been able to share my story in my most recent #1 Bestselling book released only just a few days ago. When I was younger, my dad used to say, “Life is what you make it”. Truthfully, I never understood the depth of those words until relatively recently.
When life gives you lemons, the perspective you take will determine whether or not they are bitter and indigestible, or satisfactory and peace-generating.
It is all about your perspective. For example, if every time you get a sum of money-something comes up that causes you to have to spend it, you can view that experience from two perspectives.
First, you can look at it as just simply bad luck that you cannot keep your money. Something always happens to siphon it off. Or, second, you can view it from the perspective that money always shows up just before some major event happens, when you’ll need it.
Similarly, viewing the pains and disappointments from the perspective that something good has to come out of it, suddenly changes the way you feel about what you are experiencing. You don’t feel like a victim anymore. All of a sudden your subconscious mind goes in search of the possible learning opportunities that you can generate from the experience. And now you are in a space of creating from what you just learned from that experience, versus feeling defeated and sorry for yourself.
Every experience in life is not to be wasted. They are for your own personal growth, power, and success. But if you fail to evoke your awareness which helps you decipher the possible views you can gather from those experiences, you stifle your growth, your fulfillment, and your happiness.
When life gives you lemons, sometimes it’s not possible to take a positive perspective immediately.
Sometimes it’s hard, tough and you can’t seem to get the juice out to figure what the learning opportunity is. This is when you use tools to help you soften the lemon so you can squeeze the juice to make lemonades instead.
Dr. Teresa A. Smith
Professor | Coach | Motivational Speaker |
Author, Stronger: How Overcoming Life’s Adversities Can Push You Into Your Purpose
Stay positive and focus on the grove and not the lemons
Lemons are a cleansing agent and improve digestive health. Metaphorically, when life gives you lemons, it may purify your life of the toxic people, circumstances, or events that would not further the universe’s plan for you. The lemons’ bitterness is healthful, just tart and helps to dissolve the blemishes and stains of adversity.
So stay positive and focus on the grove and not the lemons. A deep thick root anchors citrus trees, and only a few lemons dislodge at a time instead of all the fruit the tree is bearing.
If you try to make lemonade, you are attempting to change a natural occurrence you have no control over which may bring added frustration and heartache. When you fixate on the lemons, you may become stagnant in your condition which may prevent healing, stunt growth, and future success.
Instead, accept your lemons and the lessons produced and view the predicament as an opportunity to grow stronger in a specific area of your life.
Cali Estes, Ph.D.
Life Coach | Founder, The Addictions Academy
Look at what you can do with what you have
When life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade (and we all know lemonade is delicious!) What else can you make with lemons? Lemon water, lemon chicken, lemon meringue pie– all delicious things!
The point is that you change your perception. If you look at lemons as sour and nasty, they serve no purpose and make you unhappy. But, if you see lemons for all the ways they can make delicious things, then your perception changes.
Same with your life events, look at what you CAN do with what you have, not what you CAN’T do. Then, go eat some lemon meringue pie!
Author, Embracing Life After Loss: A Gentle Guide for Growing through Grief |
World’s only Jollytologist® | Speaker | TED Presenter
Turn the sour times into something more palatable
Life handed me a truckload of lemons when my wife died at the age of 34. It was a devastating time, but I also thought about how my then ten-year-old daughter would want us to carry on after the loss. Would she want us to be morose and cry all the time or would want us to get on with our lives and keep the joyful memory of the person we loved alive?
I chose the latter and set out to have an adventure with my daughter. We needed a reprieve. We needed something that would lift our spirits. We needed something that would help us put our loss behind us. So I booked a trip on the ferry system on the Inside Passage in Alaska. It was the perfect thing to help take our mind off of our loss, at least for a while.
The trip did all of that and more. It bonded us together. It helped us openly talk about “Mommy.” And gave us exciting memories, like seeing Puffins, taking seaplane rides, and spending the night next to a glacier. We still talk about some of those things today, many years later.
What the experience taught me was that we can take the sour times that all of us will probably encounter sometime in our life and turn them into something more palatable.
Life Coach | Author, You Are Worthy: A Guide For The Overwhelmed Perfectionist
Look for the new direction you are being invited to take
Whenever faced with obstacles, look for the new direction you are being invited to take and see the gifts of the adventure.
Fill your self-care bucket. We are often taught that self-care is selfish. I challenge you to see that it is a necessity instead. When I was a workaholic, there was no time for self-care. It was not even on my radar. In fact, I thought it was for a less ambitious person. Boy was I wrong!
