The Pain That You Should Be Thankful For

Do you feel his pain? I do.

I absolutely LOVE Thanksgiving.

Food, family, friends, football, fun (did I get all of the “F’s”?), make this the one holiday that I look forward to the most every year.

In addition to all of the F’s, what I also love about this time of year is that we get to mindfully reflect on what is really important in our lives, and simply be in gratitude, at least for a day.

I urge you to consistently remember what it is that you’re thankful for, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day of your lives.

But that’s not what this article is about.

Let’s be real–chances are that if you’re choosing to read The Positivity Solution, you are already aware of the importance of being thankful for your health, your spouse, your kids, your home, your friends, your family and your job.

So, let’s raise the stakes a little.

This Thursday before we slip into our yearly blissful tryptophanic food coma, my goal is to add a new and very important thing to the many things that you are the most thankful for.

Truthfully, it could save your life.

What I want you to be thankful for is pain.

I’m not talking about physical pain that is easily forgotten over time, like the pain of a broken bone or a torn knee ligament. I’m specifically talking about emotional pain.

Not just any kind of emotional pain, though.

I’m talking about the healthiest–and by far, the most painful–form of emotional pain that exists in this world.

It’s the pain of never again.

The New Kind of Pain

What is this pain exactly?

The best way to explain it is to share a brief story. Let’s meet Steve.

In my first book, Making Work Work, I shared a personal story about my first job out of college.

Keeping a long story very short, my boss at this particular job didn’t like my name Shola because he felt that it would be “too complicated” for his customers to pronounce (yes, seriously).

So, on Day 1 of my first job ever out of college, this guy made the executive decision to call me “Steve” instead.

Yes, you read that correctly. You can’t make stuff like this up.

When I told him that I wasn’t comfortable with my “new name,” he told me that I had two choices:

  1. I would either be known as “Steve” (complete with a name tag that said “Steve” on it, which I was expected to wear) –OR–
  2. I could find another job.

He was dead serious too.

Obviously, I laughed in that guy’s face, tossed my ridiculous name tag in the trash, and forever walked out of that job with my head held high, right?


Like a pathetic coward, I put that name tag on my chest and wore it in quiet shame for the entire time that I worked there.

If the story ended at this point, you’d have my complete permission to stop reading The Positivity Solution forever because I wouldn’t be worthy of your time or respect.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t.

Thankfully, this is where the story begins.

Killing Steve and the Necessary Awakening

Three days into my new job, I struck up a conversation with a customer, and as she was leaving, she glanced down at my name tag and said, “Thanks for your help Steve, I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”

Without even thinking, I said, “Actually, my name is Shola.”

With a look of slight confusion and sincere curiosity, she said, “That’s such a beautiful name! Why does your name tag say ‘Steve’ on it?”

I stood there in stunned silence. It was such a simple question, but it was also one that I was completely unprepared to answer.

Did my name tag say “Steve” on it because the fear of “turning off” my customers with my real name was scarier to me than losing my dignity?

Did my name tag say “Steve” because I left my manhood at home and couldn’t find the requisite courage needed to stand up to my boss who was so clearly in the wrong?

Did my name tag say “Steve” on it because my self-respect wasn’t nearly as valuable to me as the $14.50/hour the company was paying me?

The questions that swirled in my mind only added to my confusion. I still remained silent as the woman waited patiently for an answer to a question that should have been incredibly easy to answer.

Finally, with tears welling up in my eyes, I gave her the only answer that made any sense:

“I don’t know.”

At that moment I felt it for the first time in my life.

Seconds later, I gave the customer a hug and thanked her (she had no idea why I did either of those things), I ripped the name tag off of my chest as I stomped through the store, burst into my boss’s office while he was on the phone on a personal call, threw the name tag at him, and yelled “I QUIT!” as loud as I could so that everyone within 100 yards could hear it.

Professional? Hardly.

Necessary? You bet your ass it was.

My boss’s response? “Steve, you’re a quitter who just proved that you won’t amount to anything. You don’t have what it takes to thrive in a workplace like this.”

