When The Wheels Come Off Of Life

When The Wheels Come Off!


I had it figured out!  I understood how life worked.  I wasn’t stupid.   I got it!


I do A and you do B and C will always happen.  I got this!


I was 13!


CHAIR ONE – The Call In The Tent!


In my late 20’s, I worked at a small, private, Christian school…aka (I took the first thing I could get!).  Teaching K-12 PE!  And a ton of other things to make the school 87 total kids, “The Best Private Education In Kansas City”.  REALLY?


I was going on 5 years of marriage that had been pretty rocky, BUT I JUST NEEDED A LITTLE MORE TIME TO FIX HER!  I had a destiny and nothing would change that!  It was a sure deal!  I do A and you do B and C will always happen!  This was my worldview.


Don’t get me wrong, this worldview had gone through a lot of challenges and it always held up!

I was broke!  But that was because they didn’t pay me enough!

I had been fired from my previous job!  But that was because my dad didn’t understand how talented I was!

My marriage was on the rocks!  But that was just because my wife wouldn’t do what I told her and let me fix her!


My worldview was sound!  The reasons why C wasn’t happening for me was because a lot of people weren’t doing the B!!




On my 30th Birthday, I was working all day managing a Fireworks Stand for the school!  If you’ve never worked a fireworks stand, you’re missing out on the all the pride and sense of accomplishment that accompanies the phrase,  “I’m sorry sir, we seem to be out of all the Ass Kickin’ Mule Crackers.”  Yes, My life was coming unraveled.  It wasn’t fair!  This wasn’t supposed to be happening to ME!  I’m Clay Staires!  I was made for more than this!  Why is this happening?  Why is life so hard?


That afternoon, the day before the 4th of July, we were really busy.  My pager went off.  It was my wife with one of her famous 911 messages!  She had gone to Oklahoma City with our daughter to see her family.  I had no idea what was coming toward me like a freight train.  I was getting ready to be hit with a piece of information that would deliver a fatal blow to my way of “living” and I didn’t even know it.


“Clay, I’ve found someone else.  I don’t love you anymore.  I’m leaving you, and I’m taking our daughter with me.”


I literally lost my balance and fell against cash register.  “Wait, you’re not doing B!  I can fix this!  I can control this!  I just need more time!  Give me another chance!  Don’t do this.  It’s not fair!”  It felt like I was falling.


There I was, a wreck, stunned and overloaded by just a small piece of information.  I had no way of processing what I had just heard.  I didn’t even have the capacity to feel the pain that had just been thrust upon me.


What I did have was a line of customers in camouflaged overalls waiting to purchase a box of “Loud Little Suckas”!


CHAIR TWO – A Friend On The Road


Ok, this was a setback.  But I still had this!  It was going to be OK.  I could get this back.  I JUST NEED TO DO “A” BETTER!


I didn’t know that my 30th Birthday still had surprises waiting for me!


Kevin was a good friend of mine.  He and his wife had been helping my wife and I walk through some of our struggles and problems.  Hey, they should know, they were both on their 3rd MARRIAGE… TO EACHOTHER!!!


That night after my shift was over at the fireworks stand, I went over to his house.  He immediately took me out for a walk.  I didn’t want to walk.  I had been on my feet for the last 10 hours.  I had just been hit my a mack truck of revelation.  So… we went for a walk.


You see, I had grown up in a wonderful family.  The youngest of four kids.  A real American Hero in school and in sports.  Just like on the football field, I was always able to “juke” and outrun my problems.  Nothing much touch me!


My mom and dad were very respected in our town and I enjoyed the benefits of being a “Staires”.  I had never considered the possibility that my up bringing was ever flawed.


Kevin spoke to me on that long, long walk and used words like dysfunction, co-dependence, enmeshment, manipulation, selfishness, fear, shame… words that just weren’t in my vocabulary.  But they were very much a part of my life and the way I was living.  “Clay”, he said, “you’ll never be able to fully find success and happiness as long as you think like that.”


What do you mean, “Think like THAT.”  THAT, my friend, just happens to be the right way to think!  THAT is my security!  THAT is who I am!  If I don’t have THAT then who am I?


With the gentle finesse of a “Plumbers CRACKle”, he unloaded another piece of revelation that unhinged my emotional psyche.  “You know, Clay, from what you’ve told me about your dad, it sounds like he used a lot of this type of dysfunction as he and your mom raised you.”


