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“Every dream will be challenged!”
These powerful words from a mentor of mine have been burned in fire into my memory. Rarely, a dream or goal comes true easily and effortlessly, without delays, problems or hurdles. It is far more common, however, that you have to overcome many obstacles and suffer some pain before achieving any meaningful target.
And the bigger your dreams, the tougher your challenge, the more ambitious your goals, the more likely it is that you will face difficulties on your way towards it.
When this happens, what will you do? Will you just give up? Or will you persist and struggle and succeed?
A lot of that depends upon your attitude and experience. Some of it depends upon your skills and network. And a tiny bit depends upon luck or chance.
I was recently invited to contribute a chapter to a textbook on building an Internet business, and to share three things I wished I’d known when getting started. In the introduction to it, I wrote:
“The key to my success back then, lay more in the fact that I stuck to whatever I tried long enough for it to work!”
And it’s absolutely true. With little if any knowledge or experience about business, as a novice writer and marketer, the only thing that kept my entrepreneurial journey going was a stubborn unwillingness to give up.
Let’s say you set out on a holiday trip. You load up your car with all the gear you need to enjoy a lazy week-long vacation, plan your destination, and set out on the drive.
Halfway along your planned route, the road gets rough and bumpy. You’re driving along an unpaved path with potholes and pits, bushes and bramble scraping the side of your vehicle. It’s an uncomfortable ride, with a lot of jolting and bumping in your seat.
But unfortunately, this is the only way you can get to that lovely camping spot you remember fondly and love relaxing at.
What do you do?
You could change your plans, turn the car around, and go back home. Or drive back to the highway and go somewhere else, even if your heart is set on this holiday spot. Or you can curse and swear at the discomfort and keep on going.
Or you can count your blessings, be happy about having a vehicle to get you there, a path (even if a bad one) that leads to the place, and a map to direct you along the right route.
Plus, you really, really love that spot – and want to be there soon!
In fact, you want that so bad, you’re even willing to get down and hike the rest of the way if the car can’t make it through.
That journey is your life. And your business growth path. The vehicle is you. The driver is your attitude.
If the ‘driver’ is decisive and determined, he just won’t give up!
The courage and persistence to keep going on, past hurdles and obstacles, is powered by purpose. Your purpose.
As a pediatric heart surgeon, I learn a lot from my little patients. They have been knocked down by crippling heart defects that limit their capacity in many ways. Some struggle to even breathe and eat because their overloaded hearts won’t take the strain.
But they are fighters. They won’t simply lie back and succumb. These tiny tots, some barely weeks or months old, will furiously struggle against the odds, go through major surgery (that’s the equivalent of being hit by a truck) and bounce back to life – playing and running around the hospital ward barely days later.
They have no choice. To give up is to die. And they are survivors.
Are you? What drives you to keep on going?
The answer to that question will lead you towards your powerful purpose. Any endeavor driven and fueled by purpose cannot fail.
There are three filters through which you must pass any task, job or project you are called upon to do. It will help you decide if it will pass the ‘I won’t give up’ test.
There have been many occasions in my medical career when, at two in the morning, I’ve stood at the operation table, bone-weary and exhausted, trying to staunch a bleeding artery or support a failing heart.
It would have been so much easier and convenient to simply go back to bed and sleep. But the stakes were too high. When a child’s life hangs in the balance, nothing else takes center stage. Everything else is placed on hold. And you simply do not give up.
When you find work that matters, giving up is not an option. So choose only the kind of work that matters. No, it does not have to necessarily be ‘life saving’ or ‘world changing’. But it should matter enough to you that you will not casually think of abandoning it when a distraction or obstacle crops up.
Each one of us has had this experience at some time in our life. We get involved in something, and forget the world around us. Maybe it’s a book, or a movie, or a game. Maybe it’s writing a story, or a poem, or a painting, or programming a project. Maybe it’s cooking or a hobby. You get so deeply involved with it, that suddenly you look up and discover with startled surprise that hours have slipped by in just minutes!
That happens when you do work that you really and truly love. Stuff that fascinates and engulfs you. That you’re passionate and excited about. And when you’re engaged in such work, you do not want to stop. Even when you’re tired or hungry or have other things to do, you stretch to try and keep doing it.
Find work that you love, and you won’t have to work another day of your life… you’ll just be having fun all the time!
