I never met Tom Petty, but I deeply morn his recent passing. His music was transformative. Some of my favorites were Free Fallin’, Refugee, Learning to Fly, You Don’t Know How it Feels, to name a few. But the one that moved me the most was I Won’t Back Down. The song  became my recalcitrant anthem that was a retroactive middle finger to anyone who ever made my life more difficult. Every time I heard the song I could take myself back in time to flip Fidel Castro off for taking everything my family owned. I did the same to my high school counselor for insisting I didn’t have the smarts to become an engineer. Even my old boss who laid me off got a well-deserved f-bomb. The song worked in this manner for all kinds of future situations. It made me the hero battling the dragons of my own making.

In 1989, when the song first came out, I believed if you wanted to succeed you put your head down and let no one talk you out of, or interfere, with your goals. I was convinced my willpower got me what I wanted out of life. I attributed my mulishness to a combination of the toughness I learned standing up to the bullies at Sacred Heart Home and the perseverance modeled by my old man, that son-of-a-bitch never gave up on anything. Tom Petty lassoed my stubbornness with his lyrics, here are the lyrics.

I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty

Well, I won’t back down

No, I won’t back down

You can stand me up at the gates of hell

But I won’t back down

No, I’ll stand my ground

Won’t be turned around

And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down

Gonna stand my ground

And I won’t back down

(I won’t back down)

Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out

(I won’t back down)

Hey, I will stand my ground

And I won’t back down

Well I know what’s right

I got just one life

In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around

But I’ll stand my ground

And I won’t back down

(I won’t back down)

Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out

(I won’t back down)

Hey, I will stand my ground

And I won’t back down

Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out

(I won’t back down)

Hey, I won’t back down

(I won’t back down)

Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out

(I won’t back down)

Hey, I will stand my ground

And I won’t back down

No, I won’t back down

As I got older, I began to realize that what gave me strength was not me, it was something from deep within, a presence that nourished and nudged me along and kept me going on my way. I understand now this song was never about my pigheadedness; it is describing the attributes of that higher intelligence living in us that never stops loving and urging us to evolve into our highest selves.

Many times in my life I have been lost, yet this presence within led me out of the darkness. This was the voice that soothed me during those terrible days when I felt abandoned by family after arriving as a ten-year-old immigrant to the United States. It was the voice that encouraged me to stay in college when I was exhausted and wanting to give up. During my time suffering a dark depression, its soft whisper urged me to get out of bed and live, even if it was one minute at a time. This voice never yelled or condemned me, it was always soft, forever loving. Time and time again—no matter the challenge or transition—this presence has always stood its ground in me, and it has never backed down.

I know now it was never really me who converted the pain of difficult experiences into positive personal growth; the path was always made available by this guidance within. Yes, I had the ability to ignore its assistance, and many times I did, only to remain in the quagmire of my suffering, sometimes for years, until I followed its inner urgings.

So stop using your will power to control outcomes, that is about as senseless as trying to control the waves in the ocean. Use your will instead to choose faith in yourself and your ability to handle life challenges. Will yourself to trust  others who are eager to help and lend support. Hang on to the conviction that a Higher Power/God is guiding you towards an outcome that supports your greatest benefit. This is the joining that so many great teachers, Jesus, Buddha, Einstein, Zukav, Dyer, Chopra and many others proclaim will lead us to authenticity and to more fulfilling lives. This inner guide is available to each one of us, always, no matter who we are, and it seeks us out with its loving arms, never wavering, always standing its ground. It won’t back down.

Call to Action:

We are all immigrants! Whether we left a country for a fresh start in another, or whether an unforeseen life change has sent us on an unexpected path, this cycle of death and rebirth is at the center of our human evolution and can alter us in ways we don’t fully understand. If you are going through such a period, I can help. If your organization is going through a challenging phase or serves people whose lives are in flux, like immigrants, seniors, or communities that are unappreciated, I can help as well. The combination of years and experiences have molded me into a messenger uniquely qualified to write, speak and mentor on the subject of discovering the inner resource that will convert difficult transitions into positive triumphs. Check out my website for the services I offer and to subscribe to personally receive my weekly blog.

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