Imagine you have a pot of gold inside of you. Each time you do for others, a piece of gold leaves your pot. What happens when the pot of gold is empty? It means you have nothing left to give. When we give from an empty pot of gold, we become resentful, angry, and tired. The easiest way to fill your pot of gold is self-care. It is the greatest gift you can give yourself, your family, and your co-workers. Only when you take care of yourself will you have enough energy to take care of others.
If you are new to self-care, start by making a list of things that bring you joy. Some of the activities on my self-care list are:
- Walks in nature – by yourself or with a friend – don’t go with a friend that pushes your buttons – that would not be a self-care activity
- Reading an uplifting book
- Watching uplifting videos or movies
- Listening to uplifting podcasts or music
- Creative outlets like coloring, sewing, woodworking
- Bubble bath with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door
- Dancing to my favorite songs
You get to decide what brings you joy and fills up your pot of gold.
Once you create your self-care list, schedule it on your calendar and don’t schedule over it. Please don’t throw it in your “someday” pile. I use a color-coded calendar and lavender is the color for self-care activities. If there is no lavender on my calendar, that is a big red flag. Here’s to the sweetness of your lemonade!
Related: 13 Fun Things to Do at Home
Coach | Speaker | Author, “Battle Endurance: How You Can Be Someone Who Never Quits and Gives Everything You Have To Give”
Find that inner strength to rise up from under a mountain of lemons
For the purposes of definition, a lemon is considered to be sour. The origin of the lemon has been debated as not naturally occurring but instead a hybrid between a bitter orange and citron.
The three key takeaways here are sour, bitter and hybrid (not naturally occurring).
When life throws us a curve ball, something that just doesn’t seem right, fair, or natural; we can choose to become sour and bitter over it, or we can choose to respond differently. There is the cliché saying that when life gives you lemon’s, make lemonade. Having been the recipient of so many lemons in my life, I have established a few factories running at full capacity, cranking out the best lemonade imaginable.
Ok, metaphors aside, the intended meaning is simple – when you find yourself amidst something terrible, make something good out of it. Look for the lesson, learning, teaching, or opportunity. Each time something seemingly occurs out of the ordinary, there is an opportunity to find something unique, different, and of value.
In each and every set of circumstances, you might consider as bad, there is a nugget of good, a gift, learning, a takeaway from the experience that can enhance your life – if you look for it! In the most basic of terms, when things don’t turn out as you expected them, you can stop and ask yourself, what could I have done differently or better. The resulting answer, if honest, may give you home court advantage on your next attempt.
If you find yourself facing a disappointment over something you had anticipated achieving, winning or accomplishing, ask yourself if you gave it everything you had to offer. If not, try again. If you did give it your all, then shift your perspective to embracing the notion that it wasn’t meant for you, because there is something far better in store for you. Then begin searching for, striving towards, and anticipating what it will be like to outdo what you were originally aiming for.
When faced with disappointment you have a choice. You can wallow in self-pity and become bitter and sour – it wins, or shake it off with a determination to exceed the original goal – you win.
Failure is guaranteed if we quit. Success is always negotiable if we at least try. No matter how hard, how many, or how often life lemons are thrown at you, as long as you have breath in your body, you can still win.
You can search for and find that inner strength to rise up from under a mountain of lemons and excel at your great dream or ambition in ways you never imagined.
Feel and experience the sting of pain. Then release it, forever. Move to tame your anger and funnel it into energy to drive you forward and propel you upward instead of forcing you into the ground. It’s a matter choice, which you have full control. That force, energy, tenacity and comes from within. It is more powerful, potent and fierce than any lemon life can ever give you. So the next time life hands you a lemon, squeeze every last drop of juice out it to season your success!
Life Coach, HealthLabs
Experience and learn from your lemons
When life gives you lemons, so many people say “make lemonade!” But they don’t realize that lemonade requires more than just lemons. The lemonade requires water, sugar, ice, and containers. You’ve only got lemons. Lemons are a vital part of lemonade, but they’re definitely not all of it.
That’s why I say when life gives you lemons, simply appreciate the lemons for what they are: lemons.
How do these lemons change your perspective of your experience on Earth? Maybe now that you have lemons, you begin to realize the number of people who have had lemons their whole life. Maybe the lemons help you see that you were taking life without lemons for granted. Maybe you sit with the lemons and realize that the sour of the lemons will make the next sweet thing you eat taste even sweeter. Perhaps you begin to ask yourself how you acquired these lemons, and ponder how you can avoid getting lemons next time.
Life gives lemons for a reason. Lemons are lessons. Suffering is an integral part of learning, and saying “make lemons into lemonade” is a way of trying to get around the suffering. Simply sit and suffer from your lemons. Learn from your lemons. But you can’t learn from them if you don’t fully experience them.