Truthfully, he was half right.

I felt the unbearable pain of giving away my self-respect and dignity to someone outside of myself. It hurt like hell then, and over 20 years later, it still does.

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, I know that you know what I’m talking about.

To my former boss, I’m fully awake now.

You had Steve’s dignity for three days, but you’ll never have Shola’s.

Never again.

The Pain of Never Again

Have you ever had something happen to you that was so horrific, so unbearable, and so intensely destructive to your spirit that you were convinced from that moment forward that you would never experience that pain ever again?

If so, then you intimately know the Pain of Never Again. 

Be thankful, because this pain can be the fuel that propels you toward a life better than you have ever imagined.

Jim Rohn, one of America’s self-development pioneers, once shared a story about this pain that has become somewhat of a legend.

One day a Girl Scout knocked on his door to sell him a box of world-famous and deliciously irresistible Girl Scout cookies. After her brief presentation about the yummy goodness of the cookies, the little girl stated her price.

Two dollars.

Unfortunately for Jim Rohn, he didn’t have $2.

So, what did he do?

He lied to this little girl by saying that he already bought a bunch of Girl Scout cookies this year and that he didn’t need any more.

For some people that wouldn’t be too big of a deal, but it was crushing to him.

As he reflected on what he did, he realized that he chose to look an innocent Girl Scout directly in the eyes and lie to her face because he didn’t have $2 dollars to spare.

The pain of that pitiful act was absolutely unbearable for him.

Never again.

That moment was the spark where he vowed that from that point forward, even though he was broke, he would figure out a way to always have no less than a few hundred dollars in his pocket at all times. Equally as awesome, he also used the pain of that moment to launch his speaking career and forever cement himself as of one of the greatest motivational speakers in this country’s history.

Before the Girl Scout incident, he never would have thought that either was possible.

But it was possible.

He had the Pain of Never Again to thank for it.

So, Where Will You Draw the Line?

I want you to be brutally honest with yourself right now. No one will know if you’re telling the truth but you.

Do you know where you will draw your line?

Are you intimately aware of the line that exists in your mind that can never be crossed by anyone, ever?

If not, let me be the first to tell you that you need to know what it is.

Let’s do a brief experiment.

Take a look at the four common scenarios below and tell me if any of them would evoke enough unbearable emotional pain for you to say “Never Again.”

Never Again Scenario #1: Your near-maniacal bully boss has made a habit of demeaning you constantly, cursing at you, screaming at you and treating you in a sub-human fashion on a daily basis for close to a year. Yesterday, in her worst act to date, she viciously humiliated you in front of your entire team by literally ripping up a report that you spent the past two months working on while snidely remarking that her “dog could have written a better report than you.” There’s no doubt that you really need your job and that you’re currently living paycheck-to-paycheck with barely any money in savings, but the thought of spending another millisecond with this evil woman is causing you to go slowly insane.

Never Again Scenario #2: Your boyfriend has always been known for losing his temper, but last night he took his anger to disturbingly frightening level when he forcefully shoved you against the bedroom wall in a rage and severely sprained your wrist. It took him until the next day to even acknowledge what happened, but in the morning he apologized profusely, and he even sent flowers to your office in hopes of making amends.

Never Again Scenario #3: It is five days before Christmas and your 5-year old daughter is losing her mind with excitement. She is certain that this is going to be the year where Santa Claus is going to give her the bike that she has always wanted. She happily tells you all about how she’ll finally be able to go bike riding with her friends and how she’ll no longer be the only girl in her neighborhood without a bike. Her heart is bursting with pure joy, but privately, your heart is breaking. There is nothing on this earth that you want to do more than give her that bike–but unfortunately for you, there is no Santa Claus willing to hook you up with a bike, and you are nowhere close to having the $100 that is needed to buy it. On Christmas morning, the moment that you have been dreading for weeks is now your reality. Your daughter joyfully bounces into the living room ready for the happiest day of her young life only to see no sign of her beloved bike. The joy slowly drains from her face as she sobs uncontrollably in your arms and wonders aloud why Santa doesn’t love her as much as he loves her friends.

