Author, The Happiest Man in the World: Life Lessons from a Cultural Economist
“In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test,
in life you are given a test that teaches you a lesson.” Tom Bodett
It seems to me that life is designed and structured to place me in situations where I am supposed to learn something. It also seems that if I learn something from the situation I end up better off, and I am better able to cope with the next set of circumstances. It also seems that the result of the testing process can be used as somewhat of a predictor of the outcome of the next set of circumstances, as well as a predictor of my suitability for a certain purpose. So, the teaching is the test and the test is the teaching.
I’ve been intrigued by life’s testing process. I have tried to observe how it not only works out in my personal life, but, also, how the process has worked in the living history of Project C.U.R.E. We do a lot of things differently today in collecting, warehousing, and distributing donated medical goods than we did twenty-five years ago when we started. In the beginning, I had some very traumatic and disappointing experiences working with the corrupt customs people in places like Romania and India. Now, we are successfully working in over 125 countries in the world and predict that the future will get even better.
One predictable component of the testing process is difficulty. Testing was not necessarily designed to be easy, but it is inconveniently effective, and because of its brutal efficiency, it is surprisingly sustainable. Difficulty is not always a bad thing. I have come to embrace difficulty as part of the method of learning and assessing.
There seems to be at least two types of testing. The Greeks made the distinction by using two different words. Dokimazo: Here, the testing has almost an expected outcome of approval. When a doctor sits for his licensing examination he is there expecting that he will pass and receive his plaque of approval to hang on his wall and be able to legally start treating sick patients. Or, you might be testing to see exactly how much gold is in the rock you just discovered in the creek. Peirazo: In this case, the object of the test is to measure the limits. My mental picture is of a classroom of young engineers competing to see who can make the strongest model bridge out of flimsy balsa wood. The winning student is the one who has constructed the bridge that will hold the most weight without breaking. Usually, this kind of testing carries with it some overtones of sinister destruction or evil interference.
But, I have decided regarding my own life adventure, that regardless of the classification, method, or intent of the testing, I will accept it with confidence knowing that the testing encounter has within it the seeds of possibility for helping me become a better and more fulfilled person. I believe that all those circumstances can work to bring about good in my life.
In 2007, I was traveling about two hundred-fifty days a year in some really awful international locations for Project C.U.R.E. While in the country of Togo in West Africa, my body was invaded by some nasty bugs. Later, it was cultured as a highly aggressive mutant strain of African e-coli. When I returned to the U.S., my doctors worked feverishly to save my life. “We hate to inform you of this, but we are running out of time and alternatives, nothing is working and your body systems are shutting down.” Their efforts finally paid off and I began to rally. Presently, the e-coli have not all been discovered and destroyed. The problem occasionally reoccurs and I again get very sick. Of course, it has been difficult. Of course, it has not been fun. I had the opportunity to become caustic and bitter about the situation. But some great things have come out of that episode.
Now, I am limited in my international travels. If I were to be in Nepal and the sickness were to reoccur, I would not make it home alive. However, that circumstance of testing was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to Project C.U.R.E. and ultimately to me. Until that time, I was nearly the only person performing needs assessment studies on the hospitals and clinics we were targeting around the world. Without the needs assessment studies no donated medical goods would have been shipped. In order for Project C.U.R.E. to expand it had to grow beyond me. Now, there are twenty-five or more of our people out doing what I had been doing. Now, Project C.U.R.E. is growing greater in effectiveness every day, and I am experiencing fulfillment and maturation.
I choose to invite growth. I choose to invite times of testing. I choose to embrace difficulties. I am continuing to learn that it is not the set of circumstances in which I find myself, but how I respond to those circumstances that makes all the difference in the world.
Dr. James W. Jackson often describes himself as "The Happiest Man in the World." A successful businessman, award-winning author and humanitarian, Jackson is also a renowned Cultural Economist and international consultant, helping organizations and governments to apply sound economic principals to the transformation of culture so that everyone is "better off."
As the founder of Project C.U.R.E., Dr. Jackson traveled to more than one hundred fifty countries assessing healthcare facilities, meeting with government leaders and "delivering health and hope" in the form of medical supplies and equipment to the world's most needy people. Literally thousands of people are alive today as a direct result of the tireless efforts of Project C.U.R.E.'s staff, volunteers and Dr. Jackson.