Entrepreneur | Real Estate Investor | Realtor, Buying Houses: Nashville
Your target should be to become a better lemonade maker
When most people face adversity or pain in their lives, the usual response is “How do I get rid of this pain as fast as possible?” Some firefighters call it “Putting the wet stuff on the red stuff.” Humans are conditioned to seek pleasure and avoid pain & they are the primary motivators in our decision-making process, conscious and subconscious.
What if, instead of trying to avoid the lemons, we took the counter-intuitive path and chose to lean into the pain or lemons? Could it be that the key to finding what you’re looking for is on the other side of the lemon you’re facing? What a great place to hide the answers! Exactly where no one is looking.
These days, with all the information in the world, it’s easy to believe that someone else possesses all the answers & if we can just find the next big secret, we can make that lemonade & be happy once and for all. While searching for knowledge, wisdom, and advice are all great, take a moment to consider that the answers to each of our lemons & problems are already on the inside of us; we just need to be ripe and ready to receive them and they need to be drawn out.
Sure, there are probably answers to each of our questions out there somewhere, but do you really have the time to search the planet, read everything ever written, or talk to every person on earth to weed through all the noise and find the answer that pertains directly to you? Do you really trust Google to be your personal therapist and find you the right answer? Why is it that we don’t trust and overlook the most important source for our answers; our heart?
So how do we listen to our heart to slice through those lemons? Four simple steps that I use:
- What are the facts about the situation? Get clarity on what is actually happening. Not your opinion, not your feelings about the situation, what are the 100% true facts. We have to have clarity.
- What are your feelings about the situation? Now that we have the facts, it’s healthy to acknowledge our true feelings. Sometimes we even need to speak them out loud or tell someone.
- Now that we know the facts and feelings, we want to spend some time focusing on the solution. Not focusing on the problem, focusing on different perspectives and giving ourselves permission to trust what our heart is saying. Sometimes this takes time if our mind is cluttered with chaos and busyness.
- Finally, we decide on one thing that we can do immediately to start us down the path we choose, and then we do that one thing. Not in a couple of weeks, not this weekend, immediately.
Life will never stop giving us lemons, so instead of trying to avoid them, our target should be to become a better lemonade maker. If we look for the gift on the other side of the lemon and we use that gift or lemon to expand and grow ourselves, our confidence will grow and lemons won’t interrupt our lives; they’ll be the catalyst for growth!
Practice an attitude of gratitude
When life gives you lemons, take a few minutes right when you wake up and before you go to bed in the evening to take stock in everything you are grateful for. These can be the obvious things (such as your job and relationships with friends, family, and spouses) and the not-so-obvious things (like the neighborhood you live in, and getting Starbucks in the morning!).
Practice an attitude of gratitude and it can act as a motivator in adjusting your mindset, bit by bit. You’ll feel full of purpose. You’ll become excited for tomorrow and content in knowing you did everything you could and to the best of your ability today, with or without the presence of lemons.
CEO & Founder, United Capital Source Inc.
Look at lemons like you look at investments
When life gives you lemons, diversify them. Look at lemons like you look at investments, take advantage of all the opportunities out there.
What if a storm hits and all your lemons in one tree go bad overnight? To best prepare yourself, make sure you don’t have more than 8-10% of your funds in one stock or location. Start small and grow with what you understand. Begin with a diversified securities portfolio and then, you can branch out over time and invest in areas such as real estate or higher risk stocks. A 401K is important when it comes to preparing for the future.
These are small seeds to plant, but the sooner you do it, the more lemons you will have when you retire. Squeeze some lemons into juice and freeze for a warm day in the summer. You never know when you will need a little extra juice, or cash flow, for an emergency. And finally, slice one lemon up and pop it into your favorite cocktail, have some fun with your lemons, and your finances.
Author | Founder and CEO, Invisible Edge
Use this opportunity to cultivate a relationship with it
Follow your intuition and use this opportunity to cultivate a relationship with it. Listen to and trust your inner guidance. Take a step back and think about the problem and why you are in this situation. Was it something that you caused, or was it out of your control?
Are these “lemons” a sign that you are supposed to take a different path or make different decisions? Listen to that quiet voice that is underneath all of your insecurities, biases, assumptions, prejudices, and judgments in order to figure out what is right for you.
Founder & CEO, SILK + SONDER
Lemons might be opportunities you’re otherwise ignoring
Sometimes, it’s not obvious how to make lemonade when life keeps hitting you with lemons. The first thing I do is to pause and write down two affirmations: “What’s meant for me is on its way to me” and “Everything is unfolding exactly how it’s meant to be.”
This forces me to immediately change perspective. Perhaps these “lemons” are highlighting an opportunity I’m otherwise ignoring, maybe I need to search for a hidden alternative to the way I’m approaching a particular problem or task, or maybe I just need to hit pause. This forced reflection in challenging times is what helps regain course to where you want to go.