Never Again Scenario #4: You’ve always had a slight weight problem, and you know that in the back of your mind that you need to do something about it, but it hasn’t been a huge priority for you–until recently. In the past month, you’ve noticed some troubling changes. Jeans that you were able to fit into comfortably last year are now completely unwearable, you are starting to get winded just by climbing up one flight of stairs, you’re beginning to notice significant joint paint from carrying around the extra weight, and your spouse has gently told you that he/she is not sexually attracted to you anymore (is there a “gentle” way to tell your spouse that?) Worst of all, your doctor told you at your most recent physical exam that if you don’t make some serious lifestyle changes, you likely will not be alive to celebrate your birthday five years from now.

Here’s my question for you:

Are any of those situations enough to make you say “Never Again”?

Like I said earlier, only you can answer that.

One thing that I do know is that the universe will give you tests. And if you don’t pass your test, then you’ll have the joy of taking it again.

Except the next time, it will be much harder.

Don’t wait for your boss to destroy your career, your boyfriend to hospitalize you, your child to constantly miss out on his/her desires, or for you to have triple bypass surgery in order for you to feel the Pain of Never Again.

Invisible Wings

Although, I shared with you the first time that I’ve experienced the Pain of Never Again, please don’t think that it was the only time. Allow me to share a few of the many instances where I have encountered this life-altering pain in my life:

  • I walked in on the woman who I thought I was going to marry, having sex with another man. Even worse? It happened on my birthday, of all days.
  • I had a former boss punch me because I failed to follow her directions exactly as she wanted.
  • I had my water and electricity shut off in my apartment for a week and had to wash myself in the sink at work when no one was looking, because I couldn’t afford to pay my bills.
  • I had a friend (I’m using that term loosely) angrily call me the N-word because a girl that he had a crush on ending up having a crush on me.
  • I had a boss call me “Steve” because he didn’t like the West African name that my parents gave me.

I would be lying to you if I said that the pain of these events did not emotionally break me, because they did. And as broken as I was at the time, I somehow managed the strength to weakly mutter two words:

“Never again.”

From that pain came a new strength. From my weakness came a new resolve. Most importantly, from the broken heap that was my life, I sprouted wings that I never knew I had.

And I flew.

You can too.

Day 1 of Your New Life

This Thanksgiving as I quietly reflect on the numerous blessings that I am fortunate enough to enjoy in my life, I will also say a sincere “thank you” for the pain that has helped me to soar higher than I ever thought possible.

If you are reading this and you know in your heart that there is a situation in your life where you should say “Never Again,” please give yourself the best holiday gift possible by saying those two life-changing words today.

Or better yet, say it now.

Most of all, mean it when you say it too.

Commit to making today the first day of your new life by refusing to be anyone’s doormat for a moment longer, honoring and respecting yourself always, and most importantly, by feeling the pain of your unacceptable situation and sincerely doing everything in your power to never experience that pain again.

You deserve the best life possible, and you deserve it now.

You are special, and the Pain of Never Again is the world’s most powerful reminder to help you to remember that fact.

That’s why for this incredibly powerful and life-altering pain, you should be very thankful.

Even if it hurts.

Your Turn

Have you ever felt the life-altering Pain of Never Again? Are you aware of the line that exists in your mind that cannot be crossed by anyone, ever? If so, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!

0 thoughts on “The Pain That You Should Be Thankful For”

  1. Thank you for the reminder, Shola. That pain is such a motivator and I am thankful for it. I think that what I really love about that pain is how it motivates me to turn a negative into a positive.

    So much of our lives is spent battling, struggling, hurting and yearning. We don’t always know how to turn things around, nor do we always feel okay asking for help. But that pain of never again is so strong, so power, so PAINFUL, that it leaves us with no other option but to make a change.

