“The Audacity of HOPE; The Importance of COMMITMENT; The Blessings of FAILURE; The Path to SUCCESS!”
Sometimes, a gem scrolls through my Facebook newsfeed, and someone says something profound that makes me reflect on my life.
I’m always grateful. Always optimistic. And always pushing forward.
But it can be a real struggle sometimes.
Click to play Denzel's 90 second speech..
I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. We have conversations sometimes, and in those, I hear the burning desire and determination that is required to succeed.
So, when I heard one of the great celebrity philosophers of stage and screen, Denzel Washington, this week give a short but profound acceptance speech for one of his many rewards, I was kind of blown away.
He was talking to you and me.
I heard it.
I started thinking about it.
And this is what I came up with:
HOPE is a an audacious, double-edged sword that cuts both ways unless you know how to wield it
Twenty-two years ago, when I was bouncing from couch to couch, friend to friend, family member to family member with the tiny bit of stuff I held onto packed in the back of my SUV, HOPE kept me alive.
When the love of my life came met me in the living room and told me she had cancer, HOPE helped me be strong and put one foot in front of the other.
When 6 months of unemployment with no job in site drained our bank accounts and kept me awake at night, HOPE was the only thing I wasn’t willing to give up.
When my online business began to feel like an abyss that was sucking me into oblivion, HOPE was the only thing that kept me from burning down everything we’d built.
But there’s a problem with HOPE…
As I sat with great HOPE – and that seemed to be the only thing I had, I kept asking myself if I was just being delusional.
Am I just being a pollyanna with my head buried so deep that I can’t see reality?
There are many people out there who tell you to snap out it, get real, and be practical. Essentially, they’ll crush your dreams if you let them. Always be on guard.
But also remember that those very same people may love you so much that they’re concerned you’ll be devastated when your dreams are dashed, and they think they’re protecting you from disaster.
Those people dashing your dreams are absolutely right, unless…
Listen up: HOPE can be what drives you forward, or it can keep you stuck in a constant state of despair.
Your next step determines which way this sword swings, because it’s in your hands.
You have to decide…
And that’s it. The first action I take when I’m in a desperate situation is to make a decision.
Will I step forward into the unknown, or retreat into the familiar.
The unknown is hard. COMMITMENT to change is required.
And change is hard, but as Denzel said in that acceptance speech, “Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.”
COMMITMENT is tricky. We think that COMMITMENT comes with great difficulty. But truly, you’re always COMMITTED.
Sometimes you’re COMMITTED to staying the same, and that means you’re COMMITTED to doing nothing new.
I know I’ve been there.
Who doesn’t want to sit down and rest? Do nothing? Let everything just happen?
But that’s not growth.
Quoting Denzel again, “Without COMMITMENT you’ll never start. Without consistency you’ll never finish.”
There it is. Make a decision. Be COMMITTED to it. And stick with it, as my dad says, “No matter what!”
So, what happens when you FAIL?
Because you will. We all do. FAILURE is the great blessing in our lives. It gets us one step closer to what works.
Nobody likes FAILURE, but FAILURE is an absolute essential element in growth.
It’s a paradox.
Without FAILURE, we have no idea if we can succeed.
Without FAILURE, there’s no opportunity to improve.
Without FAILURE, we can’t teach other people what works.
Eventually, we bump into enough walls, step in enough potholes, and exhaust all possibilities that the only thing left is success.
That’s only possible if we maintain HOPE and COMMITMENT.
The blessing of FAILURE is strength and growth. As the HOPE and COMMITMENT are tested, we get stronger, more HOPEFUL and more COMMITTED to finding the right solution.
Is this the path to every SUCCESS?
I’d like to say, “No, some people find success easily and fast.”
But that’s not my experience, nor is it the experience of anyone that I know who is successful.
Every example held up as an overnight success usually has traveled a path strewn with one discarded failure after another, but because they are so focused, committed and hopeful, we only hear about the sudden success.
That’s great, but the stories of overnight success can seriously cause many of us to cry out, “I’ll never make it.”
In fact, you’re on your path. You’re building your story. It takes what it takes to get you where you are.
Finally, I used to live in the problem bemoaning all my challenges and my failures. “Why me?” was my anthem.
Now, after many years of ups and downs, great decisions and bad choices, millions of dollars in and millions of dollars out, I wouldn’t trade any of those problems (i.e. FAILURES) for anything.
Everyone of them turned out to be a blessing and a stepping stone to the next great thing that happened in my life.
The Taoist story of the farmer who said “maybe”
I heard this story 20 years ago, when I was living in a 2-room apartment in Atlanta, loaded with more than a quarter-million dollars of debt, a $15 an hour job, and a whole lot of self-pity.
It made a ton of sense then and even more as I look back.
An old farmer had worked his crops for many years with his prized horse. One day, the horse ran away. His neighbors came to visit when they heard the news.
“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “You are so lucky!”
“Maybe,” replied the old farmer.
The following day, his son jumped on one of the wild horses to tame it and was thrown, breaking his leg.
The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The next day, government officials came to the village to get young men in the army to fight a looming war.
The son’s leg was broken, so they did not grab him.
The neighbors who were lamenting the loss of their sons, once again, congratulated the farmer on his luck.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
Never give up, NEVER give up…
Things never go as planned.
But if you have HOPE, COMMITMENT and learn from your FAILURES, SUCCESS is not far away…