BOOM!  Before I knew it, I was down in the middle of the street, several miles from Kevin’s house, vomiting and wailing.  I laid there in a ball crying so hard that I couldn’t make a sound.  My mouth was wide open but no sound came out!


“No!  I need him to be “B” so I can be assured that my “C” will happen!”  This was another fatal blow to my way of thinking about how life worked!  I knew he was right, and that revelation slammed into the hull of my emotional well-being.


This wasn’t supposed to happen!  I did what I was supposed to do!!  This isn’t fair!


Eventually, Kevin lifted me up and said, “Lets head back”.  Oh, that’s right, the walk isn’t over.  We still have a ways to go!  But that night, I knew something was changing!


CHAIR THREE – A Judge In The Court


That fall I began working at a large public school district.  To get hired, I had to agree to teach each day in two different schools, 5 different classrooms and four different subjects!  Half of my day, each day, was spent with 7th and 8th graders at Smith-Hale Jr. High in Kansas City.  You know, it takes a very special “someone” to teach Junior High.


I…. was not that special someone!


By this point in my life I had tapped in to a serious vein of anger and depression!  I had a long pony tail and an earring and a slick looking goatee.  Just what I thought I needed to let the world know that I was angry.


I had a huge chip on my shoulder and I was convinced that LIFE WASN’T FAIR!  You can imagine how it felt when little Quinton, in 7th grade science would say, “Mr. Staires!  That’s not fair that you gave me a C on this test!”  I wanted to unleash the full force of my inner wrath and call down the god of “CRUSH” on the kid.


But I had been learning how to process the struggles in my life.  Rather than doing everything I could to avoid pain and difficulty.  I was learning how to interpret them rightly and then know how respond.  I knew I was on a journey of some kind.  I was being changed into something new.  But I still battled with leaning on “C” to happen!  I had started to surround myself with people that had been on this journey in their life.  They were a godsend!  But I was still fighting it.  I still wanted to beat this thing and get back to the way things were!  Enough already!


One day, it was a Wednesday, I had a court date to appear with my wife as we walked through our divorce.  She had demanded full custody of our daughter and it finally came to the point where the judge would have to decide.  I felt very confident that the judge would rule in my favor.  It was a no brainer!  She didn’t have a job.  She didn’t have a home.  She was crazy.  And most of all, SHE WAS IMMORAL!  (I screamed in my mind and felt completely justified!)  No judge worthy of the robe would side with her!  THAT WOULDN’T BE FAIR!  I did A and she didn’t do her B so C is obvious!


The judge heard my wife’s side first.  Although there were many things that I felt were half truths and even lies, I didn’t freak out because I knew that I would get a chance to talk and I could set the record straight.


When she finished, the judge didn’t even look over to me.  She just slammed the gavel down and said, “Court rules for custody to go to the mother.”


What?  The judge finally looked my way.  Our eyes met and I said to her, “I don’t get to say anything do I.”  She looked at me very matter of factly and said, “No you don’t, son.”


It was at that point that I realized, with a huge sucking sound, that it wasn’t about being FAIR.  Life is not about shielding ourselves, or others from difficulty and trying to avoid it so we can stay the same.  Fair is almost always just “what’s comfortable!”  Many times C JUST HAPPENS!!  It’s much more important to PREAPARE ourselves, and others for WHEN it comes!  I knew at that moment that I would never be the same.  “It’s not fair?”  Ok, I understand that, but what are you going to do about it?


CHAIR FOUR – A Voice In The Cloud


I was learning how to think differently, but it still wasn’t all coming together.  I felt like I was just being forced to do something I didn’t want to do.  I was changing, but I was just doing it out of survival mode.  I didn’t have a choice.  I didn’t see the bigger picture of what was happening.


Weeks and months went by.  I had lost everything that I had valued!  All the pillars that held up my life were smashed!  But, I was gradually beginning to feel like the bottom wasn’t still ahead of me, but it was behind me now!  The pain was subsiding and the difficulty was becoming bearable.  I could feel a “deeper change” going on in the way I was thinking and responding to life.


“I do A and you do B and … we’ll see what happens and go from there!!”  But if I had my choice at that point, I probably would have chosen to just stay there!  I had weathered the storm.  I didn’t die!  I survived!  Let’s just not rock the boat anymore!


I was in a meeting one Sunday morning with a bunch of friends.  I had been wondering and asking about “why” all of this was happening to me.  If I just knew “Why”, then I could probably help the process out and speed this thing along!  Change was nice, but what was the purpose!


