When Life Hands You Lemons, Say Thank You!

by  Page Cole  |  Light Your World
When Life Hands You Lemons, Say Thank You!

Keith Boyd is an 11 year old boy in Oklahoma. In spite of the fact that Keith was born with Cerebral Palsy, Keith has dreams, ambitions and high hopes for the future.

Refusing to allow his physical limitations to interfere, Keith had a dream to raise funds for the Little Light House, an amazing school that he and many other special needs kids attended.

Keith had a lemonade stand a few years earlier to raise money for a toy he wanted, so he knew how to make it happen. But knowing he wanted this to be much bigger, Keith wrote a business plan for a venture called Keith’s Ice Cold Lemonade Stand, with plans for multiple lemonade stands around the Tulsa, Oklahoma metro area.

With the assistance of local Chick-fil-A owner Arthur Greeno, and Clay Clark, CEO of Thrive 15, a business dedicated to helping entrepreneurs, Keith’s dream became a reality.

Keith was able to raise $120,000 through his lemonade stands, and has had his product line picked up by a local grocery chain! He continues to work through his foundation to raise funds for other special needs kids, and was recently awarded the True Inspiration Award from the national Chick-fil-A Foundation. Not bad for a kid who many might say was dealt a bad hand from life from the day he was born.

How do we handle the lemons that life hands us? Complain? Blame? Retreat? Give up? I’d like to suggest a few different approaches that you and your team could take when your circumstances turn sour:

  • Check For Bugs & Rotten Spots – Tough times show us where our weaknesses are. When buying produce, wise people will pick up the piece of vegetable or fruit, and inspect it closely. It’s crazy to buy something that is rotten or spoiled. It’s the same in our businesses and organizations. Take the time with difficult times come, and inspect your situation. Discard the junk that might have brought you to that point. Get rid of the processes, policies or people that continually drop rotten fruit in your lap.
  • Peel The Skin Off – Tough times show us what our team is really made of. There are times when everything on the outside of a piece of fruit looks great, but once you peel the skin you find a worm or a rotten interior. Gross! But how many times have we failed to look beyond the surface level performance of our team members or the organization, and then found ourselves shocked when something rotten spilled out later when we were forced to dig deeper? Evaluation BEFORE eruption is a much better plan to follow.
  • Get A Bigger Pitcher – Tough times stretch us to our limits. Bar Rescue is one of my favorite shows. John Tapper works with struggling bars to improve their business and their people. They always do a stress test night to see just how staff will respond when hit with a huge crowd, and it nearly always is a dismal failure. He then evaluates their strengths and weaknesses, provides training from experts, and motivates them to be the best version of themselves. We can do that same thing with our teams and with ourselves. Stretch everyone during and after those tough times. If you’re going to serve a lot of lemonade, you’re gonna need a bigger pitcher.
  • Add Sugar & Ice – Tough times highlight areas we can grow in. Lemonade, sugar, water and ice are the primary ingredients of good lemonade. Leave out any one ingredient and you risk having a drink that lacks balance in flavor or refreshment. Don’t believe me? Go suck a lemon, eat a cup of sugar straight out of the bag, or drink from a pitcher of lemonade that has sat in the summer heat for a couple of hours. Get the picture? Revamping your systems, and making sure that the best procedures, people and practices are in place don’t guarantee success, but they certainly diminish your chances of failing miserably.
  • Squeeze A Lemon & You Will Get Lemon Juice – Tough times keep us humble. You’ve most likely heard the old adage, “Pressure brings to the outside what was on the inside.” Robert McKee says, “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.” You and your team will ultimately get a much clearer vision of the each other’s character, work ethic and values during times of stress and pressure. Core Values aren’t typically enunciated – they are excavated. To say it another way, just talking about what we say is important to us isn’t nearly as valuable as the lives we lead and the things we do in showing others what we are really about.
  • Today Is The Best Day To Open Your Lemonade Stand – Tough times can motivate us out of complacency. Startups tend to grow much faster than businesses or organizations that have been around a while. Why is that? Shouldn’t the businesses that have pushed past the jitters of starting up, grown beyond the challenges of building a customer base or establishing themselves do better than a bunch of newbies in business? Of course they should. But the older and more experienced an organization gets, the easier it is to become complacent, and to fear taking any new risks or making any gutsy new decisions. This causes them to flatten out in growth and creativity and allow others who are doing those things to pass them. Kick start your organization with the challenges you face from time to time. Grow through them, and allow them to be a motivator to be better, smarter and more successful, regardless of the challenges you encounter.

