Garry Welsh was attending a motivational seminar with his son Nick this spring when a moment of truth arrived.
Did he have the nerve to test his mental toughness or would he back down?
The 20-foot path ahead of him didn’t look that menacing. In fact, the pathway of burning coals he was steeling himself to cross in his bare feet didn’t even look that hot.
“I can do this,” he thought.
But then he saw a man carrying a shovel and pushing a wheelbarrow toward the path.
“It was full of red hot coals,” said Garry, 49, of Windermere. “They hadn’t put any on the path yet! As they shoveled them out in front of me, I reflected on what was about to happen. Prior to the event I had been a bit skeptical. I didn’t want to injure my feet. But now I thought, ‘This is it. There’s no going back now.’ ”
Garry took the plunge and made it across unscathed.
“I didn’t have any ill effects whatsoever. Quite the opposite in fact,” said Garry, who moved to the United States from England in 2006 with his wife, Christine, and son Christopher. “I thought that if I could walk across red hot coals, I could do anything.”
Sometimes our individual paths can seem to be lined with hot coals. The key is learning that it’s not our perceptions but rather our fears that usually burn us.
Overcoming self-doubt, taking chances and testing boundaries are how we gain confidence and move forward. Personal growth can lead to greater happiness and satisfaction.
“One of the biggest inhibitors of making progress is the story you tell yourself about why you can’t make it,” said Garry, who left a promising career at Barclays global bank in England to test himself in the United States.
Since arriving here seven years ago, Garry has served as the CEO of a publicly traded company, advised on the turnaround of another business in Atlanta and earned his MBA at Rollins College.
But the leap of faith that brought the Welshes to America was about more than business success.
“We wanted the U.S. to become not just where we lived, but a place that we called home and felt at home,” Garry said. “We focused on integrating, becoming part of the Central Florida community. Making new connections, friends and contributing.”
Yet it wasn’t until Christine was diagnosed and successfully treated for lung cancer last year at the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute that the Welshes truly realized just how much they had been embraced here.
“Strangely, Christine's cancer episode highlighted that the U.S. was truly home for us now,” Garry said. “The support from our friends here throughout Christine's surgery and recovery was frankly astounding. They took turns cooking great meals for us and helping in whatever way they could. Two friends sat with me while Christine was undergoing surgery. She had countless visitors and well-wishing cards.
“That to me was a true measure of growth and success during our brief time here. We were integrated. We were connected. Accepted. There is no doubt in our minds that the U.S. is our home.”
The Welshes made that official last October when they became U.S. citizens.
Garry acknowledges that everything could have turned out differently.
“If you think about it and look back at it, it’s a bit scary from the point of view that it could have gone horribly wrong,” he said.
But rather than seize on the potential pitfalls of a situation, Garry stays focused and positive. It’s one of the ways he conquers mental obstacles.
Like a bed of burning coals, life presents challenges. To succeed you have to believe in yourself and sometimes take chances.
“You know you can do it,’’ he said. “You get up to the path. You’re not looking down. You just walk purposely. You calmly think, ‘I’m walking across hot coals.’ ”
What growth opportunities are you seizing? Learn more about Garry and Christine’s journey in previous blogs.
In November, Garry will be completing an Ironman triathlon to raise money for lung cancer research. Join his fight here.