Co-Founder and Realtor, Chance Realty LLC
Have a positive mindset and unstoppable dedication
As an immigrant and the founder of two successful companies, one can say that I’m an expert in making some top-notch lemonade. Life was never meant to be easy but, it can always get better.
This positive mentality is one of the driving forces that helped me along my path in turning those life lemons into tasty lemonade. Some of these lulls would last long periods of time however, what got me through these tough times was keeping a strong focus on the end goal and pushing through with persistence no matter what.
Faith is also another major component in finding success through the struggle. A positive mindset and unstoppable dedication is the perfect recipe to steering everything in the right direction. As wisdom usually comes with age, I sometimes reflect on why it is that life sent me such a large lemon delivery at times. Even as a hard worker, I am still human and there are just so many lemons a man can take.
Despite the influx lemons, this strategy most definitely taught me how to not make the same mistakes twice and ultimately led to my overall success.
In life, we do have some level of control over our fate despite the number of lemons that may get thrown your way. It’s the combination of a strong mentality, positive attitude, faith, focus, and consistent work ethic that keeps turning out a delicious supply of lemonade.
Owner, Ghost Blog Writers
Focus on the future and not dwell on the past
Bad things happen to everybody in life. Some worse than others. We aren’t all going through the same things at the same time. But a general rule seems to be that when something negative happens you have a choice of how to perceive it. I’ve found that it’s still good to go through the grieving process. But while that’s occurring start considering your options for the future.
For example, about ten years ago I lost my drivers license. All of a sudden I had lots of free time in the evenings and on the weekends. I did the usual grieving (denial, anger, sadness, acceptance…). That took a few weeks and even lingered once in a while after that.
But even from the beginning, I started thinking about how I would spend my time. I decided to start blogging every day. I did that for several months. Then I got the license back full time, but even then I continued with the routine. Blogging led to freelance blogging on the side for extra money. That allowed me to pay fines, but also to pay off all school debt. Then I turned the freelance thing into a small agency business.
But looking back it wasn’t that it specifically needed to be blogging. It could have been exercise or diet or a hobby or a side job or any number of things. The whole thing was about deciding what I was going to do with my time and focusing on the future and not dwelling on the past.
I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying every situation is the same. But there are options available if you look at the situation in the right way.
Related: How to Become a Ghostwriter
President and Owner, New Evolution Video and dk3studios
When life gives me lemons – I grow a garden with its seeds
The seeds of failure, heartache, and despair can produce some of the greatest most powerful achievements if handled correctly.
When I fail – and I do often being a business owner of two companies – I learn, analyze and accept it. I say “Hmmm now, that was a lesson,” and I know that my higher power is guiding me so I use my faith to grow and take the value out of the hardship.
I practice yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, spiritual knowledge, have great mentors, eat vegan and gluten-free, read good books (Dasbodh, I Am That), listen to relaxing music and pray. These are a few of the thing I do when life gives me lemons. And you know the best part: I am truly happy – not the kind money can buy – but true, deep, unwavering happiness. I hope these tips help you to do the same.
V. Michael Santoro
Co-Founder, Vaetas, LLC
Focus on what you need to do to improve it
When life gives you lemons, its usually disappointing and can trigger a variety of negative emotions that can make you feel like a victim. It’s tempting and permissible to have a pity party. Just make it short and focus more on why it turned out badly and what you need to do to improve it.
Also, talk to others about it and solicit their objective feedback. Many times, the lemons can be a much-needed course correction that leads to a more desired outcome. Although undesirable, view lemons as a much-needed learning experience to get you on the correct path to achieve your goals. By taking personal responsibility for your actions and keeping your ego in your back pocket, the lemons can ultimately turn into lemonade.
Founder, Uncorked Ventures
Like most people, I’ve been there both personally and professionally, luckily at different times. So I’ve found that coming back from a major negative incident is much more possible than most people assume.
First, deal with any consequences. Even if you can’t do it all at once, breaking up the journey back into smaller, do-able steps and having a plan will help calm your mind.
Second, after that’s in place work on your mental health. Find something that makes you happy, or try things that used to make you happy. If there’s a short list of those, try new things. They don’t have to be expensive either.
Also, I always found it was better, to try things that were easily repeatable, instead of one-offs. As an example, during one portion of my life, I lived in downtown San Diego and I walked to a different coffee shop for my morning coffee every day. I got to know the city and also got some exercise. Over time, I liked walking further than walking to a shop closer to my house.
Marketing Director, doeLEGAL, Inc.
