I’m glad dating is hard

I bet you’re thinking, “That’s an odd approach.” At first blush, it sounds incongruent. But let me explain.

My dear friend, the late Art Berg, was one of the best motivational speakers in the world until his death at age 39 in 2002. He wrote several books, was named 1992 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Administration, and Success magazine featured him as one of the Great Comeback’s of the Year. “Come back from what?” you may ask.

In 1983, 21-year-old Art broke his neck in a serious automobile accident, leaving him a quadriplegic. His story isArt playing rugby inspiring of his recovery and subsequent ability to become a world-class wheelchair athlete enjoying a variety of sports, including full-contact wheelchair rugby (like those in the movie “Murderball“) and ultra marathon cyclist. But that is not what he shared from the platform to his audiences.

Art Berg on stageIn his keynote speeches, he shared his life as a SCUBA-diving, ATV-riding, RV-driving adventurer, husband and father of two. But one of his most inspiring stories was not told on the lecture circuit. His sharing it made an impact on my life, and I now apply the lesson to my life, including dating.

When in the hospital recovering from the accident he had to make decisions that would affect the rest of his life. One of the choices was the kind of wheelchair he would use. He could have a motorized one, which the doctors highly recommended because of his limited hand functions, or a hand-powered one. Art insisted on the latter. Why? Because he knew that if he chose the motorized one it would be too easy for him to get complacent — in his words, lazy. He knew the workout the hand-powered chair provided would keep his arms strong, hands flexible and internal organs functioning. A major problem for quadriplegics, he said, was their internal organs atrophied because of lack of exercise.

This is just one example of his mantra, “Be grateful that life is hard.” “Hard” in terms of wheelchair power would keep him vigorous, active, healthy and alive a lot longer.

But he went further in living this philosophy. He said that his accident was the best thing that ever happened to him. Why? RavensBecause it forced him to face his inner demons, to push himself past what he thought were his limits, to become the man that the Baltimore Ravens adopted as theirSuperBowl ring spiritual good luck charm the year they won the SuperBowl. (He proudly wore the SuperBowl ring they gave to him for being such a key part of their team.)

He told me that he would not have become the man he did, nor would he have accomplished all that he had, if life were not hard. He had to dig for inner strength when he insisted on dressing himself the first time after his accident. It took 4 hours. He was adamant about SCUBA diving with his family. He even drove his family’s RV and piloted their motor boat. He took his family on cruises and played with them on the beach. Very little slowed this man down. You or I might have seen roadblocks, but Art said they were just challenges he’d figure a way around.

So what does this do with dating? Dating is hard. It requires courage to date. Rejection stings. You have to risk getting your heart — and ego — bruised. You have to be willing to spend an hour getting “dated up” so you look good on a first date, then you discover within 10 minutes the guy isn’t a good fit. But if you want to live your life to the fullest and find your love match, not letting the setbacks force you to swear off dating, you have to keep going. Going out, that is. Dating.

Art continued living fully after his accident. He didn’t give up. He could have and no one would have judged him poorly for it. His life would have been much easier if he chose the motorized wheelchair. But he knew it would be better for him if he took the hard path, not the easy one.

Art Berg's bookIf he had given up, the world would have missed hearing this remarkable man’s stories of his life and lessons. He was an exemplar for the rest of us to stop whining about what isn’t working in our lives and just live fully — and be appreciative for every part of it, good and bad. He died so early, legions of people won’t hear his funny stories and sage wisdom. But hundreds of thousands did hear him in person or on video, and his books are still available from his web site.

So next time you think, “Dating is hard,” be grateful. If you are consciously dating, looking for the presents, appreciating the treasures, and noting the lessons you’re learning about yourself, you will appreciate that the toughness is making you a stronger, better person. If you begin to get discouraged, think of how Art might approach the situation. He is still a motivater, however now it’s from heaven instead of from stage.

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2 responses to “I’m glad dating is hard”

  1. kare anderson Avatar

    How synchronistic. Last Tuesday, in Cleveland at a conference dinner the man to my left shared with me that his son came back from Iraq two months ago – without a leg – and he’d been sharing Art’s tapes and books with his son. Strange how one person’s impact can be so strong, years later that two stangers’ eyes can well up, while we smile in that moment.

    Powerfully heartfelt and honest writing in this post and past posts… You, too, are inspiring.

    – Kare

  2. […] In “I’m glad dating is hard” I mentioned my friend the late Art Berg. While in rehab after a partially paralyzing spinal chord injury (SCI), his doctor kept sending psychiatrists to see him. Art thought it was odd that he was sequestered from other SCI patients. Later, in examining his medical records, he found the reason noted by his doctor: “Excessive happiness.” The doctor felt he laughed too much and was in too good of a mood much of the time. While the doctor thought this was a detriment to his recovery as he interpreted this as denial, Art said it was key to his recovery and subsequent success in life. […]