I think the key to moving forward in life is helping others to move forward.
Figuratively speaking, when we overcome obstacles and challenges, we are given a gift of illumination. We have a greater understanding that comes from experience. The hope is that, upon gaining this illumination and experience, we’ll then go back and share it with others.
In my book, Your Life Isn’t For You, I wrote about one of the oldest examples of this process.
According to Greek mythology, there was a Titan—a Greek god—by the name of Prometheus. It is said that Prometheus not only created humans, but also saved them.
For during that time, men and women lacked the one thing that could make them as powerful as the gods:
Without fire, men and women were helpless and hopeless. They were unable to pierce the darkness of night, stay warm, create tools, cook their food, or build weapons to fight wild beasts and monsters. During the day, they wandered in the cold, wet mud, and at night they huddled together in caves for want of warmth.
Looking upon the creation of his hands, Prometheus took pity on the humans and resolved to bring them fire.
In the dead of night, Prometheus took a portion of the eternal fires from Mount Olympus, and left his heavenly home to bless humankind with this light.
After showing fire to men and women, he taught them how to build it on their own and use it to their advantage. Excited by this new power, humans began to build fires and tools of their own. In a very real way, Prometheus had started a kind of fire that could never be extinguished. And for the rest of time, mankind would honor and revere Prometheus, the giver of life and light.
That story makes me think of questions: Who has given you light? And have you given light to someone else?
Someone who has given me light in my own darkness is my mother.
But before I get into that, let me tell you something about my name. Whenever I write my name, I use the full version—and a lot of people make fun of me because of it. In fact, some friends in Florida have taken to calling my wife “Kim Adam Smith.” And it would amaze you how many people email me, thinking my name is ‘Adam’ or ‘Adams.’
But I’m okay with that, because my mother gave me my name. And here’s why: ‘Adams’ is my mother’s maiden name. Giving that name to me was her way of naming me after my grandfather, Boyd Adams.
Now there’s a reason I’m telling you all of this. After I tried to take my life, my mother didn’t quite know how to respond—no one did. Really, what do you say? What do you say to someone who is that deep in darkness?
But here’s what my mother did: She gave me hope. She told me to keep moving forward, because she believed that one day my story would inspire others and that my name would be known through my writing. I didn’t believe it, but she did.
And she told me every day.
And as the years went by, I slowly began to believe that maybe—just maybe—my story might be able to help someone. So I started putting my full name on everything.
About two years ago, I finally felt comfortable sharing the story of my suicide attempt, and I published it on my blog. It was read by a lot of people, and I got some really wonderful email responses from it.
About six months ago, I was contacted by a producer from the media department in the LDS Church. They wanted to make a video on suicide prevention, and they asked if I would be willing to share my story on camera. My first reaction was to say no, but my wife was very encouraging. As a result, the video was published a month ago, and has had over 500,000 views across all of their channels. In the video, they showed a screenshot of my blog—which puts my full name on public display.
I don’t care about my name being known. I don’t. I would much rather be behind the camera than in front of it. But seeing my name in that video was a confirmation of my mother’s belief in me—that there is hope—that there can be a purpose to our struggles.
My mother gave me life, and she also gave me light. Before that light, I was dead to the world—wandering in darkness, without a purpose. She gave me a purpose and a reason to live. Her encouragement has created a light inside of me that leads me forward.
Each of you posses the power to do the same for others—give them light. You may not think much of this ability, but to rescue a soul from darkness is god-like.
I don’t know you, and I don’t know your situation. I don’t know your challenges, and I don’t know your fears. But I know that there is hope. I know that each of us has a purpose and that our struggles teach us what that purpose is.
I love stories and literature. I love how they can inspire us to move forward. I know that someday your story will inspire someone else. So please, keep moving forward.