Can You Make a ?Torpedo? Out of Personal Junk? How to Optimize What You Have

"Junkyard Wars," a TV series showed two teams of experts contending for a title. The aim of the competition was for teams to construct a torpedo that can hit a target. But the challenge was more than just the process of construction. The challenge was creating a torpedo out of a junk.

Each team had crafted a unique design and members wasted no time looking for junks - hoses, batteries, propellers, tubes, and engines. After several hours of hard work and meticulous technical maneuverings, both teams finished the project. The team that used a propeller to thrust the torpedo won.

I'm amazed that people can actually make something innovative out of nothing. And in a short time! For me, it doesn't matter which team won. As far as effort and creativity are concerned, both teams won big time.

Can we make a "torpedo" out of our personal junk? How can we optimize what we have?

I feel sad when people blame everyone and everything except themselves when something bad happens in their lives. I know a 30-year-old man who can't seem to pursue a career. He quits jobs as quickly as he changes clothes. Because of his perceived "misfortunes," he accuses employers and co-workers of politicking, blames parents for not supporting him enough, faults his neighborhood for "bad Luck," and even chides his looks and genes for his desperate circumstances.

In reality, this man is considered lucky by current standards. Despite his complaints, he actually finished a degree in an expensive private school and was raised in a middle class neighborhood by supportive and educated parents.

In my opinion, this man is making a junk out of his privileged status.

Compare this man to Mama Teeya. At age 60, she migrated to North America with her husband. When she came, she didn't know how to drive a car so she had to walk to look for work - even in winter. Trying to save money, she moved from one apartment to the next more affordable shelter. While everyone was asleep, she was working. Rain or shine, she walked to work with umbrella in tow.

After five years working two minimum wage jobs - as gas station attendant and hotel janitress - and some babysitting on the side, Mama Teeya and her husband (who worked at 7 Eleven) had saved enough money to afford a small two-bedroom townhouse unit. Eventually, they managed to buy a brand new Hyundai and a rusty seven-year old Oldsmobile. Despite her meager income, she supported her nieces and nephews attain college degrees by sending hard earned dollar to her home country.

Like Mama Teeya, how can you optimize what you have and lead a life of success?

Acknowledge your limitations. Because of Mama Teeya's age and unaccredited education, she realized that she had to accept a minimum wage job.

Determine your strength. Mama Teeya knew that if she worked hard and be frugal - her two positive traits - she could attain her goals. She decided to focus on her strengths rather than on her weaknesses and limitations.

Count your blessings and be thankful. Mama Teeya never failed to enjoy what she had. She was always thankful for her job, family, house, and friends. She socialized with close friends and danced cha-cha and tango with her husband on free week nights.

Instead of blame, find solutions to problems. Mama Teeya never blamed her age, her education, and her immigrant status for her low-income jobs. For her, it was already a blessing to have a job. The salary was just a bonus.

Don't complain about your circumstance. Mama Teeya never complained that she had to walk to her work. Also, she never whined for not getting enough sleep to maintain two jobs. She just loved what she did.

Work hard with joy in your heart. Mama Teeya enjoyed every minute of her work. According to her co-workers, she greeted customers and went to work enthusiastically.

Help others generously. Because of her generosity and kindness, she had helped her nephews and nieces financially and emotionally.

Have a strong faith. Mama Teeya communed with God despite her busy schedule and regularly attended church and religious gatherings.

Mama Teeya optimized what she had. Everyday, she was thankful that God gave her two decent jobs, her own car, a comfortable townhouse unit, and a devoted husband. Through frugality, hard work, and strong faith, she had lived a full life and fulfilled her American Dream before she passed away last year.

Mama Teeya is now gone but her example will live forever.

About The Author

Copyright 2003 Dr. Michael G. Rayel, author of First Aid to Mental Illness (Finalist, Reader's Preference Choice Award 2002), has pioneered the CARE approach as a first aid for mental health. As an expert and an award-winning author, Dr. Rayel has appeared on radio and prominent newspapers. As a first aid advocate, he has conducted Mental Health First Aid workshops around the country. His books are available at and major online bookstores.

[email protected]

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