    And after that change comes great stuff! For me, that pain has compelled me through some seriously horrible things. I didn’t leave my abusive first marriage as soon as I should have (hindsight and all that jazz) but once that pain struck, I was gone. My kids were small and I had shielded them from so much pain for so long. When the pain started to affect them, though, I couldn’t ignore it. All that was involved in that divorce… from the actual leaving and breaking the news to my kids to learning to stand on my own and attempting to co-parent with a mentally unstable person…it has made me a fiercely strong woman!

    A couple weeks ago, I was talking with my youngest who is 15. She was only 7 when I left her dad. While she does not remember the ‘ugly’ from our marriage, she has watched her dad continue to struggle (and fail). I asked her if she ever wished we had not gotten divorced. She turned to me, her jaw dropped, and said, “No! Mom, no! There is no way that would have been a good thing.” It led us to a great conversation about relationships.

    Enough from me. Thank you, again, for this important reminder. Happy Thanksgiving, dear friend. Enjoy all your F’s!!!


    • That’s right, Kathy! That is the beauty of the Pain of Never Again. As you definitely know, it is absolute misery to go through it, but once you’re on the other side, you get the gift of a better and more meaningful life. Like you said, once that line is crossed, there is literally no going back–and that is a good thing. Props to you, my friend–and I hope that you and your beautiful family had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  2. Shola you are like a breath of fresh air! As I read your post such pure honestly I have truly never read. Straight from your heart.

    God bless you and my unconditional love to you for such incredible words! I thank you with my heart and soul.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family 🙂

    P.S. Shola is a beautiful name!

    Cort’s mama

    • Thank you for your extremely kind words, Brenda! Even though we’ve never met, since you’re Courtney’s mom, that practically makes us family, as far as I’m concerned :). Thanks for your support, and I hope to get to meet you in person in the near future!

  3. Thank you Shola!!

    My never again was being trapped in the bathroom with my raging ex-husband, my son’s father, while our child slept in the next room and he stood over me hissing threats and insults, because I wanted to leave him (weird right??). This happened 3 times, with him getting crazier each time and telling me each time that it was my fault that he was acting like a psycho because “you created me.” He apologized each time after and insisted “that’s not me” but yeah dude, that IS you. That’s you when you aren’t getting what you want and you can;t be in control. He left, divorce was filed, and I look back on it only long enough to say NEVER AGAIN. Love you Shola!!!

    • Yep Heather, that is the definition of “Never Again” if I’ve ever heard of it. As one of the most brilliant and witty human beings who I know, you have given proof to the fact that the Pain of Never Again doesn’t discriminate–it will literally visit anyone at any time, and it is up to us to respond accordingly. Huge credit is given to you for doing the right thing, and for being the example that many people reading this will follow. Love you too!

  4. Shola,
    I love each and every one of your articles! I have your website bookmarked on my computer at work; so that when I get down, I can always re-read the blogs that have uplifted me in past times. That being said, I have recently been struggling with people (i.e. my husband’s family, co-workers, etc.) that say and do things that make me doubt my happiness and fill my head with petty negativity. My husband and I are pregnant with our first child, a girl, to which we are thrilled! In addition to this happy news, we are also in the process of building our dream home. There have been other things that have happened as well in the last few months that have attributed to my overall happiness during this special time of my life. However, it seems that I literally can’t go a week without someone making a negative comment about any of these joyous things I am experiencing. Problem is, most of these people are ones who I see and interact with regularly. I feel as if I am between a rock and a hard place at times because I am not the type of person who purposefully criticizes others morals, opinions, or feelings for no reason other than to be condescending or just plain mean. I know that several of these people are unhappy with situations in their own lives, and I try to remember a quote from one of your blogs, “hurting people hurt others.” It’s just hard because I don’t know how to respond to comments/negative actions when I have to constantly be around these people on a daily basis. Plus, I don’t want to be hurtful to them about their own situation that causes them pain or hardship. It’s important to me to keep situations in my husband’s family and at work peaceful, and I am not the type of person who likes confrontation anyway. In fact, I hate it and stay away from it as much as possible to the point it gets me in trouble at times because I don’t show my true feelings. I don’t want to be fake, but it’s just not me to let others know that I don’t particularly like a certain characteristic, their viewpoints, or their actions. I will say that these people do have qualities about them that are positive, and I don’t want to completely ruin the relationships I’ve made with them. I am just unsure as to how to handle the negative comments/actions because as I previously mentioned, I don’t want to be fake, but I don’t want to be a doormat for that matter either. I’d appreciate any advice!