By the way, Keith is doing great. I was blessed to be able to be a part of his crowd funded project to get his bottled lemonade line up and running! You can go check out his progress for yourself at If you’re in Tulsa, be sure and pick up some of his ice cold lemonade. I’m sure knowing Keith’s story will make it taste even sweeter than any other you’ve ever had!

Note: For a Pinterest-friendly summary of this post, please click here.

What other advice would you give someone who is going through hard times?
Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of The Author

About The Author

Articles By page-cole
I’m a dealer in hope… In my career, for seniors who want to stay safely in their own homes… in my family, that our best days are still yet to come… and in my sphere of influence, that we all have the ability to change our world, first and foremost by changing ourselves for the better!  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jane Perdue  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Great metaphor use, Page, in sharing some thoughtful and useful insights! Love your observation: “To say it another way, just talking about what we say is important to us isn’t nearly as valuable as the lives we lead and the things we do in showing others what we are really about. “

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Thank you Jane! We hear a LOT of talk about Core Values, as if putting them on parchment in a frame on the office wall is what matters most. Our lives and our actions are the truly markers of what matters to our organizations.

michelle  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

I needed to read this today. I have been through some pretty bleak times in my life and I am grateful for the strength I gained from surviving those times.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Don’t feel alone. ALL of us have days where we need this. It’s not a false hope to believe your best days are ahead… it’s a fact, and you are the one that can make that happen!

Carol Cassara  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Yep. That’s a useful way to approach life and those hard times. And remember, everyone goes through them. You never know what is really going on under the surface.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

I’ve found that a “private counseling session” with myself, to remind me that others are struggling too not only helps me through the hard times, but reminds me to show grace to those I come into conflict with. Thanks for your comments!

Theresa Wiza  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Great points and what an inspiring young man! To already be so philanthropic at his age – his parents must be so proud.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

You are way too kind, and I’m not really that young. Both of my parents have gone on to Heaven, but it made me smile to think that maybe they get to see things like this from time to time! Thanks for brightening my day!

Kay Lynn  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

This brings to mind the quote “when times are tough the tough get going”. This article has great ideas for how to do that.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Kay Lynn,
You’re RIGHT! And the weak, and the afraid and the lonely and the fierce and the confused and the able! Let’s all get going!

Susan Williams  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

I have no other advice.
Gratitude can be the hardest thing of all to muster, when life hands you lemons.
Nevertheless, it is, for me, transformational.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Transformational Lemonade! I like it!

Doreen McGettigan  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

I have daily reminders (special needs grandson, son with cancer) to find the good in everything and if I can’t find it I make it happen.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

I love your attitude! I MAKE IT HAPPEN! That’s an encouragement for all of us! We have the ability to affect our world and our lives better! God bless you and your care for your grandson!

Michele  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

It is a great habit to get into! Thanks for the reminder.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Thanks for your encouragement! What do you say we both go out today and share that habit with someone else today!? Lemonade always tastes best when shared with a good friend!

John E. Smith  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Page – nice and much needed post:)

Your comments generally mirror what I learned to reinforce as a therapist: Challenge creates pain, which can result in learning, which promotes growth, but the choices on whether this happens or not are always up to the individual.

Some folks say that change which does not include some pain, or at minimum, discomfort, will not result in lasting transformation … and I tend to agree with this. Our society tends to sell a version of reality where we need not ever feel bad or be in pain, and this is reflected in the market for things which ease the challenges, make us feel good, and eliminate discomfort. Not so good, in my opinion.

I know of people and organizations which chose to avoid pain and difficulty and, as a result, remain stuck where they are or sliding downward into further pain … the exact thing they seek to avoid.

Your post also reminded me of a whole slew of things people should stop saying to those experiencing pain and difficulty. Often superficially therapeutic or religious in nature, these statements try to soften the pain, rather than encouraging moving through it. One quick example: “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle” and similar. The underlying message here is that anyone who cannot deal with whatever traumatic situation they face must not be a faithful enough person. I personally think this phrase needs to go away.

Thanks for stimulating my somewhat lethargic mid-week brain:)


Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

You never fail to encourage me my friend! I love that you pointed out the “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.” phrase… I totally agree! That’s a loose translation of this Bible passage, I Corinthians 10:13:

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit”…

BUT THAT’S ONLY PART OF THE VERSE! It goes on to say –

“He’ll always be there to help you come through it.”