Don’t make lemonade, make a lemon meringue pie
We each have situations in our life, and careers, that could be considered “lemons.” There are a few ideas that my experience has taught me that will help turn the corner on those less than pleasant circumstances. Once you get your head right, you won’t make lemonade; you can make lemon meringue pie!
Here are some that have changed my life for the better after adversity or negative outcomes have occurred:
- Write down your failures and leave them there. They do not define you. If you focus too long on the negatives, you’ll miss the lessons they taught you. Always learn!
- If you want to change a negative to a positive experience – always keep in mind, “You never lose; you win or you learn.”
- Never put yourself down because others will expend their time doing enough of that. Change things by doing something that changes your gears – like a going out for ice cream or watching a funny movie. It’s not a waste of time; use it as your Reset Button.
- Always take responsibility for your part in what happened. Recognize why it happened, apologize from your heart, and promise yourself to make a positive change.
- Never feel defined by failures; you’re defined by how you handle them. Choose to look beyond the negatives and find a new goal. Keep reaching.
- Seek positive guidance from others. No one says you must handle your “lemons” alone. Find others that already overcame theirs and follow their example.
Luca de la Torre
General Partner, Contender Venture Capital
When life gives you lemons, refuse to give up
Giving up leads to failure. Look at the world’s most successful people. Dirk Nowitzki’s career had many downs & obstacles, did it stop him to become one of the most successful players of all time?
Henry Ford failed multiple times before founding Ford, Harland Sander’s (KFC founder) chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before being accepted by a restaurant & Walt Disney was fired for “a lack of imagination” before creating the Disney empire.
At the end of a stony road awaits success.
Adventurer | Author, “Follow Your Detour: Let Go of Your Pain, Conquer Your Fear & Find the Real You“
Embrace the most difficult times in our lives
Life’s lemons are unexpected, painful, and usually completely against the plans we have for ourselves. Sometimes they feel like a complete dead end because they can stop us in our tracks and make it difficult to know how to move forward. We often feel lost.
But, these moments also present the opportunity to take a “detour” – an alternate route that maybe you didn’t see coming, but can lead you on a transformational journey.
Sometimes, it’s the unexpected plans that turn out to be the best. They open us up to a new world of possibilities that are outside our current imagination and beliefs about ourselves. They allow us to take a risk, overcome fears, and find our true selves. Detours end up being more rewarding because of the struggle we had to face to find them.
When we can embrace the times in our lives that are most difficult and change our perspective, we learn to grow through the grief and find purpose in our pain. It can be hard to continue on with life along the same path with the same beliefs after difficult times. But, if we learn to move forward along a new path with faith and hope that it will still get to us a beautiful destination – much like detours do – we heal much quicker.
Author | Founder, Heal Your Grief
I faced a dark period in my life when I lost three loved ones in the space of three years; my mother, who died on my 51st birthday, my husband David, who died of a heart attack a year and a half later, and my eight-year-old grandson Jacob who died from cancer seventeen months after that.
I was bereft, numb with grief, but determined to find some meaning in the cumulative loss of some of the most loving and giving people I knew. I wanted to be more like the best of them, so I found ways to honor their memory. Because my mother left letters and notebooks filled with writing that made it clear one of her greatest wishes was that her children and grandchildren would utilize their God-given talents, I started taking my writing seriously, with my creative mother my muse. I attended my first writer’s conference and worked on uplifting essays.
As for my husband, he’d never met a stranger and had been effusive in his praise of others. Losing him made me realize just how fragile life was and how quickly our lives can change. Because he died on a Tuesday and I dreaded the weekday, I began a Tuesday morning ritual of sending out cards or letters to others, letting them know how much they meant to me.
I started doing random acts of kindness in memory of the grandson who collected toys for other children in the hospital during his brief remission in the three years he fought cancer.
In memory and honor of all three, I began doing public speaking on grief, helping others to find hope in the darkness of loss. I took classes to become a certified grief counselor and planned an annual grief retreat. I taught workshops on writing for healing.
I mined the pain to make a difference in the world. I squeezed those lemons for everything they had. Any one of us can do the same. In my public speaking, I tell others that we can become broken with grief… or broken wide open, using our pain to companion others down the same path we’ve already traveled.
That old saying about turning lemons into something better than a sour taste in my mouth is difficult, I find it difficult to associate with what it was like to grow up living with a teenage, single mother that a drug problem., My brother and I spent days alone in almost empty apartments with only a small television sitting on top of a plastic milk crate to keep us company and little to eat. Lemons would have been a luxury.
As a young girl, I spent most of my time trying to appear normal while carrying around the childhood memories of abuse and neglect. There was no one there to help my brother and I back then as we waited days on end for my mother to come home, even if it were just for a moment. As a kid, I didn’t understand that my mom was just a teenager. It took me a long time to come to this realization and an even longer time to forgive her.
