Do the economic headlines of today make you feel discouraged and fearful ? Do you worry about economic gloom and doom and tend to feel anxious or paralyzed by external events, or do you see possibility and opportunity for daily action based on strong personal beliefs and a bold yet pragmatic plan that focuses on rich opportunities, your talents and the value of what you have to offer ?
You may well have heard the tale of Susan Boyle, a middle-aged woman of unremarkable appearance from a modest hamlet in Britain. In 1995, Susan auditioned as a singer on a ‘Star Search’-like British TV show (‘My Kind of People’), only to be shamelessly mocked and insulted. When Susan recently auditioned and was selected to appear – 14 years later – on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, she defied expectation and literally moved the audience and judges to tears with an exhilarating rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. People all over the world are wearing t-shirts of Susan, Larry King interviewed her, Hollywood wants to make a film with her, Oprah has invited her as a guest on her TV show, and Elaine Page, Susan’s hero, wants to perform a duet with her.
J.K. Rowling, renowned for her magical ‘Harry Potter’ series of books, has become one of the world’s most celebrated authors, reportedly having become a billionaire from her magical writings. Her books enjoy immense popularity around the globe, critical acclaim and commercial success, having sold over 400 million books and translated into 67 languages. The last four of J.K.’s series about Harry’s struggle against an evil wizard have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history. ‘Harry Potter’ has spawned an industry, including movies, video games and themed merchandise, all borne from the creative mind of one woman. Yet, J.K. Rowling’s private journey was anything but simple. Her mother died from multiple sclerosis, J.K. was subsequently diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide, all the while a single parent surviving on welfare while working on her first novel.
Chris Gardner’s story of trial and disappointment is well-chronicled in the film “Pursuit of Happiness”. Frustrated in his quest to become a stock broker, Chris’ circumstance went from bad to worse during a 10-month interview process with a San Francisco-based firm. His girlfriend ran off with their only son and all Chris’ belongings. Soon thereafter, Chris found himself penniless, and jailed for ten days for unpaid parking fines, only to be released the day before his final interview. Chris showed up for this crucial meeting in dirty jeans and a t-shirt, openly admitting the truth of having lost his son, being broke and released from jail one day earlier, and without a home. To his amazement, the interviewer was sympathetic, having endured a painful divorce, and immediately put Chris in the company’s training program. His son was soon returned to him, and together they survived on the streets, later finding the means to live in a $10-a-night motel. Years later, having passed his broker’s exam and working for a major brokerage house, Chris struck out on his own, securing major clients and never looking back.
What compels some people to quit in the face of adversity and rejection, while others pursue their dream with a single-minded sense of purpose ? Why is quitting not an option for some ? What force of will fuels people to rise above bad circumstances or a string of initial failures ?
Anatole France reminds us ‘to accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe’. Confucius’ wisdom held “our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
Why most give up after a few rejections is not so much a mystery, as a magnificent tragedy. Lack of belief in oneself is the stuff of emptiness, frustration, dashed dreams, plowed-under human capacity, negative self-image and sadness, whereas persistence and hard work fueled by belief in oneself yields the miracle of joy and contribution, success and meaning. Is it possible to accomplish your true purpose, live a joyous and richly rewarding life, and enjoy a persistence borne of a balance between head and heart when you’re busy beating up on yourself for a momentary ‘failure’ ? Can you imagine what you might accomplish if you held fast to an unshakeable belief in yourself ?
Waking each morning, we are given a choice and it is ours to choose wisely. Do you choose to listen to and consume the fear and skepticism so prevalent in the marketplace of humanity, surrounding yourself with those who encourage anxiety, negativity and limitation, or do you choose to believe deeply in yourself and thoughtfully embrace – both personally and professionally – those who align with your values and life vision ?
One choice results in the ultimate injustice of not bringing forth our best and our greatest gifts to be shared, the other choice yields rewards beyond our limited imagination.