I’m not very good with numbers. Totting up figures and adding or multiplying them always gives me a headache. So every year, when tax time rolls around, I’m in a bad mood. (How about you? You like doing your taxes?! 😉 )
Every minute wasted on this mandatory annual activity feels like I’m spending it in a dentist’s chair as he works with his drill on my cavity. But I can write for hours and not feel the strain. Or operate for eight hours straight and not even get tired. That’s because I’m good at those other things.
Do what you’re good at. Delegate or automate (or maybe even ignore) the other things that you can afford to, and you won’t ever run the risk of giving up. When you’re good at it, you don’t want to give up. Even difficulties become challenges to be conquered, not barriers to keep you down.
So you’ve carefully picked the kind of work to do – work that matters, that you’re passionate about, that you’re good at. Does this mean that everything will now automatically run smoothly and without trouble?
Of course not. You’ll have just the same kind of problems as you’ll have with any other kind of work or projects. The only difference – and it’s a big one – is that you’ll be better able to cope with the challenges.
Here are some approaches that will help:
In an excellent book of the same title, “The Flipside“, Adam J. Jackson shares dozens of stories of people who have been beaten down by life. Crippling accidents. Misfortunes of birth. Social, economic or political circumstance. Sheer bad luck. All of these conspired to break them and beat them down.
But did these heroes and heroines give up?
No, sir! They fought back by using a simple device that’s the focus of this book… they sought and found the flip side. The silver lining. The light at the end of the tunnel. The elusive ‘Golden Snitch’.
And that enriched their lives and powered their dreams along exciting and unimagined directions. They made even greater impact on their world than if they hadn’t faced those misfortunes at all.
When you look for the ‘hidden’ good behind all the ‘bad’ things that happen in your quest for success, the flip side will help you past any blocks and sustain your momentum and progress.
I was at a fund-raising seminar for non-profits when I first heard this story from an accountant who worked with NPOs. He said:
“Whenever I’m working on a non-profit’s accounts, I don’t see rows and columns of numbers. I see the smiling faces of the people we’re working to help!”
What a powerful way to frame the work you’re doing! By remaining focused on the outcome of everything you do, every day, in every way, you cannot help but be encouraged and inspired to keep on going.
When you pick your tasks carefully so that the work you do matters, keeping that ultimate goal in mind as you do it can be remarkably motivating. Why are you doing this? Where do you plan to go? What will happen when this is done? The answers will energize you.
Too often, we tend to focus on the problems and difficulties along our path. Stop. Look for solutions.
Our mind tends to find whatever we are looking for. If we’re seeking out excuses to fail or to justify our decision not to push forward, we’ll find them – in the form of set backs, constraints and limitations. But if we obsess about finding a way past any of these restraints and breaking through to the level of success we set out in search of, then magically we discover these solutions.
During one of the worst periods of my online fund-raising, I was beset by problems from many different directions. Each one had the potential to destroy all I had worked hard to build over ten years. All of them happened simultaneously!
By choosing to focus on solutions instead of reveling in my troubles, I found them. Quickly I received help from different quarters. Barely three months later, everything was back on an even keel – in fact, slightly better than before.
We cannot live in splendid isolation – as attractive as that may sound! We need people around us, for many different reasons. And having more people in your circle is generally a good thing.
When you feel like giving up, ask for help. The challenges that are scaring you or threatening to break you are probably not as rare, unusual or even impossible to overcome as you once thought. You can tap into the collective experience and wisdom of people like you, who probably have even had difficulties like yours.
And people love to help others. Especially when they have faced and overcome a similar challenge. Just ask someone about simple things like how to get rid of your acne, or what to do when your cellphone gets soaked in water, and chances are you’ll get a flood of helpful responses. Having supportive people in your corner will help you keep going – until you catch your ‘second wind’ of inspiration and motivation from within.
Passion is contagious. You can’t hang around a passionate person without some of that positive energy rubbing off on you!
Being in a group of passionate people who are solving their own problems, living their dreams, and pursuing their mission in life can help tide you over any temporary set back. On the other hand, surrounding yourself with nay-sayers and pessimists who always see the worst possibilities can quickly dull your enthusiasm – and make it easier to simply give up. So choose your friends and network wisely.
I hope this short report is of some help in keeping you keep on. Remember this quote – it’s true: “Winners never quit, and quitters never win!”
The courage and persistence to keep going on, past hurdles and obstacles, is powered by purpose. Your purpose. Discover it. Tap into it. Achieve it.
Ultimately, that’s what success means – to you, and to me.