Some folks who have the luxury of thinking about what they want to do with their lives, contemplating a future. That’s not my story. As a young woman, I was in survival mode, hiding the experiences of living with a drug-addicted mom, and stumbling through life’s challenges and I tried to find my way.
For more than 30 years, I tried to “blend in”. Through the grace of God and the blessings that have been bestowed upon me, I have had some success in my life (mother, published author, engineer). My prayer is that for anyone who finds themselves in similar circumstances, that they understand that it’s never too late to have the life of their dreams. But..there is much work to be done to get there.
Success often requires hard work, disappointments and sometimes leaving people behind who are not supposed to reap the benefits of another person’s blessings. If one is willing to do the work, LIFE can be more than we could ever ask or think.
Speaker | Life & Business Strategist
Examine the learnings from the situation. ‘Lemons’ happen to everyone. There’s no avoiding it, and every situation offers the opportunity for self-reflection and (often) redirection. Reflecting is helpful because it’s a chance to evaluate the situation from start to finish. Walk through the pros and cons, make a list of the things you learned from the situation, and strategize on how to make your next move your best move (using the lemons from your learnings to get help guide you).
Take job loss for example. Instead of being distraught about the loss of a job, take the skills you acquired and figure out how you can best apply them to your next job or career move. A job ending isn’t the end of the world; it happens.
Take time to think about your past experience but also what you want to be different for the next experience. I like to think of lemons as a chance to act with strategy over emotion. A little lemon can make some amazing lemonade once all the ingredients are added.
HR Manager, Port Education
We believe obstacles are bound to happen no matter how much you may have planned for future circumstances because it’s impossible to account for everything. But the most important thing is how you react to it and learn from it.
In the case of businesses in the service industry, there will always be difficult customers to handle. However, instead of lamenting about your job, you can look at it from another angle – this is the perfect opportunity to show existing and potential customers how you handle these demanding customers professionally.
For example, if you receive a bad review, take the chance to contact the person who left the review to get to know his point of view. Use his feedback to your advantage by improving your product or service. That way, you would win his support and demonstrate that you listen to your audience. You might even gain word-of-mouth advertising in the process.
The bottom line is: if hiccups happen during work operations, simply find the problem, think of a solution as a team and work through it. As long as you work towards bouncing back and learn from it, you will be able to look at “lemons” as blessings in disguise. This positive attitude will undoubtedly bring your company far.
Operations Manager, MyTradingSkills
I think that one of the secrets to a good life is knowing how to turn lemons into something sweeter. If you lose your job then it is a sign that you should now look for something better. If you hit rock bottom then the only way is up. If your relationship breaks down, then its time to look for someone that suits you better.
In fact, I think that it is good to experience the bitterness of life now and then so that you can then savor the sweetness of turning things around.
Empowermentalist | Founder, Daring Woman Movement
Life. It’s a quirky thing full of highs and lows, unexpected twists and turns. Just when you think you have it figured out, BAM! You get a curve ball smack in the face. What do you do?
- Get Up. Stop wallowing in self-pity. Pick yourself up, brush off the dirt and take an inventory of what’s happening.
- Create a Plan. Life may have gotten you into a pickle, but you’re resilient. Start planning on how to get out of life’s pickle jar.
- Rally the Troops. It takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a strong support system to get us through this thing called life. Rally the troops to help you out.
- Look for the Lesson. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it’s clear as mud. What can you learn from this? How can you use this to grow and become better than you were yesterday?
- Keep on Truckin’. Don’t focus on the setback. Focus on the comeback. Life is going to throw obstacles in your path all the time. You can either choose to take shelter and weather out the storm or you can embrace life, face the obstacles and have the time of your life.
When life gives you lemons, talk to somebody about your lemons. A therapist, friend, partner, or family member can provide support and validations that your lemons are indeed lemons. So often, our culture pushes positivity and optimism without affording people the ability to express any disappointment when things don’t go as planned.
Sometimes things are a bummer – and that is okay. We need to stop expecting everyone to sweep their metaphorical lemons under the rug, because how else will our children and peers see examples of how to cope with negative life experiences in a healthy way?
While each obstacle in life can indeed be a learning experience or a teachable moment, it’s okay to get to that end result after a period of healing and recovery from whatever has gone awry. We don’t have to rush recovery or even a good mood. You’re allowed to say, “I don’t even like lemons!”
As a writer, I’ve dealt with my share of sour lemons over the last 23 years – rejection of work I loved and felt invested in, publishers who didn’t pay royalties on time, an agent who didn’t advocate for my work.