  5. Hi Shola:
    beautiful name, beautiful person. I have had many ‘never again’s’. As I get older, (57) I discover that I am having less ‘never again’s’, more ‘nevers’. Much clearer and more defined boundaries as I learn what is important to me.
    The reason I found your website is because I am dealing with health challenges that require me to face my fear of death/dying and keep going anyway. Up until now I felt myself 10 feet tall and bulletproof – frightening to discover that I am not. Got me down for awhile, recently have decided that I still want to live life full out – so I am pushing through my mental pain/fear and doing what needs to be done.
    Thanks for reminding me that how I chose to perceive life is one thing I do have control of.
    Blessed be,

  6. Hi Shola,
    I came across your inspirational website after someone I knew and liked hurt and disappointed me on a level I had not experienced before.
    I can totally relate to the pain of never again. Much as it has hurt me to cut this individual out of my life it has also enabled me to realise my worth, reclaim my self respect and rethink what I will allow into my life.
    In truth I had allowed this person to push my boundaries and disrespect me in the past and it is so true that the more you allow disrespect the more people will think it’s ok to get away with it. I now need to move forward and be thankful for the pain to say never again!
    Thank you for sharing.

  7. Shola, I swear we’ve lived parallel lives. I have been bludgeoned by so many bosses, I’ve been completely crushed by the unfathomable death of my father, and I’ve had horrible familial and romantic relationships. All of which I have overcome and I too have arrived at similar conclusions. Positive mindsets are imperative for our future. These are the experiences that, if we can accept and grow from them, provide us our grit, our perseverance and our zest to help others. Thank you for your work Shola. I stand beside you!

  8. When I was an adolescent I was severely boy for two years by a guy in my neighborhood. I thought it was the worst thing ever. It also didn’t help having the first name Jan which most people view as a female name in a culture of adolescent cruelty as a young male.

    Many years later as I grew into a reasonably confident human being I came to realize the gift of empathy this experience it gave me for every human being who has ever been down trodden.

    This is my favorite poem ever:


    Before you know what kindness really is
    you must lose things,
    feel the future dissolve in a moment
    like salt in a weakened broth.
    What you held in your hand,
    what you counted and carefully saved,
    all this must go so you know
    how desolate the landscape can be
    between the regions of kindness.
    How you ride and ride
    thinking the bus will never stop,
    the passengers eating maize and chicken
    will stare out the window forever.

    Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
    you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
    lies dead by the side of the road.
    You must see how this could be you,
    how he too was someone
    who journeyed through the night with plans
    and the simple breath that kept him alive.

    Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
    you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
    You must wake up with sorrow.
    You must speak to it till your voice
    catches the thread of all sorrows
    and you see the size of the cloth.

    Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
    only kindness that ties your shoes
    and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
    only kindness that raises its head
    from the crowd of the world to say
    it is I you have been looking for,
    and then goes with you every where
    like a shadow or a friend.

    –Naomi Shihab Nye


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Hi! I am Shola

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Over a decade ago, I was drowning in the despondency of yet another workday. My success as the top regional performer had been numbed by a culture of incessant workplace bullying. And, I’d recently made the situation worse by filing a formal complaint. In short, I was collateral damage in a company without the process or intention to address my experience.

Exhausted from the drama, with an unrecognizable version of myself at the wheel, I intentionally swerved off the interstate in an attempt to take my own life. But in that half-second, my reflexes responded, and I yanked the wheel away from disaster. As I clipped the guardrail on I 405, something changed...

I uncovered a power within myself

...a burning desire to reverse a trend that happens daily to sixty-five million people in this country alone. This catalyst has since become Go Together™ Movement - a transformational roadmap of mindset, behaviors, and tools that transform workplace cultures and drive results.

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