A literal translation of the text from the Greek as shared in the Amplified Version of the Bible says this…

“No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance];

but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist],

but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy]”

THAT, my friend is focusing on helping people do exactly what you pointed out, and that’s to move through it! Once again, you’ve taken the topic and mined out the deeper truths! Thank you!

Kim Tackett  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

It looks like you’ve covered all of them. Maybe “squeeze harder” because there is always someone who could use some love, even if it’s yourself.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Squeeze harder is what I tell my wife when she’s giving me a hug! It’s always great advice to show some love to people who are hurting! Thanks for joining the conversation!

Julie Jo Severson  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

I love how you start out this piece, and the way you combine journalism and inspiration. Great, authentic stories and writing. Glad I stopped by! I’m going to take a look around your site now, because it’s very intriguing to me. Have a good day.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Julie Jo,
I’m convinced that the mind is more willing to follow when the heart leads the way! The world is full of amazing people and incredible stories! I love to hear them and tell them, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Lissa  |  16 Apr 2016  | 

It’s a pleasure to find such railanoitty in an answer. Welcome to the debate.

Lisha Fink  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Keith is a lucky boy to have you cheering him on. As for the advice, spot on. Now excuse me. I have a sudden craving for lemonade.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

He is an amazing kid, Lisha, and an entire city was rooting for him too! Profiles in courage really do come in all sizes!

Corinne Rodrigues  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Thank you for sharing Keith’s story. It’s so inspiring.
When life hands me lemons, I have truly learned to say ‘Thank you’ – gratitude has helped me see those lemons in a whole new way.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

It’s the only way to face those “sour” moments and overcome them Corinne! Thanks for joining the conversation!

Shelley Zurek  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

This was a stunning list. I only wish you had created a pinnable image such that I could pin it to my Pinterest inspiration board. Maybe consider that?

Paula Kiger  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Shelley, Paula here. I worked with Page and made a pinnable image for you and sent it to you via Facebook! Page and I hope you like it! :-)

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Shelley, what a great idea! And thank you to Paula Kiger for jumping right on it and creating one! She asked if it was OK with me and of course I said yes! Thanks to both of you!

Elaine Ambrose  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Wonderful message. Sometimes I slump on the lump of lemons and forget that I can change my attitude and make something good instead of focusing on bitterness. Thanks for posting this.

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Elaine… you used an incredibly important word. FOCUS! We lose sight of what’s most important during those tough times, and forget to keep our focus on what really matters! Thank you!

Mona (aka Moxie-Dude)  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Awesome post! I LOVE pieces that demonstrate the “where there’s a will, there’s a way” concept. Also, really enjoyed your metaphoric use of lemons. Thanks for writing and sharing :-)

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Moxie Dude! Love it!

and in case you haven’t heard the converse to the axiom “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, it’s this…

“where there’s a will, I want to be in it!” Have a blessed week!

1010ParkPlace  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply

By the time we’ve reached a certain age, most of us have several ways of making lemonade. Just today, I had to pull out a recipe to help a friend. I’m grateful I knew how. Brenda

Page Cole  |  16 Sep 2015  |  Reply


Whatever your recipe is, don’t forget the most important ingredient… Gratefulness!

Enjoy your lemonade!

Carolann  |  17 Sep 2015  |  Reply

What an inspiring and wonderful story. I love the use of your metaphor. I’ll have to check his progress out. He’s got the recipe for sucess that’s for sure!

Page Cole  |  19 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Keith has been an inspiration to all of us! This kid’s best and brightest days are still in the future… and maybe that’s the best lesson he could teach us all! Thank you for your kind words!

Jane Anderson  |  18 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Excellent handling of a familiar topic, Page! Seriously … I love this post. It adds volumes to “When life gives you lemons …”. And add new meanings to our choice to allow our circumstances to make us bitter or better.

Page Cole  |  18 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Thank you Jane! Why didn’t I think of using that “bitter or better” phrase?! I appreciate your encouragement! For that, you get a fresh glass of lemonade!

Brad Johnson  |  18 Sep 2015  |  Reply

Page, Keith is a stud for sure. You know that’s LawnAmerica’s Lemonade stand there in the pic. Our guys did great last summer in with that in taking donations.

Page Cole  |  19 Sep 2015  |  Reply

I didn’t realize that was your group! What a great event and a super cause to be a part of! For those of you who don’t know my friend Brad Johnson, he walked the 2175 miles of the Appalachian Trail and raised over $100K for five charities, including the Little Lighthouse!

He also has farm where kids involved with DHS can come and enjoy the healing effects of the animals and the laid back country atmosphere! You can check it out here:

Thanks again Brad!

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