When you follow your passion, bumps are inevitable. The key is learning from those situations and having enough grit to keep moving forward and pursuing your dream. If a publisher isn’t treating you right, you sure don’t send them more of your work and you figure out when your rights come back to you. There is almost always something to be learned and something you can do differently the next time.
Personal Finance Blogger, Keeping Up with the Changs
Like anyone else, I’ve had my own share of challenges and obstacles that life has thrown at me along the way. I was crushing it in college with a 4.0 GPA, only to suddenly develop epilepsy the finals week before I graduated, with no known cause or cure. I started my own business, only to lose everything when a buyer claimed their account was hacked, which caused Paypal to reverse thousands of my hard-earned dollars even though they already received my product. I leased out my very first, newly renovated apartment, only to have the tenant stop paying rent from month one, forcing me to go through the stress of evicting someone and cleaning up after she trashed my place.
So yeah, I’ve gotten my fair share of lemons. But hey, at least I could bounce back from these life-changing lessons that make me the better person that I am today. Whenever an unfortunate event happens to me that strikes up my urge to wallow in my grief and cry to the gods why they think this is so funny, I remember all the lemons she got and how grateful she is for having them.
When she was just 17 years old, her middle-class life in Vietnam got upended by the Vietnam War. My grandfather, the sole breadwinner in the family, was traveling in a car that happened across a mine, killing him instantly and leaving his family to fend for themselves. My mother had to grow up instantly, figuring out how to survive in the real world and get a job in a culture and time when young women didn’t work.
When the Communist technically won and took over in 1975, a lot of people wanted out but they couldn’t escape because it was both illegal and dangerous. My aunt attempted to flee with two friends, but they got caught. She watched her best friend get fatally shot, then she and her surviving friend were thrown in jail for a few months to teach others a lesson. Running away was simply not a great option.
But at some point, the Communist government needed money, so they came up with the idea of making it legal for people to flee…if they paid a bounty first. Seeing this opportunity as an incredible godsend, my mother and her family gathered the gold needed to pay the bounty and then set out to leave Vietnam by boat. Mind you, this was no cruise.
A typical Vietnamese boat person’s refugee experience went something like this: Board with hundreds of other escapees who cram themselves into a boat normally made for a crew of maybe 10. Huddle side by side with little movement for a week, even as people cried, threw up, soiled themselves, got sick, or even died next to you.
Pray, a lot, as the tiny boat pitched dangerously in the rough seas because one flip and everyone on board would drown. Hope that you didn’t get intercepted by pirates and if you did, cross your fingers that they just wanted your money and not the girls & women on board too (My mother considers herself incredibly lucky that the pirates who stopped their ship did not bother to kidnap anyone. She knew of other refugee women who weren’t so lucky, and others who jumped ship and drowned themselves to avoid being taken in by pirates).
But reaching your “destination” didn’t mean the escape ordeal was over. The final landing spot for my mom’s boat was a beach on a deserted island. The first night, everyone slept on the beach and began foraging the next day for branches to build beds. Think Survivor, minus the million dollar prize and guaranteed out after 39 days.
Humanitarian aid groups brought food, but with those meager supplies and whatever they could gather on the island, the refugees had to get through their days until a country came along and agreed to take them in. All in all, it was one year before my mom was accepted by America and made it off that island.
Making it into the US was certainly a game-changer, but it was still far from easy. Being an adult unexpectedly whisked into a new country mean she had to learn everything that we take for granted. She had to learn English, totally different customs and laws, how to use money, how to apply for jobs and find housing. If someone picked you up today and dumped you in a country where no one spoke English, how do you think you’d fare?
You might not be a big fan of lemons, but they are far from the worse thing out there. No matter how awful I think my situation is, I always ask myself: is this as bad as almost being capsized on a disgusting boat after getting intercepted by pirates, and then live in the forest for a year before making it out? Not even close.
And the incredible thing is, my mom can say the same thing too. As crazy as her life story seems to me, she knows people who’ve had it worse. She knew families who were on boats that did flip over, killing the entire family. We have relatives who got shipwrecked on a desert island that was not on the radar of the humanitarian agencies, so they had to eat tree bark for days until they were sighted and rescued by a Japanese vessel.
My coworker once told me that if everyone in the world put their problems into a pile for a draw and you saw what people brought to the table, you’d probably want your own problems back. Life may hand you lemons, but be grateful that you even got something.
Creator, Effective Nerd
I have a multifaceted approach to life’s lemons. It really depends on the source of the negative event. Our failures and setbacks are not the same (or at least they shouldn’t be). We should not have a “one size fits all” approach to life’s problems.
If the problem or negative event is out of my control, then I tend to work harder in other aspects of my life. As long as I am giving my work and family 100% then I can tackle whatever life throws at me.