That night I had a dream.  I was standing on the edge of a cliff.  A very high cliff.  So high that you couldn’t see the bottom because there were clouds in the way.  Out in from of me, off of the cliff, was a huge cloud.  You couldn’t see past it.  In the cloud, I could hear a voice inviting me to, “Jump”!


The voice sounded so confident.  But I was scared.  I looked back at the mountain behind me and I knew I didn’t want to stay there anymore!  But Jump???


I was at a crossroads?  There was a choice to be made?  What would I choose?


Finally, I jumped!


And I fell!  Wait, I was hoping for “Jump… AND I’LL CATCH YOU” kind of thing!  But I was falling!


You see this wasn’t a JUMP TO something; it was a JUMP OFF OF something.  (Oh, the fine print!!)


As I fell, I remember looking back at the side of the cliff.  Etched into the side of this great mountain were huge words!  SELF, NAME, STRENGTH, WINNING, LEADERSHIP, CONFIDENCE, MARRIAGE, FRIENDS, SUCCESS…


I REALIZED at that moment that I had just jumped off the mountain of security that “I” had built.  I had just jumped off my old way of interpreting life!  I was letting go!  And this realization is what gave me a CHOICE!   Now, as “C” happens in my life;  whenever joy or struggle and the unknown comes, I have a choice in how I respond.  And that choice is directly connected to how I interpret the situation!



TRANSFORMATION!!!  And that transformation was about to change the course of my life.


CHAIR FIVEA Hope In The Future

“Knowing that you have a CHOICE is the single most freeing experience in a persons life.  With choice comes opportunity and with opportunity comes hope!”  Clay Staires


I was sitting in a meeting many days later and I heard that voice again.  “Clay, your name is your identity and your life purpose.  Clay Staires.  Your name is your identity… you’re a moldable, pliable instrument to help people rise to a higher level.”


Yes!  That’s it!  That’s the purpose!  That was the reason for the pressure!!


For the first time in my life, I had tapped into my true identity!  It doesn’t mean that what I was doing before was wrong!  It was just ALL PREPARATION for this!


A weight had been lifted off of my shoulders!  There was something more than just SURVIVAL!  And I was determined to discover what it was!


I felt like a “Nukes Of Hazard” had just gone off inside of me!  I knew who I was!


The preparation wasn’t over, but I began to interpret my life very differently!   I Accepted the circumstances of my life.  It was no longer “Why me”, but “Why NOT me?”  I began to look forward to the future!  I began to set and achieve small goals along the way.  Eventually, the transformation began to produce new results in my life.


The transformation prepared me for a glorious and healthy marriage of 14 years to my wife, Lisa!

I took my transformed mentality of helping others rise to a higher level into my work as a teacher and soon became the Districts Teacher Of The Year.

I allowed that new thinking to influence the way I coached my athletic teams and then received the honor of being named The Missouri State Coach Of The Year.

It was that transformed thinking that allowed me to see that I could do more than just teach high school science and I accepted a position as Executive Director for a struggling Non Profit in Oklahoma.  And before long, it was an award winning company and I was honored with being named the Chamber Of Commerce, Citizen Of The Year.

Most recently, this transformed way of thinking and living has led Lisa and I to start 5 successful companies in the past 6 years!


My life is now filled with helping people LEAD CHANGE!  Whether it’s in their business or in their marriage!  Non Profits orFor Profits… My journey has prepared me to help others rise to a higher level in their life!


Now I get it!  Now I understand how life works!  I DO “A” (PERIOD)!  I’m no longer waiting for others to do “B”!  FREEDOM!!


A Chinese Philosopher once said, “When you let go of who you are, you become who you might be!”


I let go of “this”, so I could become this!


Your struggles and the adversity in your life, or in your career, are there to create the pressure that is required for you to growth!  No pressure, no growth!  You don’t have to be limited to just reacting to what the people do around you!  You can embrace your life and truly become remarkable!


It’s not about just overcoming adversity and emerging on the other side unchanged or unscathed!  That’s not the point.  The point is to CHANGE!  To Be Transformed by it!  Change is not an obstacle to get around so we can resume our life the way it was before.  IT’S PART OF OUR LIFE!


I am who I have become BECAUSE OF the struggles not IN SPITE of the struggles.


So, If you are willing to let go of what is behind, so you can become what is ahead, RAISE YOUR TRANSFORMERS!  WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER!  IT IS THE WAY WE THINK AND BELIEVE THAT UNITES US!  THERE IS MORE TO US THAN MEETS THE EYE!!





Clay Staires