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Stephen Hawking: Never believe a verdict that does not empower you

By Gbenga Adebambo
31 March 2018   |   4:29 am
The doctor looked into his face after the diagnosis; those looks that suggest that something ominous was about to be divulged. For the first time in his life...

Professor Stephen Hawking author of bestseller ‘A Brief History of Time’, ‘Black Holes’ and ‘Baby Universes and Other Essays’ and most recently in 2001, ‘The Universe in a Nutshell’. Since 1979 has held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Cambridge University.<© COPYRIGHT PHOTO BY MURDO MACLEOD

The doctor looked into his face after the diagnosis; those looks that suggest that something ominous was about to be divulged. For the first time in his life, a moment of time to Stephen seems like many years.

“Stephen, I am sorry to say this, but your condition will deteriorate so fast that you will be unable to eat, drink and live the normal life again,” said the doctor.

Many times in life, we have all had our share of unbearable verdicts, some from loved ones, spouses, confidants, parents, doctors, mentors and even spiritual counselors. Many of us are just walking through life with demeaning and unsavory verdicts, like: You are not too good for that; you will never be able to do this again; you are worthless; you are just an average student; you are a loser.

The reason why you are given this life is to challenge ‘wrong’ predictions about you. But the problem is that most of us have allowed ourselves to be beaten into accepting the verdict that the world has placed on us. Nobody has the right to tell you how your life will end.

Stephen Hawking (January 8, 1942 to March 14, 2018) was a British scientist, professor and author, who performed groundbreaking works in Physics and Cosmology and whose books helped to make science accessible to everyone.

Hawking was known for his groundbreaking work with black holes and relativity and was the author of several popular science books, including one of the iconic books of the 20th Century, A Brief History of Time.

At the age of 21, while studying Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). In a very simple sense, the nerves that controlled his muscles were shutting down.

At the time, doctors gave him two and a half years to live. But the theoretical physicist defied the odds. Hawking, who passed away on March 14, this year, lived to be 76.

In spite of being wheelchair-bound and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication, he continued to combine family life (he has three children and three grandchildren) with his research into theoretical physics, in addition to an extensive programme of travel and public lectures.

In 1974, his research turned him into a celebrity within the scientific world when he showed that black holes aren’t the information vacuums that scientists had thought they were. In simple terms, Hawking demonstrated that matter, in the form of radiation, could escape the gravitational force of a collapsed star.

There are some life lessons that can be learnt from Hawking’s approach to life.

Never Believe A Prediction That Does Not Empower You
People’s opinion of you does not have to become your own reality. Sean Stephenson said: “Never believe a prediction that does not empower you.”

One of the legendary minds that inspired Hawking’s work was the great Albert Einstein. When Einstein was 16 years of age in 1895, his teacher said to his father, Hermann Einstein: “It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.” This was a damning report from the head of his Munich school.

Within 10 years of this woefully inaccurate prediction, he became the foremost mind of the 20th Century.

Einstein said: “It was because they said I couldn’t do it, that is why I did it.”

Hawking lived his life to prove all predictions around him to be wrong. He was giving two years to live, but eventually lived 55 more years after doctors’ predictions.

Be Stronger Than Your Excuses
Mark Rebel said: “Success occurs when your dreams get bigger than your excuses.”

In life, when you refuse to make excuses, you make something incredible happen in your life. You must quit the excuses to live a life that you want. People that will make maximum impact in life make minimum excuses.

Benjamin Franklin said: “I never knew a man who was good at making excuses who was good at anything else.”

Hawking had all the excuses to live a limited life, but instead, he limited his limitations.

Willingness Is Superior To Circumstances
Niccolo Machiavelli said: “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.”

Life is full of stories of ordinary people that surmounted great challenges and overwhelming odds to make a mark in life.

Charles Dickens was lame; Plato was a hunchback; Franklin Roosevelt was crippled by polio; Hellen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to graduate from a college and earn a bachelor’s degree; and Beethoven, who wrote one of the most beautiful music compositions, was deaf.

Hawking’s willingness to live a purposeful life was stronger than his nagging and debilitating condition. The man that was condemned as an invalid later set the world of cosmology in an unprecedented motion.

Don’t Allow Your Disability To Hinder Your Ability
In life, being unconscious of your ability is the ultimate disability.

Hawking said: “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”

I have often observed that a very easy life does not put a demand on our creativity. Rick Joyner said: “If our life is always easy, it’s because we are called to a lesser purpose.”

We Are Not Creatures Of Circumstances; We Are Creators Of Circumstances
Circumstance does not make a man; it reveals him to himself.

Hawking surmounted great odds to make meaning out of a seemingly hopeless situation. In spite of adverse circumstances, many ordinary people have risen to be great.

Your circumstances don’t make you inferior; your responses do.

Our Choices Determine Our Destiny
We must not be driven by the complacency to wait for fate, but be driven to create our own future.

Hawking said: “I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”

Our lives depend on decisions and not conditions. The key is in our decisions, not our condition.

Anthony Robins said: “It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”

Never Give Up
Hawking said: “It matters if you just don’t give up.”

It is hard to beat a person that never gives up. Joyce Meyer said: “Merely refusing to give up is a victory in itself.”

Against all odds, hawking refused to yield to his conditions.

You Are Never Too Big To Be Wrong
One of the most fascinating moments in Hawking’s life was when one of his PhD students proved him wrong.

Professor Raymond Laflamme, Canada Research Chair in Quantum Computing, was a doctoral student of Hawking’s while at Cambridge. Laflamme proved one of Hawking’s most important equations to be wrong during his own PhD work under Hawking’s supervision.

“When he learned that he had made a mistake, he turned around and said, ‘You are right, what I had suggested was incorrect,’ and he was incredibly gracious.”

According to Laflamme: “He wrote letters of recommendation for saying, ‘this guy has proved me wrong.’

“And when I left Cambridge in 1988, after my PhD, he gave me a copy of his book, with a dedication, saying, ‘To Ray, who convinced me the arrow of time was not a boomerang.”

Allow Children To Follow Their Career Choices
The problems in the world would be lesser when we allow children to follow their heart desires. People can only become truly accomplished at what they love doing.

Steve Jobs said: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Hawking’s father, another Oxford graduate, was a respected medical researcher with a specialty in tropical diseases. He wanted his eldest child to go into medicine, but at an early age, Hawking showed a passion for science and the sky.

That was evident to his mother, who, along with her children, often stretched out in the backyard on summer evenings to stare up at the stars.

It was announced that Hawking’s ashes would be interred at Westminster Abbey in London, alongside other scientific luminaries, such as Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, probably during a thanksgiving service later this year.

The decision to give him a place among the country’s greatest scientists is an extremely rare honour. Friedrich Schiller said: “He who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times.”