This becomes a bit trickier when a problem is due to our own decisions. In this scenario, I find that introspection goes a long way. I think about the decisions I have made, the path that I am on, and the kind of person I want to be. A lot of our daily stress and anxiety is due to a misalignment between these three aspects of our lives. Self-awareness helps me to make better decisions.
When it comes to failures and setbacks due to my lack of skills, I am usually happy that it happened. Failure is a common part of building skills and experiences. If I am learning something new and experience a setback, I know that progress is just around the corner.
When life gives you lemons, examine the source and act accordingly. Some negative events are outside of your control. Others require a bit of introspection. Sometimes the lemons are a natural part of growth.
Multimedia Storyteller, Kihek Creations
Learn to step back to reflect on the situation. Give yourself permission to live through the pain. Grieve if you have to, pray, meditate, schedule therapy, call someone who you can talk to freely, spend time with you, but not to the point of isolation. Avoid masking pain, allow time to heal. Remember that this too shall pass and you will overcome.
In the process of healing, keep on moving. Refocus on your goals and work. Being part of the living means you are created to contribute, to add values to the lives of people. Surround yourself with greatness and be inspired to recreate yourself to be extraordinary.
Creator, One Ocean At A Time
From a very early age, I remember my father responding to every setback with the phrase ‘what an opportunity’. I think there was also a bit of that ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ advice in there as well.
When work or relationships take a bad turn or personal health issues arise, after I enjoy a bit of self-pity, I remember my father’s wisdom and start looking for the opportunity. Sometimes, the opportunity takes a seriously long time to present itself and it might take some effort on my part to manifest it, but it always appears in the end. This attitude has gotten me through depression, divorce, relocation, job transitions, job stress, breakups, and breast cancer.
My most recent dance with those illusory lemons allowed me to transition from life anchored to my desk to living my dream circumnavigating the globe under sail. I am amazed by how everything came together once I decided to go for it. Even apparent glitches (failed relationships, health issues) along the way turned out to be blessings in disguise and actually supported me on the journey.
Put another way, if life gives you lemons, get ready to make some lemonade…there is an opportunity in every setback.
Lead Digital Marketing Strategist, Fueled.com
I think, ultimately it depends how sour the lemons are. But! With any lemon, I think the ultimate thing is not to let it destroy everything you’ve ever worked for in that area of your life. If you get a bad lemon in your job, don’t let it unravel all the work and passion you’ve poured into it. If it’s within a relationship, learn from it.
Use the lemon as a guide to what you want and more importantly, what you don’t want. Ultimately, lemons are never fun and no one ever wants a lemon but they do challenge us and do make us re-evaluate ourselves and our lives. You have two options you can let it destroy you and defeat you or you can rise above and learn from it and use it to propel you forward.
Digital Marketing Associate, Mattress Advisor
Get Enough Shut-Eye. When life has taken a sour turn, the last thing on your mind is probably quality sleep — in fact, when things go amiss, sleep might be nearly impossible. However, maintaining good health and quality sleep is crucial for turning your lemons into lemonade, and coping with whatever is bringing you down.
In fact, when we don’t sleep, our bodies are more susceptible to sickness, fatigue, and even depression, and lack of sleep may even worsen stress or other symptoms triggered by the issue you are facing. Make rest and relaxation a priority, and commit to getting enough sleep each night, because it will not only improve your mood and promote a more positive outlook on the situation, but it can help our brain more make educated decisions, and give us enough energy to face the problem head-on.
Digital Marketer, CSTeam
People usually say that “When life gives you lemons, make a lemonade”. But on a tv show, they say “When life gives you lemons, squeeze them in the life’s eyes”.
I think they’re both good ways to see the thing, but maybe the first is more suitable for someone that submit, while the second is for the people who react and try to find other ways. I think that if there’s something that doesn’t fit in your life is useless to cry on. You have to find another way, to think about how do you want and what you can do to change things. Maybe at first, you can try to adapt in order to recover, but then you have to find the rush to put on new efforts.
Contributor, Money Crashers
Although it is a cliche, one thing to do when life gives you lemons is to make lemonade. But exactly how do we do that?
Look at other “lemonless” parts of your life and be thankful for those. Then, make the best of the situation. In that process, it’s never a good idea to complain about your lemons. Everyone’s got them after all. What’s also important to understand in the process of dealing with lemons is that for the most part, everything happens for a reason. So there may very well be some good coming your way after the lemons have settled in.
And probably most importantly, the best overall approach on the topic of lemons is to prepare and plan for them so they don’t take you by surprise. You could avoid plenty of financial lemons by getting on a budget, getting out of debt, and saving for the future.. See a potential lemon coming in one of your personal relationships? Sit down and talk with that person now and you can potentially avoid the lemon altogether.